Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Student Work – Arthur Rosenfeld and Lorenzo Servitje Sendra

Arthur Rosenfeld by Ksenia Khismatulina



Arthur Rosenfeld receiving a medal from President Obama Image from Wikipedia

Ksenia Khismatulina

Ksenia Khismatulina

Brilliant scientist, honored researcher, and global advocate for energy efficiency, Arthur Rosenfeld passed away on January 27, 2017 at the age of 90 at his home in Berkeley, California. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Arthur Rosenfeld was born in Alabama on June 22, 1926. He spent his childhood years in Egypt, where his father was a consultant to the Egyptian sugarcane industry. While still in high school, Arthur Rosenfeld earned his bachelor degree in industrial physics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He continued his studies under Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi at University of Chicago where he received his Ph.D. After that, Rosenfeld joined the physics faculty at the University of California at Berkeley. It was the oil embargo of 1973 that made the scientist famous worldwide. One night, before going home, he decided to turn off the lights in all 20 offices of his lab and started to calculate the energy savings. That is how his meticulous research and quest for energy conservation began. In 1975, Rosenfeld created the Energy Efficient Buildings Program. It is a study about impact of low-energy refrigerators and air conditioners and glass windows that trap heat on energy security. Doctor Rosenfeld came to a conclusion that more efficient appliances could cut energy consumption and save billions of dollars. His work received recognition from Governor of California Jerry Brown when energy efficient requirements for refrigerators and freezers went into effect in 1977. Ten years later, the federal government followed golden state example and started to implement its own requirements for appliances. Arthur Rosenfeld developed the DOE-2 series of computer programs for building energy analysis and design that has been the standard for building energy analysis for more than 25 years. He is considered a father of energy efficiency movement.

Arthur Rosenfeld’s scientific contributions and advocacy for energy preservation were very well acknowledged. He served as an advisor at the Department of Energy under President Bill Clinton. In 2006, he was awarded one of the most reputable science honors, the Enrico Fermi. In 2011, President Barack Obama expressed the country’s gratitude with national Medal of Technology and Innovation. In order to honor Arthur Rosenfeld’s achievements, a group of 54 scientists proposed a new unit of measurement that refer to annual electricity savings of three billion kilowatt-hours (equivalent to the amount of energy produced by coal plant each year). They suggested naming it the Rosenfeld.

Dr. Rosenfeld is survived by daughters Dr. Margaret Rosenfeld and Dr. Anne Hansen, two granddaughters and four grandsons. His wife of 53 years, Roselyn Bernheim Rosenfeld, died in 2009. As for the Arthur Rosenfeld’s estate information, nothing was found with the exception of his Berkeley home, an 80-year-old Spanish-style place that boasts double-glazed windows, high-efficiency appliances and energy-sipping lightbulbs

Works Cited

Harrison Smith, Arthur Rosenfeld, Physicist at Forefront of Energy-Efficiency Movement, Dies at 90, Wash Post (January 31, 2017),

Kate Galbraith, Arthur Rosenfeld, Zealous Champion of Energy Efficiency, Dies at 90, N.Y. Times (January 27, 2017),

Marc Lifsher, You Can Thank Arthur Rosenfeld for Energy Savings, L.A. Times (January 11, 2010),

Lorenzo Servitje Sendra by Demi Huang


2017-03-02 23.02.08

Demi Huang

Don Lorenzo Servitje Sendra passed away on Friday, February 3, 2017 at the age of 98 in his home in Mexico City. He is survived by his two sons, six daughters, 24 grandchildren, and 50 great-grandchildren. His wife, Carmen Montull, passed away in 2002.

Don Lorenzo Servitje Sendra, also known as Don Lorenzo, was born on November 20, 1918 in Mexico City, the son of Juan Servitje Torrallardona and Josefina Sendra. He studied accounting at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, but is now known for being one of the founders of Grupo Bimbo, a Mexican bakery conglomerate that now includes Wonder Bread, Sara Lee, Entenmann’s, Thomas’ English Muffins, and more. The company started off as a small bakery and retail store called El Molino, opened by his father in 1928. When his father passed away suddenly in 1936, Mr. Servitje inherited the business and decided to leave his work as an accountant. It was then that he began working out how to import modern American industrial baking technology.

At the end of 1945, Servitje and his partners started the company. Initially, Grupo Bimbo had 34 employees and 10 trucks that solely delivered loaves of white bread in two sizes, rye bread, and toasted bread. Today, the company has 130,000 employees and 170 factories in 22 countries. They make 10,000 products, which are marketed under more than 100 different brands, and are distributed by more than 11,000 vehicles. In 2014, the company reported over $14 billion in sales. After buying Weston Foods, and having previously acquired the Mexican Rights to Wonder Bread, Grupo Bimbo became the biggest baking company in the United States in 2009. Only two years later, the company became the biggest baking company in the world after buying its competitors in Spain, Portugal, and Argentina.

Works Cited

Co-Founder of Mexican Baking Giant Grupo Bimbo Dead at 98, Latin American Herald Tribune (February 3, 2017),
Sam Roberts, Lorenzo Servitje, a Founder of the World’s Biggest Bakery, dies at 98, The New York Times (February 6, 2017),










Student Work – Juan Gabriel and Gene Wilder

Juan Gabriel by Roberto Fernandez


Image of Juan Gabriel from Wikipedia



Roberto Fernandez


Juan Gabriel was affectionately called “El Divo de Juarez” by his fans. Divo can be translated as a male Diva. Juan Gabriel wrote more than 1800 songs during his life. He was a gifted singer, actor, businessman, philanthropist and songwriter. When he was younger he acted in several movies as the male lead. His songs have been used in movies, television shows and soap operas for decades, making him an icon and a household name. He was widely believed to be gay although he never confirmed or denied it. In an interview he was asked if he was gay, he replied “ Lo que se ve, no se pregunta.” Which can be translated as “ you don’t ask, what can be clearly seen.”

He was born on January 7th 1950 in Michoacan, under the name Alberto Aguilar Valadez. However, he grew up in Ciudad Juarez near the Texas border. He was the youngest of ten brothers and sisters. During his childhood he spent years in an orphanage until he was reunited with his mother. He travelled to Mexico City a few times trying to get a record deal. On one of his trips he was falsely accused of robbery and sent to prison. After a year and a half he was released because of a lack of evidence. By 19 years old he had already signed a deal with a record label.

Juan Gabriel was very flamboyant, reminiscent of Liberace and he was very patriotic. He refused to sing in English saying “Mexican music must be defended with vigilance…My thoughts, my feelings, my spirit, they are all in Spanish.”

He died on August 28, 2016 in Santa Monica, California from a heart attack. Juan Gabriel led a very private life, not much is known publicly about his estate. However, some consider it to be in the hundreds of millions based on the songs, property and investments he owned. He left behind four children conceived by artificial insemination with his friend Laura Salas. In an interview he claimed she was his best lifelong friend.



Kirk Semple and Elisabeth Malkin. Juan Gabriel’s Death, Like His Music, Brings Mexicans Together, The New York Times (Aug. 29, 2016),

Juan Gabriel, Mexican Singing Superstar- Obituary, The Telegraph Obituaries (Sept. 2,  2016),–obituary/


Gene Wilder by Genesis Parada


Image of Gene Wilder from Wikipedia

Genesis Parada


The film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” has captivated dozens of generations over the years. Forty-five years after the film was released, the lead actor, Jerome Silberman,  better known as Gene Wilder, died on August 29, 2016 at the age of 83 at home in Stamford, Connecticut from complications of Alzheimers disease.


The American comic, actor, screenwriter, director, and author, Gene Wilder, was known across the globe for his prominent role as Willy Wonka in the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Wilder was born on June 11, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was the son of Jeanne Baer and William J. Silberman-a manufacturer of miniature whiskey and beer bottles. At age 8, his passion for acting and comedy was brought to life when his mother was diagnosed with rheumatic fever and the doctor told Wilder to “try and make her laugh”.


At age 15, he performed for the first time in front of a paying audience as Balthasar in a play of Romeo & Juliet. Three years after landing his first professional acting job at Herbert Berghof’s production, Charles Grodin convinced him to leave the studio to study Lee Strasberg’s method acting. Months later, Wilder was accepted into the Actors Studio-a membership organization for professional actors currently run by Al Pacino. Wilder then adopted the name “Gene Wilder” at the age of 26. Gene for Eugene Gant, and Wilder for the playwright Thornton Wilder.


Wilder’s film debut was in 1967 in the film “Bonnie & Clyde”. Wilder went on tour around the country with different theatre productions and was featured in a broadcast appearance on CBS of “Death of a Salesman”.  In 1971 he auditioned for his now legacy Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and accepted the role under one condition: he wanted to make a grand entrance coming out of the factory with a cane and fall into a somersault and get up applauding. By this time he had released three novels, starred in over two dozen movies/productions and even produced his own film, “The Women in Red”. By 1971 he was already nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and won a Primetime Emmy Award in 2000.


He was survived by Katherine Wilder, his daughter, and wife Karen Boyer. Alzheimers is a very mentally deteriorating disease, Wilder and his family took early measures in estate planning. According to a recent article in Forbes, Wilder’s estate has a reported net worth of around $20 million.

Danielle and Andy Mayoras “From Gene Wilder’s Struggle With The ‘Illness-Pirate’”. Forbes (Sep 7, 2016)


Daniel Lewis Gene Wilder Dies at 83; Star of ‘Willy Wonka’ and ‘Young Frankenstein”. Times (Aug 26, 2016)


Allanah Faherty “8 Amazing Facts You Probably Never Knew About Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”. Movie Pilot (Aug 30, 2016)



The Original Sadist Had a Really Nice Prison Cell and Very Specific Last Wishes

Did you know that when we call someone a sadist, we are referring to the Marquise de Sade?


Image from Wikipedia, click for source.

According to Wikipedia, The Marquis was born into a noble French family in 1740. Early in life he joined the military and then married and had three children, but he wasn’t much of a family man. In fact, he reveled in procuring and abusing prostitutes as well as his own servants. His behavior was so outrageous that he spent half of his adult life in prisons or insane asylums. We remember Sade today for his writings – he wrote some scandalous books that mingled shockingly violent pornographic scenes with his political philosophy.

In 1777, Sade was arrested and imprisoned in the Chateau de Vincennes under a warrant obtained by (who else but) his mother-in-law. He escaped but was recaptured and remained at Vincennes for seven years after which they transferred him to the Bastille. Ten days before Bastille Day (when the people stormed the prison on July 14, 1789 and officially set off the French Revolution), Sade was moved to an “insane asylum”. Funnily enough, eventually he was released from the asylum and was then elected to a position in the new government!

His freedom didn’t last too long, alas. In 1802, Napoleon ordered the arrest of the author of Justine and Juliette (two of Sade’s pornos that had been published anonymously). He was housed in two other jails and then in an insane asylum until he died in 1814.

Sade’s will is fascinating.  He must have been worried about being buried alive because he wrote

“I categorically forbid the dissection of my body for any purpose whatsoever; I must pressingly request that it be kept for fourty-eight hours in the room in which I die …”

He also included his burial instructions, ” (A)n express messenger shall be sent to M. Le Normand, firewood merchant … to take my body and in his care transport it in the said firewood wagon to the woods on my Malmaison property … where I wish it to be placed, without any sort of ceremony … once the grave is filled in, acorns are to be scattered over it, so that in time the grave is again overgrown, and when the undergrowth is grown as it was before, the traces of my grave will vanish from the face of the earth as I like to think memory of me will be effaced from men’s minds …”

You can read more about Sade’s will and the wonderful story of his skull at  The Marquis and His Skull.

Although Sade was by all accounts a flagrant libertine, the French have preserved at least one of his prison cells as a tourist attraction in the Chateau de Vincennes. The Chateau is a short train ride from central Paris and boy howdy is it cool. It began as a residence for the French royal family during the Middle Ages and is considered one of the greatest Medieval castles in all of Europe. Once Versailles was built, Vincennes was used as a porcelain factory and then a jail. Eventually, the Chateau was turned over the military and they have been restoring it since WWII.

When I visited Vincennes I happened on Sade’s cell and I envied it for its spaciousness and super-high ceiling. It may have been hard to heat back in the day, but, in truth, I thought it nicer than many New York City apartments, including my own.

According to Wikipedia, Sade’s family considered him a shameful embarrassment. One of his sons burned a lot of his writings and the family tried to forget him, but of course,  his name lives on.  I wish Sade, the former prisoner/asylum resident, could return for a moment today – to see his name in common usage around the world and the millions of books, magazines and videos that share his particular predilictions.

Alaskans and their Animals


My photograph of Alvin Eli Amason’s “Oscar Scared Him With His Icon” at the Museum of the North, Fairbanks (all photographs below are mine)

When you ask New Yorkers to think of local wildlife, we conjure up the disgusting animals that thrive on the trash in our wonderful  pig-sty city of smells – nasty rats, roaches, bedbugs, pigeons, squirrels (rats with cuter tails) and the occasional rabid raccoon, escaped gigantic pet snake or sewer alligator.

Most New Yorkers would cheer on learning of the extinction of our icky fauna,  but Alaskans have an entirely different relationship with their wild animals – they seem to deeply love and respect their non-human beings.


I visited Alaska a few year ago and from the moment I arrived, I sensed the importance of animals to the Alaskans – they like to stuff and display the wildlife they kill.  The Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage features several big dead animals whose ferocity has been preserved and captured forever in glass cabinets. And in fact, I think every one of the six hotels I stayed at (in Seward, Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks) showcased taxidermied animals as part of the décor.


A bear at the airport.


For sure, some Alaskans depend on their local wildlife for survival.  Even today, in the age of Costco and Amazon  (they do have them in Alaska), some Alaskans prefer or are forced to live on a “subsistence” diet, reliant on what they can kill and gather.  There is a lot of meat and fish in Alaska – salmon, halibut, whale (yes, some native Alaskans still hunt whale), moose, caribou, bear and more.


Michael Nakoneczny’s painting in the Museum of the North

If you want to learn more about subsistence hunting and trapping, I highly recommend the series the Last Alaskans which features several different families and individuals living a subsistence existence.

From my visit, I learned that native Alaskans have a rather beautiful relationship with the animals they hunt.  They thank the animal for presenting itself to be eaten. They won’t kill an animal that is too large for their needs because they don’t believe in waste and every part of an animal is either eaten or used for something else – shelter, clothing,  jewelry, and even furniture.


An antler chair at the Museum of the North, Fairbanks.

It is not just the subsistence hunters who love animals.  Even the Alaskans in the  “big” cities, esteem their animals.   In fact, on virtually every day of my vacation, stories about animals were featured on the front pages of the Anchorage and Fairbanks newspapers!  In NYC we get the “pizza rat”, but in Alaska, they report on a bear walking into a liquor store and a moose getting caught in a soccer net and they even print dog obituaries.

Alaska is a wondrous, stunning state with lovely people and an abundance of fascinating wildlife.  I feel very fortunate that I could go to somewhere so different than New York City and I must admit it made me sad that our indigenous animals suck so bad.




ciao anita


Every tourist in Rome comes to the Trevi Fountain because it is breathtakingly beautiful and because a tradition says that if you toss a coin into the fountain, you are guaranteed to return to the Eternal City.


Pre-renovation  image from Wikipedia. Click for source

Last winter I returned to Rome and wandered over to the fountain to learn that there was to be no coin tossing into the Trevi’s waters.   The fountain (completed in 1762) was undergoing renovation – it  was dry and its gorgeous Baroque sculptures were covered in scaffolding.

On the upside, we tourists could walk a set of planks extending into the center of the fountain so that we could enjoy the remarkable sculptures up close.  It was a once in a lifetime bit of luck!TREVI3


To make the experience even more meaningful, suspended from the scaffolding was a huge banner commemorating the gorgeous Swedish-Italian actress, Anita Ekberg, who had died that week at age 83. During the 1950’s-60’s, Ekberg was known for her incredible beauty and glamorous life. She had roles in many films and she dated many famous men including Frank Sinatra.  She married twice but never had children.



 Although the tribute was temporary, I loved that the Romans honored Anita Ekberg so quickly, with such a gorgeous, gigantic banner.  It was wonderfully perfect that Anita Eberg was commemorated at the Trevi Fountain because her most famous role was playing a stunning actress much like herself in a great Fellini film set in Rome, La Dolce Vita.  In one of the most iconic scenes in all of film history, Ekberg’s character “Sylvia” dances in the Fountain at night during the evening she spends with a super-sexy journalist played by Marcello Mastroianni.

Enjoy Anita’s frolic on Youtube!


 Note: This is a cross-post from our class blog on New York City College of Technology’s OpenLab, “Our Places; How We Commemorate”.

Student Work – Yvonne Craig and Satoru Iwata and Roderick George Toombs


by Deborah Rios

Yvonne Craig's image from Wikipedia. Click for source.

Yvonne Craig image from Wikipedia.

Deborah Rios

Deborah Rios

Movie and television actress, Yvonne Craig died on August 17, 2015 at age seventy-eight in her home in Pacific Palisades, California. Craig had succumbed to metastasized breast cancer which had spread to her liver. She was born Yvonne Joyce Craig on May 16, 1937. Craig was born in Taylorville, Illinois and subsequently grew up in Ohio.
After a brief stint with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Craig commenced her acting career when she was discovered by Patrick Ford, son of film director, John Ford. Ford had cast Craig in the starring role of the movie, The Young Land. Craig also went on to do guest roles in television series such as Perry Mason, Mr. Lucky, and Star Trek.

During the early sixties, Craig had been dating Elvis Presley (the lucky girl) and worked in supporting roles opposite Presley in the films, It Happened at the World’s Fair and Kissin’ Cousins. However, Craig’s most memorable role was that of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in the short lived television series, Batman. This role was considered a “pioneer” role since this was the first female superhero on prime time television. At a time where the second leg of the Women’s Liberation movement was taking stride, Craig’s role as Batgirl was a major contribution. From 1972 through 2011, Craig continued to accept television roles which included the voice role of “grandma” in the children’s television show, Olivia which ran from 2009 through 2011.

In addition to her acting career, Craig went into private business in the field of real estate. She also joined her sister, Meridel, in a thriving pre-paid telephone card business. Among her other endeavors, Craig wrote her autobiography entitled From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond in the year 2000. Moreover, Craig was a philanthropist and a heavy advocate for union workers rights as well as an advocate for equal pay for women. She was also a supporter of education and donated her time to mentoring and tutoring under privileged students.

Craig is survived by her husband, Kenneth Aldrich, Sister, Meridel Carson and nephews Christopher and Todd Carson. There is no information as to the estate of Yvonne Craig


KATIE ROGERS, Yvonne Craig, Actress Who Played Batgirl, Is Dead at 78, N.Y. Times, August 19, 2015,

Yvonne Craig,

Yvonne Craig sm


by Jasmeet Sahni

Satoru Iwata image from Wikipedi. Click for source

Satoru Iwata image from Wikipedi.

Jasmeet Sahni

Jasmeet Sahni

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata passed away at the young age of 55 after battling cancer for over a year. He was a Japanese born programmer and businessman. Even at a young age he was always interested in computers and leadership. In middle school he worked with a demo computer just by using telephone lines. In high school he displayed leadership skills serving as class, student council and club presidents. After entering high school, he would save money by washing dishes in order to purchase his first programmable calculator. Not long after, he went on to develop his own game in his junior year making simple number games. He is widely known for his unconventional ideas and changing the medium.

Sadly, in June 2014 a tumor was discovered during a routine physical, the tumor was removed yet resurfaced one year later. Unfortunately, Mr. Iwata died from complications with a bile duct tumor on July 11, 2015 in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. Throughout his career, Iwata built a strong relationship with Nintendo fans through social media and regular appearances at gaming events. He respectively became the public face of Nintendo.

Mr. Iwata’s death was a major shock to all video-game entrepreneurs and users. Iwata brought a new feel to the Nintendo world, unlike his predecessor, Hiroshi Yamauchi who was infamous for being very harsh with his rhetoric, once saying people who play RPG’s (role-playing games) were “depressed people who like to sit along in their dark rooms”. Instead Iwata’s hands-on approach to business earned him admiration and respect from both developers and gamers.

Satoru Iwata was named one of the world’s top CEO by Barron’s Magazine, he was the first Nintendo President not related to the Yamauchi family through either consanguinity or affinity. In 2003, thanks to Yamauchi, Iwata pushed for development of a revolutionary product that would later be known as Wii. According to Iwata, the premise of the console was that “a Mom has to like it”. He is more notably known for helping create major games such as Kirby’s Adventure, Super Mario Bros, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong Pokémon Gold & Silver, Legends of Zelda, just to name a few.

Iwata believed “Above all, video games are meant to be just one thing; fun. Fun for everyone.” Even after he joined Nintendo, as the head of its corporate planning division in 2002, he saw Nintendo’s net sales fall by two-thirds, it was the first time in thirty years that the company saw its first operating losses. Iwate voluntarily halved his salary as an apology in both 2011 and 2014. As of April 2013 Forbes estimated Yamauchi’s net worth at $2.1 billion, he was the 13th richest person in Japan and the 491st riches in the world. Nintendo, alternatively, is worth $18.1 billion thanks to their timeless games and uniquely designed hardware.

Satoru Iwata’s death was a shock to the entire world. Due to his unconventional gaming ideas and strong relationship with Nintendo fans he will forever be known as an iconic and deeply admired individual. Luckily, through his games fans of his work such as myself are able to keep his memory alive. He is survived by his spouse, Kayoko Iwata.

Works Cited

Matt Peckham, “Why Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Mattered”. Times. Tech. Video Games (July 13, 2015)

Titiana Serafin, “Billionaire Nintendo Changemaker Hiroshi Yamauchi Dies”. Forbes (Sept 19, 2013)

Rich Stanton and Keith Stuart, “Satoru Iwata changed the whole games industry and now leaves it in mourning”. The Guardian. Tech. Games (July 13, 2015)

Nintendo. Game Credits


by Gina Delgado

Roddy Piper image from Wikipedia

Roddy Piper image from Wikipedia

Gina Delgado

Gina Delgado

Canadian professional wrestler, Roderick George Toombs better known as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper or “Hot Rod”, died on July 31, 2015 at 61 years old from a heart attack in his sleep at his Hollywood, California household. Piper had suffered from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in the year 2006 but was reported cancer free at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Kitty Toombs, his four children; Ariel Toombs, Anastacia Toombs, Falon Tombs, and Colton Toombs.

Piper the most diverting, scandalous, and overbearing legend in World Wrestling Entertainment, cherished by millions of fans around the world was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on April 17, 1954 and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Piper first joined World Wrestling Entertainment in 1984 after receiving his first opportunity from National Wrestling Alliance in the 1970’s. His nickname, “Rowdy Roddy Piper” was known for trash talking, wearing a kilt, and his bagpipe entrance music.

Aside from his nickname, he headlined the very first WrestleMania in 1985 where he partnered up with Paul Orndoff against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. and appeared in many television shows and movies such as “They Live” which was directed by John Carpenter. He was also World Championship Wrestling U.S Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and World Tag Team Champion. With all of his many accomplishments, Piper was inducted to the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005 at Los Angeles, California. To this day, Piper’s legacy lives on and forever will be remembered from World Wrestling Entertainment professional wrestlers and fans.


Steve Almasy, Roddy Piper, pro wrestling “bad guy” dies at 61, (August 1, 2015)

The Associated Press, WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper dies at 61, (July 31, 2014)

Nina Golgowski, Pro wrestler, WWE champion “Rowdy” Roddy Piper dead at 61, (August 1, 2015)

Marissa Payne, WWE legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper dead at age 61, (July 31, 2015)


Happy Birthday Napoleon!

Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748 - 1825 ), The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812,by Jacques-Louis David, image from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Happy Birthday Napoleon!  

Napoleon Bonaparte was born 246 years ago today.

Three years ago I wished Napoleon a Happy Birthday and began a series of posts about  Napoleon the soldier and politician, Napoleon the lover, and  Napoleon the estate planner.  I needed a break from the Napoleon saga but I couldn’t stay away from the man for long.  This post is about the return of Napoleon’s remains to France and how the French people have honored him with one of the grandest resting places on earth.

In his will, Napoleon asked that his remains be returned to France, so he could be buried on the banks of the Seine “in the midst of the French people whom I loved so much”.


“I Wish That my Ashes Lie on the Banks of the Seine” by Jean-Pierre-Marie Jazet (1840) my photograph at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Instead, his British captors buried him under some willow trees in the “Geranium Valley” on St Helena, the island he despised.

Soon after his death, on his birthday, Napoleon’s mother wrote an impassioned letter to the British government stating “The mother of the Emperor Napoleon demands from his enemies the remains of her son….” She ended her letter with this wonderful lineI gave Napoleon to France and to the world; in the name of God, in the name of all mothers, I beg you, my Lord, not to refuse me the body of my son“.

naps mom

Napoleon’s mother, Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte, click for source.

In addition, Napoleons’ executors sent a formal request for the release of the body. The British were like, sure, you can have him, but the French government has got to ask us, not just his family or friends.

For the next nineteen years, Napoleon’s body stayed on St. Helena because the French government under King Louis XVIII didn’t want Napoleon back – the king was afraid his return would encourage more revolution. Once Napoleon’s only legitimate son died in 1840, the king felt safer and finally asked for the return, suggesting it would encourage friendship between France and England.


King Louis XVIII, image from Wikipedia, click for source

The British agreed that the French could come fetch Napoleon’s remains, but there was no friendship created.  In fact, on the return voyage, the Frenchmen threw most of their furniture overboard so they could set up cannons in case the British attacked them at sea!

The return of Napoleon’s remains to France was a huge deal for much of the population, who called his return the “retour des cendres (the return of ashes) even though Napoleon had not been cremated. The French government agreed to spend a bundle on the return and they sent three ships and some important people to fetch Napoleon’s remains.

The expedition was headed by the king’s son, the Prince of Joinville,  who commanded the main ship, the frigate Belle Poule. He didn’t want to go because he felt that fetching the body was a chore for an undertaker, but he made the trip fun by stopping off and partying all along the way.

Prince Joinville took along several people who’d gone into exile with Napoleon on St. Helena.  They included Napoleon’s executors Bertrand (and Bertrand’s son who had been born on the island) and Marchand. The third executor, Montholon, couldn’t go because he was in jail for trying to overthrow the government in aid of Napoleon’s nephew,”Napoleon III”.


Model of the Belle Poule, cllick for source

When the ships finally got to St. Helena, there was a ceremonial exhumation that began at midnight in the rain. Every second of the ceremony has been described in excruciating detail by several of those present. Napoleon had been buried in a series of coffins made of tin, lead, and mahogany and the delegation brought several more coffins to hold the original ones.

Once they dug up and opened the coffins, a doctor described Napoleon’s remains. His written description of the condition of Napoleon’s body continues for several pages. Here is a sample ” The chin itself had suffered no change, and still preserved the type peculiar to the face of Napoleon. The lips, which had become thinner, were parted; three incisor teeth of extreme whiteness appeared under the upper lip which was a little raised at the left side. The hands left nothing to desire, there were not altered in the slightest degree; although the muscles had lost their power of motion, the skin seemed to have preserved that peculiar colour which belongs only to life; the nails were long, adherent and very white”.

The doctor wanted to inspect the containers that held Napoleon’s stomach and intestines, but by then most of the French contingent were crying and they wouldn’t let him continue.
The Belle Poule and two other ships sailed for France in October, 1840. It took them more than a month to reach the French city of Cherbourg where they put Napoleon’s six coffins on a decorated steamship, the Normandie, and brought him to the harbor city of Havre.  There, they loaded him onto another ship, the Dorade that brought him up the Seine to Paris to be placed on a funeral barge.

The planners in Paris weren’t ready for Napoleon, and according to some, the final preparations were rather slap-dash.  When the barge arrived in Paris, Napoleon’s coffins were placed on an amazing funeral carriage. This carriage was 88 feet high, 88 feet long and 90 feet wide. It had so much stuff on it that it took 16 horses to pull it.


My photograph of the funeral carriage from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

They pulled Napoleon into Paris on a really cold day. People lined the route – fans had camped out the night before for good spots (some even froze to death). They brought Napoleon to his final resting place of Les Invalides (a military hospital) where the royalty and politicians were waiting. There was a funeral mass with a choir of hundreds of singers from the French opera.   According to some accounts, the royalty in attendance on the day of Napoleon’s return acted badly, with disrespect for the Emperor – they were rightly worried about the return inciting new coup attempts.

Les Invalides was orginally built to house sick and old veterans. King Louis XIV later added a grand royal domed chapel where they put Napoleon’s remarkable sarcophagus.


Dome des Invalides. Image from Wikipedia.

Napoleon’s tomb is breathtaking. There are beautiful paintings on the ceiling of the dome.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Napoleon’s gigantic brownish-red stone sarcophagus is mounted on a huge green stone pedestal in the middle of  a circular mosaic floor, surrounded by statues.  It is majestic.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Napoleon is not the only one entombed in the church.  Two of his brothers, (parts of) his son, and many generals and French war heros are there as well.


My photograph of another tomb at Les Invalides.


My photograph of another tomb at Les Invalides.

You can take a virtual tour of Napoleon’s final resting place at the Les Invalides website. The tomb is a massive tourist draw, despite the rather steep entrance fee.

In New York City, you can get a sense of Napoleon’s tomb by visiting Grant’s Tomb in which was modeled after Napoleon’s, but is not nearly as grand.