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Posts Tagged ‘eponym series’

Hello,

Today, in honour of International Women’s Day, I’m posting an extract from my forthcoming eponym book “How to Get Your Name in the Dictionary” about Marie Curie, an inspiring female scientist with a fascinating story.

The curie is a unit of radioactivity and it is named for Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934).

Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first and only woman to win twice, and the only person to win it in two different sciences (physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911). Only 5% of all Nobel Prizes awarded to date have been to women, with two of them in physics since 1901. She won her prize for physics jointly with her husband and Henri Becquerel. The committee originally intended to award it only to the two male scientists but one member told Pierre and he insisted his wife be recognised too.

She coined the term radioactivity, developed techniques to isolate radioactive isotopes, and discovered two elements – polonium and radium. She created and ran x-ray units in field hospitals in World War I. Her husband Pierre, also a scientist, dropped his own research on crystals to join her research which they conducted in a leaky shed on university grounds. They did not patent their discoveries which proved to be very valuable to industry.

Pierre died in 1906 in a traffic accident. Marie continued their work, becoming the first female professor at the University of Paris. She died many years later due to exposure to radium during her research and to x-rays during her field hospital work.

Curie studied at the clandestine flying university in Warsaw before working to fund her studies in Paris. The flying university was an educational establishment that didn’t agree with ruling policy at the time and had to meet in secret. They admitted female students and allowed the use of laboratory equipment which had been banned in schools following uprisings.

Curie’s papers, and even her cookbook, from the 1890s are so highly contaminated by radioactivity that they are stored in lead boxes and require specialist clothing to be viewed.

Curie is just one of many women to have contributed words to the dictionary. Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace

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Hello,

Regular readers will know that I sometimes delve into the world of eponyms – objects named after their inventor, wearer or place of origin. Having examined Bowler hats and Wellington boots, it is now the turn of the humble cardigan.

Baby cardigan

Baby cardigan

Did you know that cardigans, so often worn by infants or by women with summer dresses, were originally military attire? They started life as a knitted waistcoat worn by British officers in the Crimean War and were named for their commander, Major General James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan.

The Earl rose to fame by leading the infamous, and disastrous, Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 and the cardigan rose with him.

The action was immortalised by Alfred Lord Tennyson in The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

The 7th Earl survived, and told the tale to Queen Victoria and the rest of an adoring London, but a sixth of his men did not. Afterwards many doubts arose as to the competence of those in command that day – well detailed at Wikipedia – but the public had already bought cardigans galore in honour of their hero and the garment has rarely been out of fashion since. I’m only sorry I couldn’t unearth a painting of the Earl wearing one.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) was clearly a cold affair and many of the warm clothing supplies for British troops didn’t arrive in time, hence the rise of the knitted cardigans and balaclavas (although the first use of that term for such a head warmer is 30 years after the battle).

So when you throw on a cardigan, spare a thought for the poor, frozen, soldiers of the Crimean War.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfoolery,

Grace

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