Definitions

Alan

Alan

[al-uhn]
Lomax, Alan: see under Lomax, John Avery.
Greenspan, Alan, 1926-, American economist, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (1987-2006), b. New York City. Influenced by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, Greenspan is a strong supporter of the free market and an opponent of government intervention in the economy. He was private economic consultant (1954-74, 1977-87) and served (1974-77) as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during the administration of President Gerald Ford. From 1981 to 1983 he also chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform, which restructured the financing of the U.S. social security system to help assure its solvency.

In 1987 President Ronald Reagan appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve System, replacing Paul Volcker. Reappointed by Presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, he served in the office for nearly two decades. As Federal Reserve chairman, he earlier emphasized controlling inflation over promoting economic growth, but by 2003 a prolonged economic slowdown had shifted concern to possible deflation. During the 10-year expansion that began in 1991, Greenspan won widespread praise for what was regarded as the deft manipulation of interest rates, but the cutting of rates to historic lows during the 2001-3 slowdown only gradually produced the desired growth. A side effect, however, of the historically low interest rates was a significant increase in housing prices (in some parts of the country) and consumer indebtedness, both of which contributed to economic difficulties after Greenspan retired as Federal Reserve Board chairman in 2006. Greenspan's resistance in general to governmental regulation of financial markets also contributed to the economic crisis that began in 2007. Since retiring, he has headed an economic consulting firm and served in a number of advisory positions.

See his The Age of Turbulence (2007); D. B. Sicilia and J. L. Cruikshank, The Greenspan Effect (1999); J. Martin, Greenspan: The Man behind Money (2000); B. Woodward, Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom (2000).

Paton, Alan, 1903-88, South African novelist. A devoted leader in the struggle to end the oppression of the South African blacks, he served (1935-47) as principal of the Diepkloof Reformatory (near Johannesburg) for delinquent boys, where he instituted many reforms. After the publication of his first novel, Cry, the Beloved Country (1948), he became active in South African political affairs. He helped form the Liberal Association of South Africa, which later emerged as a political party. Paton's fiction, written with simplicity and compassion, reflects the deep conflicts that continue to exist in South Africa today. His second novel, Too Late the Phalarope, appeared in 1953, and Tales from a Troubled Land, a collection of short stories, in 1961. Among his other works are South Africa in Transition (1956); Hope for South Africa (1958); The Long View (1968), a volume of essays; and For You Departed (1969), a memoir and tribute to his wife. Maxwell Anderson's play Lost in the Stars (1948) was based on Cry, the Beloved Country.

See biography by P. F. Alexander (1995).

Seeger, Alan, 1888-1916, American poet, b. New York City, grad. Harvard, 1910. During World War I he served in the French Foreign Legion and was killed in battle in 1916. He is famous for his war poem, "I Have a Rendezvous with Death."

See his Collected Poems (1916) and his letters and diary (1917).

Hovhaness, Alan, 1911-2000, American composer, b. Somerville, Mass., as Alan Vaness Chakmakjian. Hovhaness was of Armenian and Scottish descent, and many of his works are based on Armenian culture or show influences from Middle Eastern, Asian, or early European music. Inspired by nature and Christian mysticism, he was also interested in unusual sonorities, rejecting the harmonic complexities of much modern music in favor of melody, clarity, simplicity, and an encompassing musical atmosphere. Hovhaness was enormously prolific; although he destroyed many compositions in 1940, his extant works number about 500, including nearly 70 symphonies. Among his works are Lousadzak [coming of light] (1945), for piano and strings; the widely played Second Symphony, subtitled Mysterious Mountain (1955); the symphonic poem Ukiyo-Floating World (1965); And God Created Great Whales (1970), for orchestra and recorded humpback whale; and Mt. Katahdin (1987), a piano sonata.

(born June 23, 1912, London, Eng.—died June 7, 1954, Wilmslow, Cheshire) English mathematician and logician. He studied at the University of Cambridge and at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. In his seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers,” he proved that there cannot exist any universal algorithmic method of determining truth in mathematics and that mathematics will always contain undecidable (as opposed to unknown) propositions. That paper also introduced the Turing machine. He believed that computers eventually would be capable of thought indistinguishable from that of a human and proposed a simple test (see Turing test) to assess this capability. His papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence. He did valuable work in cryptography during World War II, playing an important role in breaking the Enigma code used by Germany for radio communications. After the war he taught at the University of Manchester and began work on what is now known as artificial intelligence. In the midst of this groundbreaking work, Turing was found dead in his bed, poisoned by cyanide. His death followed his arrest for a homosexual act (then a crime) and sentence of 12 months of hormone “therapy.”

Learn more about Turing, Alan (Mathison) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born April 12, 1939, London, Eng.) British playwright. He began acting with the Stephen Joseph Co. in Scarborough, Yorkshire, where he also wrote his earliest plays under the pseudonym Roland Allen (1959–61). Most of his plays premiered at the company's theatre, where he was artistic director beginning in 1970. He has written over 50 plays, mostly farces and comedies that deal with marital and class conflicts, including Relatively Speaking (1967), Absurd Person Singular (1972), the trilogy The Norman Conquests (1973), Intimate Exchanges (1982), and Communicating Doors (1995).

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(born Nov. 18, 1923, East Derry, N.H., U.S.—died July 21, 1998, Monterey, Calif.) U.S. astronaut. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Pacific during World War II. In 1959 he became one of the original seven Mercury program astronauts. In May 1961, 23 days after Yury A. Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth, Shepard made a 15-minute suborbital flight that reached an altitude of 115 mi (185 km). He later commanded the Apollo 14 flight (1971), the first to land in the lunar highlands. Retiring from NASA and the navy in 1974, he entered private business.

Learn more about Shepard, Alan B(artlett), Jr. with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 12, 1934, Newark, N.J., U.S.) U.S. architect. Educated at Cornell University, Meier's early experience included work with the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and with Marcel Breuer. Early in his career he executed a series of spectacular private residences. These houses typically feature refinements of and variations on classic Modernist principles—pure geometry, open space, and an emphasis on light—and they often display a crisp whiteness that contrasts sharply with the natural setting; the Douglas House, Harbor Springs, Mich. (1973), is a dramatically sited example. Building upon the success of his residences, beginning in the mid 1970s Meier began to receive large public commissions. These structures are characterized by geometric clarity and order, which is often punctuated by curving ramps and railings, and by a contrast between the light-filled, transparent surfaces of public spaces and the solid white surfaces of interior, private spaces. His Getty Center in Los Angeles (1984–97), with its terraced gardens, is a resplendent acropolis in travertine stone. Meier received the 1984 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

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(born Oct. 12, 1934, Newark, N.J., U.S.) U.S. architect. Educated at Cornell University, Meier's early experience included work with the firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and with Marcel Breuer. Early in his career he executed a series of spectacular private residences. These houses typically feature refinements of and variations on classic Modernist principles—pure geometry, open space, and an emphasis on light—and they often display a crisp whiteness that contrasts sharply with the natural setting; the Douglas House, Harbor Springs, Mich. (1973), is a dramatically sited example. Building upon the success of his residences, beginning in the mid 1970s Meier began to receive large public commissions. These structures are characterized by geometric clarity and order, which is often punctuated by curving ramps and railings, and by a contrast between the light-filled, transparent surfaces of public spaces and the solid white surfaces of interior, private spaces. His Getty Center in Los Angeles (1984–97), with its terraced gardens, is a resplendent acropolis in travertine stone. Meier received the 1984 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

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(born Nov. 30, 1947, Chicago, Ill., U.S.) U.S. playwright, director, and screenwriter. In 1973 he founded the St. Nicholas Theatre Co. in Chicago. He won wide notice with Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974) and followed it with plays such as American Buffalo (1977) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1983, Pulitzer Prize). He became known for rapid-fire dialogue studded with obscenities and for his preoccupation with power relationships and corporate corruption. Mamet used the rhythms and rhetoric of everyday speech to delineate character, describe intricate relationships, and drive dramatic development. His later plays include Speed-the-Plow (1987), Oleanna (1992), and The Cryptogram (1994); his screenplays include The Verdict (1980) and The Untouchables (1986). He also wrote and directed films such as House of Games (1987) and State and Main (2000).

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(born Aug. 31, 1918, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died June 14, 1986, New York City) U.S. librettist and lyricist. Born to a prosperous retailing family, he studied at Juilliard and Harvard. He wrote more than 500 radio scripts between 1940 and 1942, the year he met the composer Frederick Loewe. The two began collaborating, and their first Broadway success came with Brigadoon (1947; film, 1954). It was followed by Paint Your Wagon (1951; film, 1969). My Fair Lady (1956) was an unprecedented triumph, setting a record for the longest original run of any musical; the film version (1964) won seven Academy Awards. Their film musical Gigi (1958) received nine Academy Awards. Camelot followed in 1960 (film, 1967). Lerner also collaborated with Kurt Weill (Love Life, 1948) and Burton Lane (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, 1965; film, 1970), among others. His film scripts include An American in Paris (1951, Academy Award).

Learn more about Lerner, Alan Jay with a free trial on Britannica.com.

or Alan Hovaness orig. Alan Vaness Chakmakjian

(born March 8, 1911, Somerville, Mass., U.S.—died June 21, 2000, Seattle, Wash.) U.S. composer. He started to compose as a child. Studies at the New England Conservatory led him to pursue an interest in non-Western music, which began to influence his own work only after he destroyed his early compositions. Affected by the music of his Armenian heritage and his own lifelong mysticism, he composed some 500 works in addition to the 1,000 or more early pieces he destroyed in 1943. His compositions included some 60 symphonies and many other orchestral works, often on sacred themes, sometimes incorporating aleatory or natural sounds, as in And God Created Great Whales (1970).

Learn more about Hovhaness, Alan with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born March 6, 1926, New York, N.Y., U.S.) U.S. economist and chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve System from August 1987 to January 2006. He received a doctorate from New York University in 1977. Having become a private economic consultant, Greenspan served as chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers under Pres. Gerald Ford. From 1981 to 1983 he chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform. In 1987 Pres. Ronald Reagan appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a position he continued to hold under Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. As Federal Reserve chairman, he became known for his decisive use of monetary policy in steering the economy between the hazards of inflation and recession.

Learn more about Greenspan, Alan with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Nov. 30, 1947, Chicago, Ill., U.S.) U.S. playwright, director, and screenwriter. In 1973 he founded the St. Nicholas Theatre Co. in Chicago. He won wide notice with Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1974) and followed it with plays such as American Buffalo (1977) and Glengarry Glen Ross (1983, Pulitzer Prize). He became known for rapid-fire dialogue studded with obscenities and for his preoccupation with power relationships and corporate corruption. Mamet used the rhythms and rhetoric of everyday speech to delineate character, describe intricate relationships, and drive dramatic development. His later plays include Speed-the-Plow (1987), Oleanna (1992), and The Cryptogram (1994); his screenplays include The Verdict (1980) and The Untouchables (1986). He also wrote and directed films such as House of Games (1987) and State and Main (2000).

Learn more about Mamet, David (Alan) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Oct. 5, 1829, North Fairfield, Vt., U.S.—died Nov. 18, 1886, New York, N.Y) 21st president of the U.S. (1881–85). He practiced law in New York City from 1854, later becoming a close associate of Sen. Roscoe Conkling, the Republican boss of New York. With Conkling's backing, he was appointed customs collector for the port of New York (1871–78), an office long known for its use of the spoils system. He conducted the business of the office with integrity but continued to pad its payroll with Conkling loyalists. At the Republican national convention in 1880, Arthur was the compromise choice for vice president on a ticket with James Garfield; he became president on Garfield's assassination. As president, Arthur displayed unexpected independence by vetoing measures that rewarded political patronage. He also signed the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which created a civil-service system based on merit. He and his navy secretary recommended appropriations that later helped transform the U.S. Navy into one of the world's great fleets. He failed to win his party's nomination for a second term.

Learn more about Arthur, Chester A(lan) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born April 12, 1939, London, Eng.) British playwright. He began acting with the Stephen Joseph Co. in Scarborough, Yorkshire, where he also wrote his earliest plays under the pseudonym Roland Allen (1959–61). Most of his plays premiered at the company's theatre, where he was artistic director beginning in 1970. He has written over 50 plays, mostly farces and comedies that deal with marital and class conflicts, including Relatively Speaking (1967), Absurd Person Singular (1972), the trilogy The Norman Conquests (1973), Intimate Exchanges (1982), and Communicating Doors (1995).

Learn more about Ayckbourn, Sir Alan with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born July 23, 1883, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France—died June 17, 1963, Hartley Wintney, Hampshire, Eng.) British military leader. He served in World War I and later became director of military training (1936–37) and an expert on gunnery. In World War II he began as commander of a corps in France and covered the Dunkirk evacuation. After serving as commander of the British home forces (1940–41), he was promoted to chief of staff (1941–46). He established good relations with the U.S. forces and exercised a strong influence on Allied strategy. He was promoted to field marshal in 1944 and created a viscount in 1946.

Learn more about Alanbrooke (of Brookeborough), Alan Francis Brooke, 1st Viscount with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born June 23, 1912, London, Eng.—died June 7, 1954, Wilmslow, Cheshire) English mathematician and logician. He studied at the University of Cambridge and at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study. In his seminal 1936 paper “On Computable Numbers,” he proved that there cannot exist any universal algorithmic method of determining truth in mathematics and that mathematics will always contain undecidable (as opposed to unknown) propositions. That paper also introduced the Turing machine. He believed that computers eventually would be capable of thought indistinguishable from that of a human and proposed a simple test (see Turing test) to assess this capability. His papers on the subject are widely acknowledged as the foundation of research in artificial intelligence. He did valuable work in cryptography during World War II, playing an important role in breaking the Enigma code used by Germany for radio communications. After the war he taught at the University of Manchester and began work on what is now known as artificial intelligence. In the midst of this groundbreaking work, Turing was found dead in his bed, poisoned by cyanide. His death followed his arrest for a homosexual act (then a crime) and sentence of 12 months of hormone “therapy.”

Learn more about Turing, Alan (Mathison) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Aug. 31, 1918, New York, N.Y., U.S.—died June 14, 1986, New York City) U.S. librettist and lyricist. Born to a prosperous retailing family, he studied at Juilliard and Harvard. He wrote more than 500 radio scripts between 1940 and 1942, the year he met the composer Frederick Loewe. The two began collaborating, and their first Broadway success came with Brigadoon (1947; film, 1954). It was followed by Paint Your Wagon (1951; film, 1969). My Fair Lady (1956) was an unprecedented triumph, setting a record for the longest original run of any musical; the film version (1964) won seven Academy Awards. Their film musical Gigi (1958) received nine Academy Awards. Camelot followed in 1960 (film, 1967). Lerner also collaborated with Kurt Weill (Love Life, 1948) and Burton Lane (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, 1965; film, 1970), among others. His film scripts include An American in Paris (1951, Academy Award).

Learn more about Lerner, Alan Jay with a free trial on Britannica.com.

or Alan Hovaness orig. Alan Vaness Chakmakjian

(born March 8, 1911, Somerville, Mass., U.S.—died June 21, 2000, Seattle, Wash.) U.S. composer. He started to compose as a child. Studies at the New England Conservatory led him to pursue an interest in non-Western music, which began to influence his own work only after he destroyed his early compositions. Affected by the music of his Armenian heritage and his own lifelong mysticism, he composed some 500 works in addition to the 1,000 or more early pieces he destroyed in 1943. His compositions included some 60 symphonies and many other orchestral works, often on sacred themes, sometimes incorporating aleatory or natural sounds, as in And God Created Great Whales (1970).

Learn more about Hovhaness, Alan with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born March 6, 1926, New York, N.Y., U.S.) U.S. economist and chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve System from August 1987 to January 2006. He received a doctorate from New York University in 1977. Having become a private economic consultant, Greenspan served as chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers under Pres. Gerald Ford. From 1981 to 1983 he chaired the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform. In 1987 Pres. Ronald Reagan appointed him chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, a position he continued to hold under Presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. As Federal Reserve chairman, he became known for his decisive use of monetary policy in steering the economy between the hazards of inflation and recession.

Learn more about Greenspan, Alan with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born Nov. 18, 1923, East Derry, N.H., U.S.—died July 21, 1998, Monterey, Calif.) U.S. astronaut. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the Pacific during World War II. In 1959 he became one of the original seven Mercury program astronauts. In May 1961, 23 days after Yury A. Gagarin became the first human to orbit Earth, Shepard made a 15-minute suborbital flight that reached an altitude of 115 mi (185 km). He later commanded the Apollo 14 flight (1971), the first to land in the lunar highlands. Retiring from NASA and the navy in 1974, he entered private business.

Learn more about Shepard, Alan B(artlett), Jr. with a free trial on Britannica.com.

A.A. Milne, pen and ink drawing by P. Evans, c. 1930; in the National Portrait Gallery, London

(born Jan. 18, 1882, London, Eng.—died Jan. 31, 1956, Hartfield, Sussex) English writer. He joined the staff of Punch in 1906 and produced successful light comedies and a memorable detective novel, The Red House Mystery (1922), before verses written for his son Christopher Robin grew into the collections When We Were Very Young (1924) and Now We Are Six (1927), which became beloved classics. Stories about the adventures of Christopher Robin and the toy animals Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, and Eeyore are told in the immensely popular Winnie-the-Pooh (1926) and The House at Pooh Corner (1928).

Learn more about Milne, A(lan) A(lexander) with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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