On this day in 1831, Ioannis Kapodistrias was murdered at the age of 55. Kapodistrias was a Greek statesman and one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of Europe. The son of Komis Antonio Capo d’Istria, he was born in Corfu (at that time under Venetial rule), studied at Padua, and then entered the Russian government services. Kapodistrias had a deep sympathy for the cause of Greek independence. He was eventually elected as the first head of state of independent Greece. He worked to organize an effective government and to subordinate powerful, semi-autonomous local leaders to the authorities of the new state. During this process, he acquired many enemies – two of which assassinated him as he entered a church. Kapodistrias is considered by many as the founder of the modern Greek state and the architect of Greek independence.
On this day in 1949, George Dalaras, the Greek singer was born in Piraeus, Athens. He is the son of Lukas Dalaras, a rebetiko singer of the 1950s and 60s.
Since the release of his first album in 1969, he has recorded over 70 personal albums and worked with many Greek composers including Mikis Theodorakis and Giannis Markopoulos. His politically charged songs of everyday people have made some dub him “the Greek Bruce Springstein.” Dalaras has explored jazz, pop, rock, Greek folk music, Latin, Bosnian, Baltic, flamenco, classical, Israeli, Arab and other styles throughout his long and continuing career.
On this day in 1988, Alec Issigonis, the Greek-British car designer and developer of the Mini Cooper, died at the age of 81. Born in Smyrna in 1906, Issigonis immigrated to London in 1922 during the war between Greece and Turkey. After studying engineering, he joined Morris Motors as a suspension designer. There he developed the Morris Minor, which remained in production from 1948 to 1971. A reliable vehicle with excellent steering and cornering qualities, it was the first all-British car to pass the one million mark in sales (surviving models are still cherished by owners and collectors). In 1959, in response to the Suez energy crisis and the popularity of Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle, Issigonis introduced the Mini. The boxy, inexpensive, fuel-efficient Mini used a transverse engine to power its front wheels – a radical design at the time – and thus could seat four passengers despite being only 10 feet long.