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This Week in History: August 21st to 27th

August 21st:

On this day in 1967, Mikis Theodorakis, the renowned Greek composer and lyricist, was arrested in Greece. Long associated with the Greek Left (although he served as a government minister under right-wing Constantine Mitsotakis in the early 1990s), Theodorakis was jailed for five months during the junta and then sent to prison camps. He was eventually allowed to go into exile after an international solidarity movement (led by Leonard BErnstein, Dmitri Shostakovich, Arthur Miller and Harry Belafonte) and on the request of the French politician Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. In an article in the New York Times, Theodorakis was quoted saying, “A man who goes to jail for his ideas is much freer than his keepers.” During his lengthy career, Theodorakis composed some of the most recognizable and iconic music in the world, including the film scores for Zorba the Greek, Z, and Serpico. Today, he is revered for his outstanding contributions to music and to society at large.

August 22nd:

On this day in 1932, Theoni Vachliotis Aldredge, the Greek-American stage and screen costume designer was born in Thessaloniki. According to her obituary in the New York Times, as a child Aldredge fixated on dolls and their clothes and maintained a large doll collection throughout her life. After graduating from the American School in Athens, she decided to go to the U.S. to study the theatre and the stage. She attended the Goodman Theatre School in Chicago where she extended her studies after receiving a scholarship. Aldredge designed hundreds of costumes for Broadway and Off Broadway productions including Anne, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, 42nd Street and La Cage aux Folles – as well as many films including Moonstruck, Ghostbusters and Addams Family Values. Throughout her career, Aldredge won three Tony Awards (as well as 11 other Tony nominations) and an Academy Award for her work on The Great Gatsby. She also received the Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award. Aldredge passed away at the age of 88 in 2011 from cardiac arrest.

August 25th:

On this day in 2004, Greek athlete Fani Chalkia (born in Larissa) came out of her retirement to compete in her home Olympics in Athens. She won the gold medal in the 400m hurdles in 52.82 seconds. (During the semifinals, she set the Olympic record of 52.77 seconds). She followed up her Olympic gold medal with a silver at the 2006 Gothenburg European Championships. However, two years after that win, it was announced at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing that Chalkia tested positive for the banned substance methyltrienolone. Chalkia denied she had taken any substances, and asked for her ‘B’ sample to be tested, which also tested positive the next day. She was immediately excluded from the 2008 games. On December 12, 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations announced that she would be banned from the sport for two years.

Also on this day in 2010, Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark married Tatiana Blatnik at the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas on the island of Spetses in Greece. The couple had been in a long term relationship before becoming engaged right before New Year’s Day in 2009. Until July 2010, when Tatiana resigned to concentrate on her wedding plans, she worked as an event planner and publicity consultant for fashion designer (and royal) Diane von Furstenberg. Tatiana was born in Caracas to parents of Slovenian and German origin. She went to boarding school in Switzerland and then studied sociology at Georgetown University. The wedding weekend was jump-started by a cocktail party on the harbor of Spetses at the Poseidonion Grace Hotel. The wedding ceremony was widely reported in the Greek media as the entire Danish Royal Family (with the exception of Crown Prince Frederik) and other foreign royals traveled to Spetses to attend the marriage.

August 27th:

On this day in 2001, Michael Dertouzos, the Greek internet pioneer and former Director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, passed away at the young age of 64. Dertouzos was born in Athens to a father who served as an admiral in the Greek navy and a mother who was a concert pianist. Upon graduating from Athens College in 1954, Dertouzos moved from Athens to the Ozarks, having received a Fulbright Scholarship to study electrical engineering at the University of Arkansas. He received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from that university and then went on to MIT where he completed his Ph.D. in electrical engineering in three years. Upon graduating, he immediately joined the MIT faculty as an assistant professor, thereby beginning his long career at the university. Under his leadership, the Lab for Computer Science at MIT developed many of the technologies that underlie today’s computers, including one of the best-known methods for scrambling data – the RSA encryption system – and innovations that helped bring the World Wide Web into popular use. Dertouzos also predicted the popularity of personal computers and helped maximize their potential during this tenure at MIT.

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