Growth of a beard is prompted by the stimulation of hair follicles due to the production of certain hormones after puberty. Charles Darwin considered the possibility of the growth of a beard on account of the evolutionary process of sexual selection as explained by him in his great work The Descent of Man. Depending upon the cultural background, a beard has different attributes. It is considered as a sign of masculinity and sexual potency by common folk in some cultures. It is considered the sign of an elevated rank, grace, or sagacity in some societies. Wearing a beard is advised and encouraged in many religions. It is mandatory for a Sikh to keep the unshorn hair of the head and beard in compliance with the ordinances of the tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. Muslims too are required to wear a beard, but it has to be duly trimmed. Whereas beards are mostly considered as a sign of dignity, there are a few who look down upon it and consider it as unhygienic.
1. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, dearly known as Abbey, was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, U.S. on February 12, 1809 and died in Petersen House, Washington, D.C., U.S on April 15, 1865 at the age of 56. He was the 16th President of the United States, remaining in office from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865. Just a month before the election in the fall of 1860, Lincoln, who was a beardless person, received a letter from an 11-year-old Miss Bedell, reading, ‘I am a little girl only 11 years old, but I want you should be President of the United States very much, so I hope you won’t think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are’¦I have got four brothers, and part of them will vote for you anyway if you let your whiskers grow. I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you’¦and then you would be President.’ Lincoln replied ‘My dear little Miss, your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received’¦As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well wisher, A. Lincoln.’
2. Wolf Blitzer
Wolf Isaac Blitzer, better known as Wolf Blitzer, was born to Cesia Blitzer and David Blitzer Augsburg, Germany on March 22, 1948. He told about his beard during an interview; ”¦I think it was the 1996 presidential convention in San Diego when I was the White House correspondent, my beard was really beginning to change colors, and I saw the president of CNN, Tom Johnson. We were walking from one event to another and I said “Tom, I’m seriously thinking of shaving off my beard. What do you think?” And he looked at me as if I was crazy and he said, “Shaving off your beard? Are you crazy? I’m thinking of taking an insurance policy out on it!” He obviously saw that it had developed as part of my look and style, and our viewers had come to recognize it. It became part of my brand.’
3. Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was born in Trier, Prussia on May 5, 1818 and died in London on March 14, 1818. He was a multi-disciplinary scholar known as a German philosopher, economist, and journalist but known best as a revolutionary socialist. He was educated at the University of Bonn and the University of Berlin. His theories, known as Marxism, hold that all societies make progress through a conflict between the owners and employees. He is best known for his great work Das Capital, published in 1867. He wore a thick, philosopher’s beard.
4. Osama bin Laden
Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, commonly known as Osama bin Laden ,was born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 10, 1957 and died in Pakistan at the age of 54. The world has changed after 9/11, and this global change was realized by Osama bin Laden and the former U.S. President George W. Bush. Repercussions of the Bush policies and the legacy of Osama bin Laden still keep the world restless and in the grip of the terrorists. Osama bin Laden kept a graceful, long, and wavy beard. And perhaps next only to Lincoln’s is the most identified beard in the world.
5. Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was born on December 27, 1822 and died September 28, 1895. He was one of the most famous microbiologists of all time. He discovered that microbial growth was behind milk spoilage and souring alcohol, and that it could be prevented through applying the heat process, known after him as pasteurization. He is remembered for his great work in developing vaccines for rabies and anthrax. He kept a well-maintained, short beard typical of the scientists in his time.
6. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, U.S. and died at the age of 61 on July 2, 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho, U.S. He is a Nobel Laureate, best known for his Nobel Prize winning novel The Old Man and the Sea. His simple writing style greatly influenced the 20th century fiction, and he is also known for his ‘Tip of the Iceberg Theory.’ His other famous works include; The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and A Farewell to Arms. He kept a well-maintained, short beard
7. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, current Italy, and died in Amboise, France on May 2, 1519. He was a multifarious artist known as an all-time, world-famous painter, sculptor, architect, and inventor. He is best known for his most famous painting in the world ‘Mona Lisa’ and his most honored painting, ‘The Last Supper’ in which he painted eight characters with beards. He kept a long, graceful beard, and his self-portrait showing it is one of the best, all-time self-portraits in history.
8. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was born on October 17, 1817 and died on March 27, 1898. He was a famous Indian Muslim philosopher and socialist activist. The Moghul Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar conferred upon him the honorific Javad-ud Daulah, giving him a prominent place in the Indian nobility. He became famous after working as a jurist for the British East India Company. Believing that the future of Indian Muslims was in danger due to their bigotry, he started promoting Western style education through setting up various academic institutions. He founded the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College in 1875. He kept a long, broad, and graceful beard which became an integral part of his personality just like his title ‘Sir,’ which was considered by common folk as a part of his name.
9. Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II, nicknamed as the Fearsome Pope, was born on December 5, 1443 and died on February 21, 1513. He is best known for his active, foreign policy, building projects, and patronage of the arts. The master painter Raphael, in his celebrated portrait, showed him as bearded, and since then he was depicted with a beard. He was probably the first pope to wear a beard which is forbidden by canon law since the 13th century. In fact, he wore the beard only from June 27, 1511 to March, 1512 as a sign of mourning when the Papal States lost Bologna.
10. Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh was born in NgheAn Province of French Indochina on May 19, 1890 and died on September 2, 1969 in Hanoi, North Vietnam. He was a revolutionary communist leader and was Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam from 1945 to 1955 and held the office of President from 1945 to 1969. He was the key person in founding the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945 as well as the People’s Army of Vietnam and the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. He kept a goatee-style beard.
Beards do say something about the wearer, but forming an opinion about someone exclusively on the basis of a beard may be highly misleading. To judge people on the basis of their beards in isolation and without any consideration of their cultural backgrounds is the worst kind of discrimination which has been shown by some security agencies after 9/11. Eight of the 12 characters are portrayed as bearded in the world famous painting The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. One of them would be a deceiver as revealed at the occasion. Both the apostles and devil are portrayed by great painters as guys with beards.
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