On this day in 1999, Nicholas Metropolis, the Greek-American mathematician, physicist, and computer scientist died at the age of 84. Metropolis was born in Chicago on June 11, 1915. A graduate of the University of Chicago, he joined the Manhattan Project in 1943. For most of his life he remained at Los Alamos, although he also spent time as a professor of physics at the University of Chicago. Metropolis is best remembered as one of the founding fathers, along with Stan Ulam and John von Neumann, of the Monte Carlo method, a broad class of algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling and which was used to design the first atomic bomb. Today, Monte Carlo is used for diverse applications, such as simulating traffic flow on highways, forecasting financial fluctuations in the stock market, and modeling radiation transport in the earth’s atmosphere.
On this day in 1918, Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the former Prime Minister of Greece, was born in Chalepa, Crete. Throughout his upbringing, and indeed the rest of his adult life, Mitsotakis was at the epicenter of Greek political life. When the Axis occupation commenced in 1941, Mitsotakis immediately signed up to be in the resistance. He joined the National Organization of Crete (EOK) to be part of a more concerted effort to combat the Nazis. Mitsotakis was a part of an intelligence network known as the ‘quintuplets’, where he was responsible for opening channels of communication between Allied commanders and anti-Nazi Greek revolutionary forces. For these actions, Mitsotakis was sentenced to death (twice) and imprisoned by the Nazi occupiers. Because of his knowledge of German and his moral standing, his life was spared. For his bravery and courage in the resistance against the Nazis, Mitsotakis was awarded numerous medals from the Greek and British governments. As the nephew of the liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, Mitsotakis was first elected to Parliament as a member of the Liberal Party in 1946. In 1977, Mitsotakis re-entered Parliament as the head of the small Neoliberal Party and, the following year, joined the governing New Democracy party, serving first as Finance Minister and later as Foreign Minister. He became the party’s leader in 1984 while the conservatives were in opposition. Mitsotakis narrowly won the elections in 1990. As Prime Minister, he reined in the more far right elements of New Democracy and infused liberalism into the party. He sought to simplify the tax code, overhaul the constitution, encourage privatization of state assets, reduce the deficit and improve relations with the United States. He accomplished all of these goals. After his resignation as party leader, Mitsotakis often made public statements urging governments to take bolder steps in their market reforms. He also led an unsuccessful effort for Greece’s President to be elected directly by the people. Mitsotakis and his wife, Marika Giannoukou (who passed away in 2012), had four children: Dora, Katerina, Alexandra, and Kyriakos. He enjoyed good health until late in life and lived long enough to meet several great-grandchildren as well as to see his youngest child and only son, Kyriakos, elected as leader of New Democracy in January of 2016.
On this day in 1968, Jacqueline Kennedy married Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis on Onassis’ private island of Scorpios. With the marriage, Jacqueline Kennedy became Jackie ‘O’ to the mainstream public. The marriage was a watershed moment for Onassis as he sought to cement his prestige internationally. Prior to his wedding to Jackie, Onassis was married to Athina Livanou from 1946 to 1960 and had a much publicized extramarital affair with Maria Callas from 1957 to 1968. On her end, following the assassination of both her husband and her husband’s brother, Jackie no longer felt safe in the United States and considered her children to be the next logical targets for any potential future Kennedy killing. By marrying Onassis, Jackie acquired financial security, privacy on his secluded private island of Skorpios, and gained the ability to truly explore her interests now that she was no longer married to a politician. The couple remained married until Onassis’ death on March 15, 1975. Jackie never remarried, but she did have a long-time companion, diamond merchant Maurice Tempelsman, from 1980 to her death in 1994.