For my birthday this year, my husband gave me a Left-Hander’s Calendar. On each day of the year, it tells a fascinating story about someone left-handed, as well as listing a few famous lefties born on that day. (I’m not famous enough to be in it, but if I were, you would find me on January 20th!)
The 20th of January is a very important date in America, as every four years it is the day the President is inaugurated (or officially sworn in). This year, President Barack Obama chose to hold his public inauguration ceremony on Monday, January 21st, a very special day for all African Americans because it celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. In the 1950s and ’60s, Martin Luther King spoke out in defence of equal rights for all Americans, black or white, and he gave a famous speech, from which these words are taken:
President Obama chose this day for his inauguration ceremony to show that Martin Luther King’s dream had indeed become a reality. For those of us who share the dream of a world where all people are treated with respect, this is a hugely hopeful step!
And on a far less important note, both Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama are left-handed! Now, on to a few more interesting lefty facts…
Did you know that Lady Gaga is also left-handed? I have chosen her amongst my famous lefties because of her Born this Way Foundation, an organisation that is working to encourage young people to be themselves and accept others for who they are. They hope to provide advice on how kids can join forces and make a difference in their communities. I think it’s a great idea and I really hope they succeed!
There are many great historical figures who were left-handed. One of these was Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance artist who drew the self-portrait above when he was very old. The paper is all speckled now because the drawing was done almost exactly 500 years ago! Leonardo is most famous for his painting of the Mona Lisa, but I want to show you another of his paintings which is called the Virgin of the Rocks. It shows Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and an angel, and is one of two very similar paintings.
Leonardo was an amazing artist, but he was also a clever scientist and inventor who was enormously curious about the world and how things worked. He studied anatomy by drawing living people and animals and dissecting cadavers. He experimented with new painting techniques and materials (which didn’t always work, and this is why there are only 15 of his paintings left to us now.) He studied birds in flight and tried to invent an airplane long before the Wright brothers. Here is a video from Dr Diana all about Leonardo’s study of flight and other inventions.
Another surprising thing about Leonardo was that he wrote in backwards mirror-writing. (The sample above is of course in Italian, since that’s what Leonardo spoke.)
If you’re left-handed you will know how annoying it is to smudge all your writing as you go along. Leonardo da Vinci was left-handed and wrote a lot, and back then you had to use a quill pen dipped in ink (a bit like using a fountain pen). You can imagine how smudgy that was for him! So he decided to write from right to left instead. Problem solved!
When I first heard about this as a kid, I tried it myself and found I could do it too! If you’re left-handed, give it a try: just put your pen on the right of the page and write as you would, only backwards.
I found the sample of mirror-writing above on a great website called Artsology. It’s got lots of games and puzzles all about art and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci. It’s well worth checking out!
Finally, I will just give you a few more famous lefties in case you want to do a bit more research into this fascinating topic:
HRH Prince William
Sir Paul McCartney