A Brief History
On June 19, 1910, the United States celebrated its first Father’s Day in Spokane, Washington (the city where my sister was born). Other countries had been celebrating Father’s Day on March 19 since the Middle Ages, at least in Catholic countries. Today, in the United States, we celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday in June each year.
In honor of Father’s Day and of all the wonderful fathers in the world, we will note some significant “fathers” worthy of mention.
1. George Washington, The Father of Our Country.
Our first president and the commanding general that led our forces to victory in the American Revolution, the United States of America owes its existence to this great man. Possibly the richest man in the brand new United States, Washington was a plantation owner and distilled whiskey, a project started just a couple years before his death. His distillery was the largest in the country, and produced a peak of around 11,000 gallons of whiskey in a single year! (Okay, he was also a slave owner, which goes to show even GW had a down side.)
2. Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine.
This ancient ancestor of doctors lived from 460 BC to 370 BC in ancient Greece, where he created medicine as a profession separate from other scientific and pseudo-scientific fields. He established medical school and his name is invoked as the standard for medical practice morality. (Note: He had nothing to do with Obamacare or Trumpcare!)
3. Satan, The Father of Lies.
Hey, we said “significant” fathers, not good or great ones! Give old Lucifer his props, he is the best at something, and that something is lies, falsehoods, deception and trickery. (John 8:44 in the Bible) Old Scratch is so bad, that if he was walking the earth today he would be a politician…
4. Hermann Oberth, The Father of Space Travel.
Oh, you thought we were going to say Robert Goddard (American) or perhaps Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (Russian), but here we are recognizing a Transylvanian! Born in 1894 and educated in Munich, his 1922 dissertation on rocketry was rejected, so he published his work in 1923, The rocket into Planetary Space, and an expanded version in 1929. His work is perhaps the most important science to put man on a track to travel to space, although sometimes Goddard and Tsiolkovsky are included as “The Three Fathers of Rocketry” (or of Space Travel). Werner von Braun deserves some sort of honorable mention.
5. Gregor Mendel, The Father of Genetics.
Born in 1822, this Czech friar did the groundbreaking work that established the branch of science known as genetics. He studied and laid out the rules for how heredity works. Mendel was ahead of his time, and his work was validated in the early 20th Century, decades after his studies.
6. J. Robert Oppenheimer, The Father of the Atomic Bomb.
The American and Allied effort to produce a working nuclear (atom) bomb during World War II had many significant scientists provide important groundwork to achieve this goal, but the guy that put it all together was Oppenheimer, an American Harvard grad working at Berkeley, and after the war at Princeton. Thanks, Dad…
7. W.C. Handy, The Father of the Blues.
How do we know this guy is the Father of the Blues and not BB King, Muddy Waters, or some other luminary? Because Handy wrote his 1941 autobiography and titled it “The Father of the Blues.” If only everything else was so simple!
8. Hyman G. Rickover, The Father of the Nuclear Navy.
Born Chaim Godalia Rickover in Poland in 1900, the boy later called Hyman came to the US in 1906, and went on to a career in the US Navy, serving in destroyers, a battleship, and his main choice, submarines, though his only seagoing command was of a minesweeper. Ranking as an Admiral, he became the longest serving US Navy officer (1918-1982) and was instrumental in developing nuclear powered ships for the US Navy, especially submarines and aircraft carriers.
9. Henry Ford, Father of the Automobile Era.
I distinctly call this the “Era” instead of just “The Automobile” because several other men have claims (and champions that vociferously promote them) to the title of Dad of the Car, including (but not limited to) Duryea, Benz, Daimler, Olds, Cugnot and Bollee. While each of these inventors and/or businessmen had a lot to do with inventing the automobile or critical aspects of it, it was Ford that mass produced the car and put the world on wheels. At one point in the 1920’s it is probable that half of all the cars in the world were Fords. His assembly lines made cars affordable and available to the masses.
10. Kazimierz Pulaski, Father of American Cavalry.
Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1745, this Polish officer came to the aid of America during the Revolutionary War and founded the American cavalry. Gaining combat experience against the Russians, Pulaski was recruited by Benjamin Franklin when Pulaski was forced into exile. Pulaski served as an American general, and organized the cavalry as well as serving in combat. Pulaski is a national hero in both Poland and the United States, and has numerous cities and other places named after him.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite father from history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Kostyal, K. M. and Jack N. Rakove. Founding Fathers: The Fight for Freedom and the Birth of American Liberty. National Geographic, 2014.