March 27, 2006 – Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem dies in Krakow, Poland, aged 84. Despite living and working behind the Iron Curtain, he achieved worldwide fame through such booksÂ as Solaris, The Futurological Congress and The Cyberiad. His works were translated into dozens of languages. Although he was raised Catholic and was a friend of Karol Wojtyla (later Pope John Paul II), Lem was an avowed atheist: “I am of the opinion that you would recognize a creator by his creation, and the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created by anyone than to think that somebody created this intentionally.”
March 27, 1839Â – John Ballance, future Premier of New Zealand, is born in Glenavy, Ireland. Having witnessed sectarian riots in his native Ireland, Ballance was a confirmed secularist and co-founder of New Zealand’s Wanganui Freethought Association.Â Ballance diedÂ in office of complications from abdominal surgery in 1891, aged 54.