They were my age when…


At age 20:

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft.

Canadian hockey player Scott Olsen founded Rollerblade, Inc.

English novelist Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, which was immediately successful.

Ragtime composer Scott Joplin became an itinerant pianist and traveled throughout the Midwest.

Despite a lack of experience, James Cagney fast-talked his way into a vaudeville dancing job.

Egyptian hermit Saint Anthony gave away his inheritance and joined a group of ascetics, eventually becoming the father of Christian Monasticism.

D. H. Lawrence began writing his first novel, The White Peacock.

Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice, her second and most famous novel.

English author Elizabeth Barrett Browning published her first volume of poetry.

Polish-born Joseph Conrad, one of the great English language novelists, began learning English, his third language.

Charles Lindbergh learned to fly.

John Stuart Mill pulled himself out of depression and found that the ordinary events of life could again give him some moderate amounts of pleasure. He decided that happiness is attained not by making it the direct goal of life, but by fixing one’s mind on some other pursuit.

Leon Battista Alberti wrote a Latin comedy that was hailed as the “discovered” work of a Roman playwright.

The Greek philosopher Plato became a disciple of Socrates.

Alexander Graham Bell taught a stray Skye Terrier to talk. By training the dog to growl on cue and then manipulating his mouth and throat, Bell could make him produce the phonemes “ow, ah, ooh, ga, ma, ma,” to say “How are you, Grandmama?”

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