Nathan Labenz asks:
This got me thinking: what are the most compelling and informative biographies that remain uncelebrated?
"Uncelebrated by whom?" is of course the follow-up question. Nonetheless I will put forward a few names: Jeremy Bentham, Leo Kanner, Norman Borlaug, Brahms and Stravinsky, Antoine Oleyant, a wide variety of 19th century German chemists, engineers, and scientists (who led a second Industrial Revolution), Montaigne, Thomas Bernhard, various French mathematicians, Simon Newcomb, Ramon Llull, Norbert Wiener, Babbage, and I would even say David Hume.
What are we to make of James K. Polk these days? I am not sure.
Relative to their importance, their lives and exploits don't seem to receive much attention. In general, there are few good books (or movies) about the lives of famous economists. Both Hayek and Friedman still lack good biographies, same with Samuelson and Arrow. Smith, Keynes, and Nash are covered, but how many others? Why aren't there more scintillating biographies of engineers and second-tier scientists? It is harder to find important painters, even of the lower tiers, who have not received adequate biographic attention.