What is it in the name? Famous ‘Michaels’

Professor Dhaneshwar Moirangthem
Contd from prev issue
In India and other commonwealth countries, another popular sport is Cricket. There are many Michaels in cricket. Michael Holding (nicknamed Jamaican Express, West Indies), Michael Clarke (former Australian captain), Michael Atherton (former English captain), Michael Vaughan (former English captain). One sport which is mainly based on one’s intellect is the game of chess. The USSR (Soviet Union) used to dominate the World Chess Championship for decades after decades. However, the Russian monopoly of the Chess championship was broken all of a sudden by a young American, Robert James Fischer (Bobby Fischer), when he beat the USSR’s greatest chess master and reigning Chess Champion Boris Spassky in 1972 (Reykjavik, Iceland). After Bobby Fischer, we have the following champions, Anatoly Karpov (1975-1985), Gary Kasparov (1985-2000), Vladimir Kramnik (2000-2007), Viswanathan Anand (2007-2013), Magnus Carlson (2013-till date). Among these, we have Michael Adams, the English Grand Master.
In the United States, the most popular sport is American Football which requires a lot of physical strength, athleticism, and sprinting. Another equally popular sport is Basketball. NBA (National Basketball Association) championships are telecast all over the world including India. One of the greatest basketball athletes is legendary Michael Jeffrey Jordan who has won the NBA championship six times and was voted ‘Most Valuable Player’ six times in the NBA finals. Michael Jordan led the first ever USA’s ‘Dream Team’ at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and on their way to the Olympic gold medal, they beat every opponent by a margin of more than forty points. That was how dominant they were. Michael Jordan is the hero of the present-day champions of the likes of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, LeBron James. Tennis is another sport I love watching. I am a big fan of Rafael Nadal, even though my sons like Roger Federer more. It is amazing how the three players, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic have dominated Men's Tennis over the last two decades. I cannot even imagine such a thing repeating in the near future. In the history of Tennis champions, there is one Michael Chang (Michael Te-Pei Chang), a Chinese American, who is the youngest male player in the history to win a Grand Slam, winning the 1989 French Open at 17 years and 109 days old. In that final, he defeated Stefan Edberg (Sweden) former world number one and a winner of six Grand Slam titles. I still remember Michael Chang taking out a piece of paper (probably a written speech) from his pocket while delivering the victory speech.
In athletics, I cannot miss another great athlete, Michael Johnson, who won four Olympic golds in three Olympic games: 400m gold, Barcelona, 1992; 200m and 400m gold, Atalanta, 1996; 4x400m gold, Sydney, 2000. So many famous Michaels in various fields. But one might be wondering if there is any ‘Michael’ in Science and Literature. The answer is yes. In Chemistry, particularly in organic chemistry, there is a very popular reaction called Michael Reaction (aka Michael Addition), a conjugate addition reaction named after Professor Arthur Michael, who was once associated with Harvard University. In the earlier generation, there is the famous physicist (also a chemist) Michael Faraday, an English Scientist, who was regarded as one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century for his contribution to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. In 2017, two scientists, two Michaels, one was called Michael Rosbash and the other Michael Young (along with Jeffrey Hall) won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for their contribution to Molecular Mechanism controlling the Circadian Rhythm- a physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Among the writers and authors, I would like to mention specially Michael Crichton, a graduate of Harvard Medical School. His books were best sellers, and more than 200 million books were sold worldwide. To mention a few: The Great Train Robbery (1975), The Andromeda Strain (1969), Jurassic Park (1990), The Rising Sun (1992), The Lost World (1995), State of Fear (2004). Most of his books are adapted to Hollywood movies. Is there anyone named Michael in the Entertainment Industry? Of course, there are many Hollywood stars bearing the name ‘Michael’. I came to know of Sir Michael Caine for the first time when I watched the 1975 classic ‘The man who would be King’, the screen adaptation of the 1888 book of the same name by Rudyard Kipling. In the movie, Michael Caine co-starred with another great actor Sir Sean Connery (of the James Bond fame). The two played the role of two British adventurers who would go on a journey from Bombay en route to some Afghanistan villages and mountains. Of them, Sean Connery played the senior partner. Some of the great movies of Michael Caine are: The Fourth Protocol (1987, based on a book by Frederick Forsyth), Batman Begins (2005), Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010). Another equally famous Hollywood actor is Michael (Kirk) Douglas whose father Kirk Douglas was also an actor. Winner of two academy awards, Best Actor (Wall Street, 1988) and Best Picture (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975), and another 5 Golden Globes, Michael Douglas is a well respected and a well acclaimed personality on Hollywood. Some of his other great movies include Romancing the Stone (1984), Jewel of the Nile (1985), Fatal Attraction (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), The Game (1997). Michael (Kirk) Douglas should not be confused with another Michael Douglas Keaton of the ‘Batman’ and ‘Batman Returns’ fame. Among the new generation actors, we have Michael Bakari Jordan, who played the main antagonist in one of the highest grossing movies, Black Panther (2018) from Disney’s Marvel studios.
The name ‘Michael’ is not limited to real life personalities. The name has also represented unique and popular characters in reel life. One of the most popular Michael characters in reel life is Michael Corleone from the classic Hollywood movie ‘The Godfather II’ (1974, based on the book by Mario Puzo), on whom the story was centred. The character was played by Al Pacino.  Among the film directors, it is worth mentioning Michael Cimino who won Oscar for the Best Director for his movie ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1979) starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, among others. It was a movie based on the Vietnam war. Do you watch any adventure TV shows? You must have at least heard of the Discovery Channel’s ‘Man vs Wild’. In one of the recent episodes, our Indian Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi appeared in the show with the host Bear Grylls, where they explored the wild rivers, lakes, and forest of the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. Fortunately, to our relief, the Prime Minister did not come across any wild animal. It is interesting to note that the host Bear Grylls’ full name is Michael Edward Grylls, yet another Michael.
That is all for the time being. Let us wait for more events to come with more Michaels.
The writer is a retired Professor from the Department of Chemistry, Manipur University (MU). He was associated with MU for 41 years from 1979 to 2020 and was the HOD and the Dean of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.