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Margalit Fox tells the fascinating story of how the ancient Minoan script linear B got cracked — and the forgotten female professor from Brooklyn College without whom it would never have been done. Her book is THE RIDDLE OF THE LABYRINTH:The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code. Then Anne C.Heller talks about her biography of Ayn Rand (encore from 2009.)
Many young women today don’t realize how difficult it was, until recently, for women to get credit for the discoveries they made. For example, without scientist Rosalind Franklin, Francis Crick and James Watson would probably never been able to crack the code of DNA — or win the Nobel Prize for it. Yet, few have heard of Rosalind Franklin?
Nor have many heard of Alice Kober, but she laid the foundation for cracking another code — deciphering the ancient Minoan script, Linear B. Two men, Arthur Evans and Michael Ventris, get the credit for that — Evans, because he started the work at the turn of the 20th century and Ventris, because, some 50 years later, finished it. But without Alice Kober in between, the almost impossible task of cracking Linear B would likely never have happened.
Kober, the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, grew up in New York City and became a Classics professor at Brooklyn College. Deciphering Linear B was her singleminded passion — an intellectual puzzle par excellence, because it meant making sense of the unknown writing of a completely forgotten language.
In her book, THE RIDDLE OF THE LABYRINTH, Margalit Fox says Kober deserves much of the credit for “one of the most prodigious intellectual feats of modern times.” But Kober was forgotten after her untimely death in 1950.
Fox is an obituary writer for the New York Times and has a background in linguistics. Both stand her in good stead as she leads the reader through an understanding of code cracking and linguistics — and as she rescues Alice Kober from posthumous obscurity.
Read an excerpt from The Riddle of The Labyrinth
Anne C. Heller
Unlike Alice Kober, who was the daughter of immigrant parents, Ayn Rand came to the US as an adult, having grown up in Russia in a Jewish family devastated by the Russian Revolution. We spoke to Anne C. Heller in 2009 about her fascinating biography, AYN RAND AND THE WORLD SHE MADE.
Although Ayn Rand has been dead for almost thirty years, her books are still phenomenal best sellers. The two most famous, ATLAS SHRUGGED and THE FOUNTAINHEAD have sold more than 12 million copies in the US alone.
Anne C. Heller has written a fascinating biography of this influential figure, Ayn Rand and the World She Made. She doesn’t agree with her subject’s philosophy, but has been fascinated by her since working as an executive editor at Conde Nast Publications, with a special emphasis on money and finance.