“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.” –George Bernard Shaw
Born in Dublin in 1856, Shaw is the only person to receive both a Nobel Prize in Literature (1925) and an Oscar (1938), for his contributions to literature and for his work on the film Pygmalion (adaptation of his play of the same name), respectively.
An ardent socialist, Shaw wanted to refuse his Nobel Prize outright because he had no desire for public honours, but accepted it at his wife’s behest: she considered it a tribute to Ireland. Somewhat ironically, the Nobel Prize site states “At the banquet, Mr. Shaw’s thanks were presented by the British Ambassador, Sir Arthur Grant Duff, who expressed particular appreciation of the fact that the Prize given to Mr. Shaw would be used to strengthen the cultural relations between Sweden and Great Britain.”
Shaw refused all other awards and honours, including the offer of a knighthood.
In 1950, Shaw fell off a ladder while trimming a tree on his property at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, outside of London, and died a few days later of complications from the injury, at age 94. He had been at work on yet another play (Why She Would Not). In his will, he left a large part of his estate to a project to revamp the English alphabet. (Only one volume was published with the new “Shaw Alphabet”: a parallel text edition of Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion). After that project failed, the estate was divided among the other beneficiaries in his will: the National Gallery of Ireland, the British Museum, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Royalties from Shaw’s plays (and from the musical My Fair Lady, based on Shaw’s Pygmalion) have helped to balance the budgets of these institutions ever since.