Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Twelve Noels of Christmas : 3

One difference I’ve noticed between UK universities and USA universities is the level of openness in listing lgbt students and staff. In the UK there are very few (if any) of these lists, whereas in the USA most lgbt groups in the major universities publish lists of out members. One of the biggest lists belongs to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

Noel Cruz-Pacheco has been at UCSF since 2009. A graduate of the Pontifical Catholic University in Puerto Rico Noel arrived at UCSF as a staff research associate working in the Department of Cell and Tissue Biology. Most of his work there involved studying the genetic formation of a type of yeast fungus called Candida albicans. This organism lives within the human body, particularly in the intestines and mouth, and can cause several serious illnesses.

In 2012 Noel moved to another laboratory at USCF where his work involved studying the interaction between nerve cells and skin layers and how this creates new tissue and cell regeneration when the skin is damaged.

The 8th Noel – NOEL BAGGETT (b.1941)
One of my New Year resolutions every year is to get back into shape and into sport somehow. I don’t really have the conviction though and find it more difficult to get motivated than I did ten years ago. Which is why I’m always inspired to keep trying by hearing about people like Noel Baggett.

At the age of 63 Noel took up wrestling. He had done some at school and college but he didn’t continue into adult life. Noel always kept himself fit, however, by running.

In 2006 the Gay Games were held in Chicago. He competed in two sports – running and wrestling. He won a gold medal in his age group in the 5 km road race. Being relatively new to competitive wrestling Noel was just happy to compete, having only took up the sport less than two years previously. His first competitive bouts pre-Gay Games, however, didn’t bode well as he hadn’t acquired the flexibility and balance he needed. At the Gay Games he had trained hard enough to win himself a silver medal in his weight category.

Eight years on, and 73 years old, Noel is still training. He still does long-distance running, and has a personal trainer at the gym. He also still competes. His most recent event was the California Senior Games earlier this year where he broke his personal best results.

I only hope I can be in that good a shape when I’m that age!

The 9th Noel – GEORGE NOEL BYRON, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
You may not have realised that Lord Byron was called Noel. That’s probably because its not one he was born with, he acquired it in an attempt to escape his scandalous past.

Byron was bisexual – polysexual even. His sexual reputation became the centre of gossip after 1813 when it became common knowledge that he had slept with his half-sister, a married woman, and got her pregnant. The aristocracy usually turned a blind eye to homosexuality, but incest and adultery were definitely taboo.

Byron began flirting with another aristocratic lady but found that these affairs were affecting his poetry – both in his writing of them and in their popularity. Some of the poems he wrote at around this time were not up to his usual standard and his books were not selling as much as they had before.

In order to produce an image which reassured his public (and even himself) that he wasn’t the lecherous degenerate his public were beginning to think of him as being he decided to get married. He couldn’t have chosen a worse wife.

Anna Isabella Milbanke Noel was a dull woman by all accounts. She lacked the imaginative intellect of Byron. She was the only child of Sir Ralph Milbanke Noel and was the heir to both him and the barony of Wentworth. They married on 2nd January 1815. Part of the marriage contract included the condition that Lord Byron must adopt the surname Noel in front of his own. And so George Byron became George Noel Byron.

The newly-weds had one child, born in December 1815. She was the celebrated Ada, later to become the Countess of Lovelace, and the first “computer” who worked with Charles Babbage on the “difference engine” – the forerunner of the devices which now carry the name of “computer”.

Ada was barely a month old before her mother left Byron. The scandal of his earlier affairs were not dying down, and eventually Byron and his wife obtained a legal separation, though they were never officially divorced.

Byron thought it best to leave England and spent the rest of his life on the Continent. His estranged with Anna Isabella, inherited the title of Baroness Wentworth and died in 1860. She passed this title and the Noel name to her daughter Ada, who passed them down to her descendants.

In the final three Noels next Sunday we’ll meet one who named himself after the first.

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