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Dictionary of World Biography
O’Neill, Eugene Gladstone (1888–1953). American
playwright, born in New York. Son of James O’Neill,
an actor, he worked, during an adventurous early life,
as a gold prospector in Central America, an actor
and a newspaper reporter. He joined (1915) the
Provincetown Players and not only acted for them
but wrote and produced a number of short plays.
He won the Pulitzer Prize for his first full-length
play, Beyond the Horizon (1920), and also for Anna
Christie (1921), a realistic drama of the water front
and the regenerating influence of the sea upon the
heroine. The Emperor Jones (1920) shows how a Negro
adventurer reverts from ruler to savage, the title of
The Hairy Ape (1922) refers to a powerful stoker on a
liner, whose vain attempt to overcome his handicaps
provides the theme. All God’s Chillun got Wings (1924)
deals with the problem of a black-white liaison in
which the white woman is disabled, with which the
black tries to contend. The much discussed Desire
under the Elms (1924), dealing with a father-son
conflict, was followed by The Great God Brown (1926),
in which masks were used to symbolise characters.
In Strange Interlude (1928), which lasts five hours,
O’Neill tried another experiment with the ‘stream of
consciousness’ technique. Mourning Becomes Electra
(1931) attempts to place the Oresteian trilogy in a
modern context. From 1934 there was a gap until
The Icemen Cometh (1946). The ‘iceman’ symbolises
death and the play handles the touch of death on a
group of waterfront characters. The posthumously
published Long Day’s Journey into Night (1957) is
mainly autobiographical. These plays are the most
important of a long series that caused O’Neill to be
regarded as America’s greatest dramatist. He won the
Nobel Prize for Literature (1936).
Sheaffer, L., O’Neill, Son and Playwright. 1969.
O’Neill, Hugh, 2nd Earl of Tyrone (c.1550–1616).
Irish nobleman. The last member of his family to
exercise independent rule, he was grandson of the
O’Neill who, having submitted to the English king
*Henry VIII was created (1543) the 1st Earl. Hugh
O’Neill had an English education, remaining on
good terms with England until he had had his
earldom recognised and made his position secure in
Ireland, where he aspired to rule all Ulster. This aim
brought him into conflict with *Elizabeth I and after
a long struggle (1593–1603) he was forced to submit,
though allowed to retain his personal estates. Finding
English supervision intolerable, he left Ireland (1607),
and travelled throughout Europe, finally settling in
Rome from 1608 to his death. The O’Neills had ruled
turbulently in Ireland, with constant quarrels between
branches of their own line and rival families, e.g. the
O’Donnells, ever since the days of Niall of the Nine
Hostages (d.405), from whom they claimed descent.
Onnes, Heike Kamerlingh see Kamerlingh Onnes,
Onsager, Lars (1903–1976). American chemist, born
in Norway. He taught at Yale from 1935, developed
the gas-diffraction method of separating U 235 from
U 238 and won the 1968 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
His discovery of reciprocal relations in irreversible
chemical processes has been called ‘the Fourth Law
of Thermodynamics’ (*Nernst).
Oodgeroo Noonuccal (originally Kath(leen Jean
Mary) Ruska, later Walker) (1920–1993). Australian
poet, born in Brisbane. We Are Going (1964) was the
first volume of poetry published by an Aborigine.
An active campaigner for indigenous rights, education
and recognition in the Australian Constitution, from
1988 she was known as Oodgeroo (‘paperbark tree’)
Noonuccal (name of her tribe).
Oort, Jan Hendrik (1900–1992). Dutch astronomer.
A student of J. C. *Kapteyn at Groningen University,
he worked at Leyden University from 1924 and was
professor of astronomy and director of the observatory
1945–70. His model of the structure of the universe,
as a rotating disc spread around a nucleus containing
90 per cent of all stars, published 1925–27, has been
confirmed by observation and is generally accepted.
He estimated that the Sun is 30,000 light years from
the centre of the galaxy and takes 225 million years to
orbit around it.
Oparin, Aleksandr Ivanovich (1894–1980). Russian
biochemist. Professor of biochemistry at Moscow
University 1929–60, he wrote The Origin of Life on
Earth (1936), which proposed (parallel with theories
by J. B. S. *Haldane) that the interaction of sunlight
on a methane/ammonia atmosphere could have led
to the development of amino acids and – ultimately –
cellular life, a thesis later confirmed by S. L. *Miller.
An ardent supporter of *Lysenko and a party loyalist,
winning the Lenin Prize five times, his star waned
after *Stalin’s death.
Ophüls, Max (originally Maximilian Oppenheimer)
(1902–1957). German-Jewish film director.
He worked in Germany, France and the United States
and his stylish films include Letter from an Unknown
Woman (1948), La Ronde (1950) and The Earrings
of Madame de … (1953). His son, Marcel Ophüls
(1927– ), an actor and director, educated in the
United States, was best known for Le Chagrin et la
Pitié (The Sorrow and the Pity, 1969), a controversial
documentary about France and the Vichy regime, not
released in France until 1981. He won an Academy
Award for Hotel Terminus (1988).
Oppenheim, E(dward) Phillips (1866–1946).
British author. He was one of the most prolific and
popular novelists in the thriller and spy tradition,
producing some 150 books and memoirs The Pool
of Memory (1941).