What is it in the name? Famous ‘Michaels’

Professor Dhaneshwar Moirangthem
It was sometime in the winter of 2009-2010, I was teaching Organic Chemistry to first semester students (MSc) in the Department of Chemistry, Manipur University. At the end of my lecture, I was taking the roll call with the Attendance Register in hand. One of the students’ name ‘Michael’ caught my attention. I do not remember the surname, but I remember sportingly asking the student how his name was given. He, of course, had no idea. I turned to the students in the class (about forty of them) and asked if they knew any famous Michael in those days. There was no answer. Perhaps they were taken by surprise and might have wondered what their teacher had in his mind.
The Olympic Games 2008 was held in Beijing. The celebration of the success of a few Indian athletes still continued all over India in the following years. Lots of awards, endorsement worth crores of Rupees for Abhinav Bindra for his Olympic gold, India’s first and currently India’s only individual Olympic gold, in the 10-meter air rifle shooting event. But the most popular individual in the Beijing Olympics was Michael Phelps, an American swimmer, for his eight individual gold medals. He is the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time with a total of 28 medals from Beijing 2008, London 2012, and Rio 2016 Olympic games. When Michael Phelps won the eighth gold medal in Beijing, he broke the reigning record of seven gold medals set by another American swimmer, Mark Spitz, in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. I exhorted the students to be aware of what is happening around them and the world. To be a good chemist, one should know what is happening in their environment; the environment influences the individual more than the individual influencing the environment. These are the days of all-rounders. During our school days in the early 60’s, there was a saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. But now, one must be ‘Jack of all trades, master of one’.
A few years ago, I came across a Meitei boy named, ‘Michael’. He informed that he was named after the astronaut, Michael Collins of the Apollo 11 mission of 1969; it was the year he was born. On 20th July 1969, the Lunar Module Eagle, carrying Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landed on the moon. Michael Collins was the pilot of the Mother Module, Columbia. During our undergraduate days in DM College of Science (in 1969), while writing an English Essay on Space Exploration, I remember quoting Neil Armstrong’s, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. There is another Michael Collins (1890-1922), a well-respected Irish Revolutionary Leader, known for leading the Irish struggle for Independence.
I then further asked my students if they knew any other famous Michael. That time the students showed interest in the conversation, and “Michael Jackson (MJ)”, was the reply from the boys and the girls in unison. Yes, who have not heard of MJ. I was a fan myself. My favourite number was ‘Beat It’. Another well celebrated musician is Michael George, a British singer, writer, composer, and producer. From then on, I came across many famous Michaels, and I take the liberty to share all of them with the readers. Just like Michael Phelps, another individual who is equally famous but perhaps more celebrated is Michael Schumacher, a German Formula One racer, who is the 7-time World champion. Currently, the Formula One champion is Lewis Hamilton, a British racer, who has also won the championship seven times so far. Unfortunately, in 2013, Schumacher met a skiing accident while skiing in the French Alps. He suffered traumatic brain injury because of which he was put into a medically induced coma. He fully regained consciousness after about six months. His condition is currently reported to be continuing to improve, although he suffers from muscle loss and skeletal disorder from six years of bed confinement.
The most celebrated sport in the world is undoubtedly Football (Soccer), with the largest number of followers. These are the days of Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar to name a few. But there are also Michaels who had left indelible marks in the world of Football. Some of them are Michael Owen (English footballer), Michael Ballack (German and Chelsea Player), Michael Carrick (England and Manchester United Player). One of the most popular individual sports is Boxing. We have heard of the legendary Heavyweight Champion, Mohammad Ali (earlier named Cassius Clay). After Mohammad Ali, is another champion, Michael Gerard Tyson (Mike Tyson), who was the youngest heavyweight champion at age 20. Recently, we had a Manipuri Boxer, Suranjoy Mayengbam who was nick-named Little (Chhota) Tyson. In 2009, he ended a 15-year wait for India by winning gold at the Asian Boxing Championships, at Zhuhai, China.
To be contd