Arthur Wellesley Duke of Wellington, the commander of British army, became famous for
victories in the Napoleonic Wars. His military genius and his character as an honest politician are
widely appreciated.
Welligton was born on May 1, 1769 in Dublin. He came from a good, but not a rich, family. He
attended, but did not finish, the exclusive Eton school. He then attended a military academy in
France and at the age of 18 was comissioned (udìlit dùstojnickou hodnost) in the army. His long
and very successful career began. Later he was sent abroad and in 1796 to India, where he gained
valuable experience and all the positive qualities he later exhibited on European battlefields were
developed there: decision, common sense, attention to detail and good relations with the civilian
population. He was strict but looked after his soldiers and their supplies (potøeby) well and they
liked him. When he returned to England at the age of 36 his dream came true. He became a famous
general who had won many battles.
In 1808 the Peninsular War began, in which his military greatness was fully revealed (odhalit).
Napoleon was at that time in control of most of Europe, and Spain and Portugal asked Britain for
help. By the end of this campaign the French were driven out of Spain into France. Wellesley
returned to England where he was awarded the title of Viscount Wellington. He was welcomed in
London society. But he was a quiet man who did not really enjoy social life very much.
Napoleon abdicated in 1814. But peace did not last long. He escaped from exile on Elba and
landed in France to begin his Hundred Days. He planned to defeat the armies of Britain and Prussia.
Wellington had to find a new army, for most of his soldiers were away in America. He trained
British as well as Dutch, Belgian and Prussian recruits (nováèek).
On 18th June, 1815 Napoleon was defeated near a village called Waterloo. Wellington won the
battle but the cost had been great. The number of killed and wounded was terrible. Wellington told
his friend he never wanted to fight another battle. His will came true.
In 1818 Wellington started a political career and in 1846 he retired from public life. He died
from a stroke on September 14, 1852. He was given a monumental state funeral and was buried in
St. Paul´s Cathedral.
One of the England´s greatest sailors, Sir Francis Drake, was among the early explorers, who
landed on the shores of the United States.
Born about 1540, Drake won the command of his own ship by 1567. During a slaving voyage to
the West Indies, the Spanish attacked and only Drake´s ship and one other escaped. Drake now felt
he had a personal reason for wanting revenge against the Spaniards, and this fitted in perfectly with the
plans of England´s Queen Elizabeth I. European nations were then engaged in a struggle for new
lands and colonies, as well as for control of the seas. Spain, in particular, had rich colonies in
America, and her great galleons sailed home regularly full of treasure. Elizabeth ordered Drake to
raid (vtrhnout) Spain´s American colonies and capture whatever ships he could.
When Drake returned to England he brought with him tons of silver captured from the Spaniards,
and became both rich and famous. He had no trouble in gaining the Queen´s permission, in 1577,
for another voyage- this time to the Pacific Ocean. Until then, no British ship had ever entered that
vast body of water. Now Drake, aboard his 75-foot-long (23m) ship, the Golden Hind, sailed
through the Strait of Magellan and began raiding Spanish settlements in Peru and Chile. Then,
searching for a passage to the Atlantic Ocean and home, he sailed north and stopped near the present
San Francisco, where he repaired his ship. Since there was no sea route across the North American
continent, and he could not return by the same way he had come for fear (ze strachu) the Spanish
would attack him, Drake decided to return to England by crossing the Pacific, thus (tak) circling the
globe. Finally after a difficult three-year voyage, Drake arrived home in 1580. His grateful queen
knighted him and was made a member of Parliament. In 1588 Drake led England´s fleet to victory
against Spain´s Armada. He died in 1596 near Panama and was buried at sea.
Born in 1542 and executed on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I in 1587, Mary´s relatively short
life would be a wonderful subject for a historical bestseller. Mary was born at a time of great
conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The Catholics thought that Mary, rather than Elizabeth
should be Queen of England and she spent her life trying to reach this goal (cíl). But this political
background is inseparable (neoddìlitelný) from a dramatic private life which included three
On the death of her first husband, King Francis II of France, she was no longer welcome in that
country and returned to Scotland in 1561. In 1565 she married Lord Darnley but within a year he
had become jealous of (ΕΎárlivý) an Italian singer called David Riccio. Mary had made Riccio her
secretary and trusted him with all her affairs. Riccio was murdered in Edinburgh in 1566- he had
been stabbed 56 times.(pro/bodnout)
Not surprisingly, relations between Mary and Darnley were not so friendly after this event. It was
not long before Mary fell in love with a soldier called Bothwell. Though it is not certain, it is
believed that Bothwell organised the murder of Darnley, who was found strangled (u/škrtit) in the
garden of a house in Edinburgh. When Mary later married Bothwell, this seemed (zdát se) to
confirm (potvrdit) that she too had been involved in Darnley´s murder. There was a rebellion
against her and in 1568 she was forced to escape to England.
In England she became a focus for forces who opposed Queen Elizabeth (soustøedily na ni
pozornost síly, které byly v opozici proti). The years that followed were full of plots (spiknutí)
against Elizabeth, and in 1586 proof (dùkaz) was found of Mary´s involvement in attempts (pokus)
to take the place of the Queen. After delaying for more than four months, Elizabeth finally signed
the order for Mary´s death and on 8th February 1587 Mary was beheaded.
ALLAN PINKERTON ( 1819- 1884)
came to America from Glasgow in 1842 and in 1850 he founded the world´s oldest and
biggest detective agency, whose slogan was „We never sleep“. His agents were incorruptible and
good shooters. They never gain information from traitors. Pinkerton founded also the first album of
criminals and racehorses. In the days of good guys and bad guys, Pinkerton tracked outlaws (psanec)
such as Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and the Reno gang train robbers- and with
them they entered into Hollywood westerns. Before a secret service existed, Pinkerton´s men
guarded A.Lincoln. Pinkerton was very much anti-slavery and often helped runaway slaves escape
before the Civil War broke out. Then he offered his agency´s help on the Union side.
The first man on the Moon in 1969 (together with Aldrin). Armstrong was chosen among the
American astronauts, because he was one of the best pilots in the USA. It is said that he was born to
be a pilot. He had learned to fly before he could drive a car. At the age of 21 he was flying Panther
jets, had 78 combat missions and three Air Medals. Once he flew a crippled plane back to the carrier
(letadlová loï), another time he brought a plane with one wing half-lost back from the enemy lines
to parachute in safety. Now he is a university professor.
SIR EDMUND HILLARY ( 1919- 2007)
New Zealander, the first mountain-climber to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest
mountain in the world (8 848m). He was accompanied by Sherpa Tenzing Nargoy. It happened on
29th May, 1953. Five years later Hillary reached the South Pole.
Steven Spielberg is one of the best directors of popular films in the world. Born in Cincinnati,
Ohio on 18 December 1947, he was writing scripts and shooting with his father´s 8mm camera
before reaching his teens. Then he studied at California State College and later directed his first
professional work (Amblin - 1969). The seven following years were spent working in TV.
His first great chance to do what he wanted came with the film Jaws (1975). It was typical of the
disaster films that were popular all over the world in the 1970s. The film is set in a New England
seaside resort where a number of shark attacks are at first ignored, as the local authorities are afraid
to scare away holidaymakers. Eventually a policeman, a scientist and an eccentric shark expert hunt
down and destroy the killer. The film made enormous profit and Spielberg has never had any
difficulty in financing even his most expensive projects since.
His next success was the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), shot from
Spielberg´s script. Other instantly popular films featured the intrepid archaeologist- adventurer
Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Meanwhile Spielberg achieved even greater triumph with ET-The Extra-Terrestrial (1982),
about a being from another planet that is accidentally stranded on Earth. Steven Spielberg made a
lot of different films during the 1980s ( e.g. The Color Purple -1985, An American Tale -1986),
however his next great peak came in the beginning of the 1990s -Jurassic Park (1993). It is set in a
theme park where the main attractions are actual dinosaurs that have been given life by genetic
engineering. Although this film became the most commercially successful one ever, Spielberg did
not win an Oscar until 1994, when he won his first one for the film Schindler´s List. Saving
Private Ryan (1998) brought him another Oscar for Best Director, but of course it was not the only
film he shot in the second half of the 90s. He also made a successful sequel of Jurassic Park The
Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997).
You might find it surprising that the author who created the character of Sherlock Holmes, so
deeply rooted in Victorian London, actually died as late as 1930, in modern pre- Second World War
Born in Edinburgh, he successfully completed his medical studies at the local University. He was
always interested in mysteries and in later years converted to spiritualism. Doyle worked as a
general practitioner. Luckily for his readers, the lack of patients gave him time to write. Although he
wrote historical fiction, adventure stories, science fiction and the history of spiritualism, he is
known chiefly as a creator of the „consulting“ detective Sherlock Holmes and his companion and
colleague Dr. Watson. Holmes is a genius in deduction and sharp observation. He never forgets to
have a smoke from his favourite pipe and starts playing the violin whenever in need of
concentration. Dr. Watson is presented as an ordinary man who needs to have everything explained.
The reader then is in no doubts who the real genius of the two might be. The popularity of the
detective stories rose spectacularly from 1891 when Doyle began contributing to the Strand
Magazine. His most famous stories include: A Study in Scarlet, The Adventures of Sherlock
Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles. If you want to take
a closer look into the life of the famous detective, there is his museum in Baker Street, London.
THOMAS ALVA EDISON (1847 - 1931)
From 1880 to 1905 Edison was the most famous American alive and one of the best- known
men in the world. Newspaper called him the man of the century.
He had a little formal education. At the age of 11, he got a job on the railroad, but always
studied and experimented in his spare time. He invented many important things. His 600 inventions
included the light bulb, the phonograph, the storage battery, he improved telegraph system, he
developed a dynamo, light sockets and safety fuses which are still used today. He built one of the
first X-ray machines in the USA. He also built electric automobiles but never brought them to
commercial success. In 1887 he patented his motion-picture machine, having at the time no idea of
its being used for anything except peep shows. He constructed the guided torpedo, the concrete
house and synthetic rubber. No one else has invented in so many fields (around 20) and probably no
one will. Some of his experiments were unsuccessful (e.g. he tried to extract gold from sea sand).
Already in Edison´s own lifetime his laboratory at Menlo Park, New Jersey, was taken a museum.
His career was offered as a model to all schoolboys of the nation.
SIR ISAAC NEWTON (1643 - 1727)
mathematician, physicist, astronomer and philosopher. His „Principia Mathematica“ explained
for the first time through a single mathematical law the phenomena of the Universe, the tides and
the motion of the objects on Earth.
The Law of Gravity. One day while Newton was sitting in his garden under an apple-tree, he
saw an apple fall to the ground.. Of course the fall of an apple is a very common thing. A great
many people before Newton had seen an apple fall to the ground, but they had never taken the
trouble to investigate such an everyday occurrence ( událost). Newton was the first man to ask:
“Why does an apple fall to the ground ? What makes it fall ? Why does it not go up in to the sky ?
Or why does it not go sideways when it leaves the tree ?“
He thought the matter over for a long time. It took him many years to solve the problem. At last
he found out that the earth pulls all things towards its centre, and that this was the reason why the
apple had fallen towards the earth and not away from it.
Newton also found that the sun attracts the earth and all the planets, just in the same way as the
earth attracts the apples.
CHARLIE CHAPLIN (1889 - 1977)
was born in London. His parents were music-hall entertainers, but his father died while Charlie
was a child. He became an actor when he was 17 and settled in America in 1913. Soon he began to
write and direct his own films. His first masterpieces were The Tramp and The Kid. The Gold
Rush and The Circus were still silent films, but City Lights (1931) was already a sound one. In
The Great Dictator (1940), an anti-Nazi film, Chaplin played a dual role, as a Jewish barber and as
a dictator (who was clearly based on Hitler). The New York critics voted Chaplin the year´s best
actor. After the war he made a comedy about murder Monsieur Verdoux, based on a French mass
murder. His next picture Limelight was a big box-office success in Europe, but id did only so-so in
the USA. Chaplin lived his last years with his family in Switzerland and never returned to America.
Buster Keaton, the only rival of Chaplin in the Silent Era, said of him: „ He was the greatest
comedian who ever lived.“
is a legendary English hero whose myth came into existence in the first half of the 14th century.
Nobody knows if the Robin Hood story has some historical basis. There were many ballads about
him in the Middle Ages. The ballads located Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest near Nottingham. He
became the people’s ideal, he robbed the rich and gave the poor and always outwitted the Sheriff of
Nottingham. He was a great archer, a lover of the green wood and of a free life, brave, adventurous ,
open-handed, a protector of women. The legend says that he was bled to death by a treacherous nun.
WALT DISNEY (1901 - 1966)
a cartoonist, a showman and a businessman. Soon after WWI he formed his own production
company, in which the Mickey Mouse appeared for the first time in 1927. Then Disney created the
other characters Pluto, Donald Duck, Goofy. His best film was the Snow White and Seven
Dwarfs, which was made in 1937 and his seven dwarfs are now a part of child´s culture. Other
feature cartoons followed: Pinocchio, Cinderella, Peter Pan. In the 1950s Disney opened his
famous amusement park Disneyland in California.