A few weeks ago, Dr. Ira Rosofsky published his Top 10 Late Bloomers of All Time. To qualify,
…you can’t simply be a talented, old achiever. Composer Eliot Carter, who started composing as a young man and continues to compose at past the age of 100, doesn’t qualify. Well done, but not a late bloomer. Same goes for Rembrandt, Picasso, Akira Kurowsawa, Philip Roth, and anyone else who got up early and stayed up late.
Well said. Here’s Dr. Rosofsky’s list, which includes a shooter, a killer, two folks who promoted high cholesterol counts and two guys who could (ahem) beyond their prime:
1. Harlan David Sanders. Became the fried chicken king at age 65.
2. Grandma Moses. The woman on everyone’s list. She began painting at age 76.
3. Abraham and Sarah. According to Dr. Rosofsky, “At age 99, when Sarai was 90, she gave birth to Isaac, sometime after Abram’s servant Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, the father of Islam.” I’ll ignore the questionable scholarship and phrasing regarding Ishmael here, since Sarah gets credit for doing something extraordinary — giving birth at age 90. I’m guessing Abraham was 99 when he did his part.
4. Clara Peller. The old dear who demanded “Where’s the beef?” in 1980s Wendy’s hamburger commercials. Clara was a manicurist before being discovered at age 81. Check her out. She’s a hoot.
5. Harry Bernstein. At age 96, wrote The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers, about his Jewish boyhood in a harsh pre-WWII English mill town, and his sister’s love for Arthur, a Christian neighbor.
6. Melchora Aquino de Ramos. A brave 84-year-old shopkeeper turned freedom fighter.
7. Tony Randall. Fathered his first child at age 76. He does look like a happy fella.
8. Alexander Fleming. Accidently discovered penicillin at age 47 and won the Nobel Prize at age 64. A fascinating story, but I’m not sure he qualifies as a late bloomer — he worked as a bacteriologist from his 20s on.
9. Oscar Swahn. Swedish shooter who was the oldest Olympic medalist at age 72. I’m not sure about this one either, since to compete at that level, he probably started early.
10. Frank Burgos. Arrested for murder at age 94.
We’ve all got our biases. I’ve certainly professed mine. I think we only need one high cholesterol endorsement and one low sperm count miracle per top-10 list.
Seriously though, I appreciate Dr. Rosofsky’s irony and thank him for drawing my attention to Harry Bernstein, Melchora Aquino and Alexander Fleming. Also, for getting me to think about who would make my top-10 late bloomer list.
I’ve concluded that I don’t need one. What about you?
Photo credits: Chicago Tribune; Dave Allocca/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images