Statisticians have long been telling us how steeply the life-expectancy curve continues to rise. As a result, receiving an invitation to a one-hundredth birthday party, although surprising, is not necessarily shocking. Indeed, it is to just such an event that many in the worlds of finance, politics, and art were recently summoned. The birthday celebration in question was held in Madrid this mid-October and took the form of a symposium honoring Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, who was born exactly a century ago but actually died at age eighty-one in 2002. Centenarian or not, Thyssen was certainly a commanding presence during the second half of the last century. He was a grandson of August Thyssen (1842–1926), the diminutive but hugely assiduous and successful steel and coal entrepreneur. August has often been compared to Andrew Carnegie as a quintessential example of the nineteenth-century empire-building...


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