Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Desire to Control the System: a list of notable politically-minded railway enthusiasts and/or peridromphiles

David Bragdon b. 1959
American politician in Oregon and New York, currently Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for New York City, past president of Metro, an elected metropolitan planning organization. A train enthusiast with a long history of interest in public transportation systems, as a boy Bragdon wrote a booklet for the TriMet bus/rail mass transit agency in Oregon, about how to use the TriMet bus system.

Jack Dorsey b. 1976
American software designer who created Twitter and the founder and CEO of Square. Dorsey has a serious ambition to be the mayor of New York City. His net worth has been estimated at 300 million US dollars. A fascinating biographical article by David Kirkpatrick in Vanity Fair magazine described Dorsey's childhood obsession with city maps, railways, police cars, taxis and city transportation systems in general, which found an outlet in computer programing. Some quotes from Dorsey explain the appeal of his interest in city transportation: "I wanted to play with how the city worked, so I could see it." "What gets me really energized is thinking about activity within a city.....There's such a rush of energy constantly coursing through."

Tim Fischer AC b. 1946
Australian ex-politician, was the Deputy Prime Minister in the Howard Government from 1996 until he retired from Cabinet in 1999. Fischer was also the Trade Minister and leader of the National Party of Australia. He retired from Parliament in 2001, and is currently the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See. Fischer was nominated into this position by the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, from the other side of Australian politics. Fischer has been described as “a good bloke” by Rudd in a recent Twitter post. Fischer left politics in 2001 to spend time with his family, including a son diagnosed with autism. He has a reputation for being inarticulate but is a well-respected public figure. Fischer has been a railway enthusiast since childhood. Fischer was quoted in 1999: “…to some extent I had a very mild form of autism in my early years.” Fischer credited his autism as the cause of some “intense areas of study and interests” (Rees 2001 p.319). Tim Fischer has written a number of books on the themes of travel and transport, and his latest book is titled Trains Unlimited in the 21st Century. Fischer has shown enthusiasm for the Australian federal government's recent study of high-speed rail.

Simon Sheikh
National director of the Australian political organisation GetUp! This son of a migrant industrial chemist and inventor showed an interest in public life early, representing Australia as a youth representative at the 2007 CHOGM. Cheap rail travel was one enjoyable aspect of a hard early life: "At one point I had literally memorised the entire CityRail network."

William James Sidis 1898-1944
Sidis was most famous as a child prodigy. His IQ has been estimated as an incredible 300 points (compared to the normal IQ score of 100). He received a degree from Harvard College at 16 and taught mathematics at an institute at 17 but was treated poorly by his older students. Sidis was sentenced to imprisonment after taking part in a socialist demonstration but he was kept in his parents’ sanitorium where they threatened him with transfer to a mental institution. After his escape he kept a low profile and wrote books under pseudonyms. One of his works was a treatise on streetcar transfers and public transport usage. Sidis coined the term "peridromphile" to describe people like himself who are fascinated by streetcar systems and research on transportation. William Sidis was an atheist and during his life he learned to speak around forty languages. William Sidis and his intellectual father Boris have been identified as both possibly on the autistic spectrum in two books. William died at age 46 of a cerebral hemorrhage, the same illness that caused his father’s premature death.

And the rest...
Among those listed at the Wikipedia's "list of railfans" can be found Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Founder of the Republic of Turkey), Joe Biden (Vice President of the US), Harry S. Truman and a number of other politicians and leaders.


About or by David Bragdon
Bragdon, David (1974) The busrider's manual, or,: Everything you always wanted to know about Tri-Met, but didn't know who to ask. S.N., 1974.

Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) David Bragdon. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

About Jack Dorsey
Kirkpatrick, David (2011) Twitter was act one. Vanity Fair. April 2011. p.120-123, 154-155.

About or by Tim Fischer
Cronk, David (2011) Tim Fischer visits Riverina to promote book. Train Holidays of the World. July 27th 2011.

Fischer, Tim (2011) Trains Unlimited in the 21st Century. HarperCollins, 2011.

Fischer `mildly autistic' as child (1999) The Newcastle Herald (includes the Central Coast Herald). Dec 14, 1999. Edition: Late, Section: News, pg. 5

McLeonard, Kieran (1999) Tim Fischer tells of life with autism. AM Archive. ABC Local Radio. 13th December 1999.

On the brink 1 – Tim Fischer. Life Matters. ABC Radio National. 13th December 1999.
[“The first of our series 'On the Brink', about the teenage years…” Fischer claimed to have had a degree of autism]

Rees, Peter (2001) The boy from Boree Creek: the Tim Fischer story. Allen and Unwin, 2001.
[parts can be read through Google Book Search]

Wright, Tony and Gray, Darren (1999) Fischer claims autistic links with his child. The Age (Melbourne). December 14th 1999. Edition: National, Section: News, pg. 3

About Simon Sheikh
One Plus One. ABCTV. June 3rd 2011.
[One of the interviews is Simon Sheikh interviewed by Virginia Haussegger]

Snow, Deborah (2010) So loudly they cannot be ignored. Sydney Morning Herald. June 19th 2010.

About William James Sidis
Fitzgerald, Michael and James, Ioan (2007) The mind of the mathematician. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

Lyons, Viktoria and Fitzgerald, Michael (2005) Asperger Syndrome - A Gift or a Curse? Nova Science Publishers Inc.

Sidis Archives.

Wallace, Amy (1986) The Prodigy: A Biography of William James Sidis, America's Greatest Child Prodigy. Dutton Adult, 1986.
[A fascinating read.]

About Famous Railfans
Wikipedia contributors (accessed 2011) List of railfans. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_railfans&oldid=436569466

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