10 More Things You Probably Didn’t Realize Were Named for People

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As the title suggests, this is our second list about various (and probably) unexpected things that are named after people. Just like with the first part, we’ve focused on things that are particularly interesting, or that simply don’t seem like they’d necessarily be named for someone in particular. So, with that being said, let’s take a look at 10 more things you may not have realized are named for actual people…

10. The Pulitzer Prize

Yeah, we’re starting with the one that, of all the entries, you may have at least suspected was named for someone. Every year, Columbia University administers and awards 21 Pulitzer prizes in the fields of journalism, arts, and letters. Twenty recipients of this prize are awarded $15,000, as of 2017, while the winner in public service journalism, which is always a newspaper, receives a gold medal. The first ever Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1917 and has been awarded every year since, in the month of May. These prizes are named after the Jewish-Hungarian-born American newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer, born in 1847 in the small town of Makó, in present-day Hungary. He studied in Budapest, wanting to enroll in the Austrian military. But because of his frail health and poor eyesight, he was turned down and then immigrated to the United States in 1864.

He served in the 1st New York Cavalry during the American Civil War, and then moved to Saint Louis, Missouri. In 1868, he began working at the German language newspaper the Westliche Post. Four years later, he became the owner of that newspaper, and six years after that, he bought another newspaper, also in Saint Louis. He also became involved in local politics. Pulitzer later moved to New York City, where he purchased the failing New York World newspaper and founded the New York Evening World. Pulitzer focused his newspapers on human interest stories, scandals, and sensationalisms in order to make them highly profitable. Basically, he was the clickbait artist of his time.

By the 1880s, he became one of the most powerful newspaper publishers in the United States, and a direct competitor to William Randolph Hearst. Because of their competition to sell the most newspapers, both publishers relied on so-called yellow journalism – which is scandal-mongering and sensationalism. Because of their feud, some say that the United States was flung into the Spanish-American War of 1898, with both publishers embellishing stories about Spanish atrocities happening in Cuba.

Toward the end of his career, Pulitzer was able to expose a fraudulent, $40 million payment to the French Panama Canal Company in 1909. The publisher was then indicted for defamation towards Theodore Roosevelt and JP Morgan, but the charges were later dismissed by the courts – which can only be described as a victory for the freedom of the press. Also known as “the midwife to the birth of the modern mass media,” Pulitzer left two million dollars in his will toward Colombia University. With the money, the University was to open the world’s first school of journalism, as well as to award excellence – particularly in journalism work exposing government corruption or the abuse of civil liberties.

9. Algorithms

During the Middle Ages, the European Kingdoms were not at the forefront of technology and scientific discovery. Instead, the Islamic Caliphates were the ones producing the brightest minds around. These Persian philosophers and scholars were renowned for their study in mathematics, optics, history, astronomy, architecture, and even evolution, among many other fields. Yes, it might come as a surprise to many, but the first man to come up with a concept that somewhat resembles today’s theory of evolution was a Persian scholar by the name of Nasir al-Din Tusi, who lived during the 13th century, roughly 600 years prior to Darwin. And al-Din Tusi wasn’t a fluke, either, since there were a lot of other Muslim scholars before and after him, as well.

One other such Muslim learned man was Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, who by all rights should be at least as famous in the academic world as Pythagoras. Born sometime around 780 AD, Al-Khwarizmi lived in Baghdad and worked at the ‘House of Wisdom’. This institution gathered and translated all sorts of scientific works, especially from Greek, and published its own original research. Al-Khwarizmi’s works were later studied and translated into Latin in Europe during the 12th century. Thanks to his works, the West was introduced to the Hindu-Arabic numerals and basic algorithms, as well as algebra. He is regarded as being the grandfather of computer science. The word ‘algorithm’ is the Latinized version of his own name – Al-Khwarizmi – while the word ‘algebra’ comes from one of his most important works “Hisab al-jabr w’al-muqabala” or The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing.

8. The Uzi

Perhaps second only to the Automatic Kalashnikov (AK-47) itself, the Uzi is among the most iconic guns in the entire world. Designed and developed during the late 1940s, the Uzi was among the first weapons to make use of a telescopic bolt, which in turn allowed it to equip the magazine directly inside the grip. This made it shorter and a perfect weapon to carry around under a jacket, or to be used in tight spaces. This is why the Uzi is seen predominantly as a personal defense weapon, employed by tank and artillery divisions, or by quick-strike assault forces. Because of its versatility, the Uzi has also found a stable market among various branches of the military around the world, among law enforcement and security personnel, making it one of the most mass-produced submachine guns on the planet.

Born in Germany in 1923, Gotthard Glas immigrated to the UK after the Nazis took power. In 1936, he moved to the British Mandate of Palestine where he changed his name to Uziel Gal. After serving half a sentence in prison for illegally carrying a gun, Uziel was released in 1946, and two years later he began working on his namesake weapon. In 1951, his new submachine gun was adopted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and he received several awards for his accomplishments. He was, in fact, the first person to receive the Israel Security Award for his work on the Uzi. Interestingly enough, he didn’t want his name attached to his creation, but his plea went ignored. After retiring from the IDF in 1975, Uziel immigrated to the United States, and in the early 1980s he took part in the development of the Ruger MP9 submachine gun. Even though this new weapon was recognized by Gal as being the improved Uzi, it never really took off like its predecessor did, and only a few units were ever produced.

7. Tupperware

One can consider a product or company to be a real success when its brand name becomes the generic term for the entire industry. Some good examples for such proprietary eponyms, as they are called, are Xerox or Google. But a lesser-known one, even though it’s in common use, is Tupperware. As a whole, Tupperware items are food preparation, storage, and serving containers made out of plastic, and usually have a lid for airtight storage. It might come as a surprise to some, but Tupperware came into existence as early as 1942, invented by the American-born businessman and inventor Earl Silas Tupper.

During the Great Depression, he got a job at the DuPont chemical company. Here, he was presented with a piece of polyethylene, a waste product of the oil refining process. In its raw form, this slag is inflexible and black-colored, but after successfully purifying it, Tupper was able to transform it into light-weight, unbreakable, and flexible containers. The gas masks used during WWII were also made from this reliable plastic. Tupper also came up with the burping seal for his containers, being partially inspired by paint can lids. Now, even though he discovered the purified plastic in 1938 and created his first bowls in 1942, his products didn’t really make it onto the market until 1948. In 1946, he introduced his line of Tupperware to be sold in various department stores, but with limited success.

It was only after he met up with Brownie Wise in 1948 – a pioneering saleswoman of her time – that Tupperware went on to become the proprietary eponym it is today. With her help, Tupper was able to sell his plastic containers via what we now know as Tupperware parties. These events were run by a consultant from the company together with the host – usually a housewife. The host invited her friends and neighbors, and together with the consultant, they presented the versatility of Tupperware. These parties were meant to explain all the benefits and novelties that these products had to offer, all the while pulling thousands of ladies into a career – in a time when women were conventionally tied to a housework. This “party-plan” marketing was so successful that by the early 1950s Tupperware was pulled from all retail stores, focusing instead on these parties. Brownie Wise was also the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week magazine in 1954. This party-based business model is still in use today by Tupperware across the globe.

6. Graham Crackers

If you are the kind of person who finds graham crackers to be bland, well, it might not come as a surprise to you to know that they were actually meant to be this way. In fact, graham crackers were named after a Presbyterian minister by the name of Sylvester Graham who lived during the first half of the 19th century in the US. Graham believed in a strict vegetarian lifestyle as a remedy for all sorts of ailments, going from simple headaches and indigestion to pulmonary consumption, spinal diseases, epilepsy, and even insanity. He also believed that the consumption of meat, condiments like mustard and ketchup, tea, and coffee would lead to all sorts of rampant lustful urges. He thus advocated for a strict vegetarian diet, high in fiber, such as home-made coarsely ground wheat flour used to making bread – later known as Graham bread. Sylvester Graham also urged his followers to drink only water and sleep with a window open – regardless of the season.

He died in 1851, and even though he had some followers, Graham was considered a bit of a nut during his lifetime. Nevertheless, some people in Boston and New York happily incarcerated themselves in the so-called Graham boarding houses in order to live their lives according to his teachings. Now, the story behind the graham crackers is a bit vague. Some believe that it was Sylvester Graham himself who invented them back in 1829, while others believe that they appeared sometime around 1882. This later version of events is based on the year when graham cracker recipes first started appearing in cookbooks. But whatever the case may be, today’s graham crackers are made with bleached white flour – something that Sylvester Graham saw as a great dietary evil.

5. The Guillotine

Not that long ago, humanity was so accustomed to capital punishment that almost every country developed its own preferred method of disposing of people who they no longer wanted to be part of society. And nothing is more iconic of France in this regard, especially during the French Revolution period, than the guillotine. This device is made out of two upright posts, held together by a crossbeam, between which an oblique-edged blade runs down, slicing straight through the victim’s neck, decapitating him in one swift motion. Now, earlier versions of the guillotine did exist in other countries such as England, Scotland, Ireland and other places, but they differed from the actual guillotine, mainly in the design of the blade. The Halifax Gibbet for instance, used in the town of Halifax, England, from the 16th century up until the mid-17th century, had an axe-like blade instead of an angled one.

After being successfully tested on several dead bodies in France, this new and improved decapitation device was initially called Louison, after its inventor, Antoine Louis, a French surgeon. It also went by the name of “the widow.” Nevertheless, it was after a member of the French National Assembly, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, who was instrumental in passing a law in 1789 requiring all death punishments to be carried out by “means of a machine” that the guillotine became commonplace in the country and the device got its new name. This law was passed as a means of opening decapitation to all classes of society – not just the nobles – as well as to make the entire process as painless as possible. So, in a sense, we can look at the guillotine as a ‘humane’ form of capital punishment.

During the so-called Reign of Terror in France – between September 5, 1793 and July 27, 1794, some 17,000 people were executed by the guillotine. After Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s natural death in 1814, his family, feeling ashamed by the connection, wanted the machine’s name be changed, but the government refused. They then had to change their own name instead. The guillotine remained the method of execution in France up until 1981, when the death penalty was abolished. The last two people to be beheaded in France were in 1977.

4. Maverick

Tom Cruise may be seen as the embodiment of all “maverickness,” but in reality it’s Samuel Augustus Maverick who actually deserves this title. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, a maverick is “an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party.” The appearance of the word stems back to 1867, when it was first used in its second dictionary meaning, as “an unbranded range animal; especially: a motherless calf.” And here is where Samuel Augustus Maverick comes in. He was a Texas lawyer, politician, and land baron, as well as a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. There are several variations as to how his name got to be synonymous with an independently-minded person, but all of them have to do with his cattle.

Some say that he was an absentee rancher whose newborn calves oftentimes went unbranded. Others say that it wasn’t that he was absentminded, but rather that he felt the practice to be too cruel – which was probably not the case since he did own slaves. Nevertheless, many of his cattle went unbranded and the other ranchers began calling them Maverick’s. Now, regardless of whether Samuel Maverick was careless or kindhearted is of little consequence because, as it turns out, unbranded cattle were an opportunity waiting to be seized. Seeing them, the other stockmen began branding Maverick’s cattle as their own and he was forced to sell his depleted herd before there weren’t any left. What a maverick!

3. Gillette Safety Razors

People in the industry oftentimes note King Camp Gillette, an American inventor and businessman of the early 1900s, as being the father of the aptly named “razor and blades business model.” The idea of this model is to sell an item at a cheap price, or in some cases even giving it away for free, in the hopes that customers will increase sales by later acquiring additional complementary goods for that item. Thus the proverbial example “Give ’em the razor; sell ’em the blades” is oftentimes attributed to King Camp Gillette, even though he wasn’t the actual inventor of the model. He did, in fact, invent the disposable razor blades but he didn’t actually come up with the model itself. In reality, Gillette razors were quite expensive and only became cheap after their patents expired. Gillette’s competitors were actually the ones who came up with the model in the first place.

During the 1890s, Gillette used to work as a salesman at a bottle cap company. Here, he saw how those caps were being thrown away after the bottles were opened, and came up with the idea of a business that revolved around a product that could be used several times before being discarded. Before the safety razors, men shaved with a straight razor that needed sharpening every day – thus a razor blade that could just be simply thrown away after several uses had a really high demand. Production first began in 1903 and Gillette sold 51 razors and 168 blades. The following year, sales skyrocketed to over 90,000 razors and over 123,000 blades. By 1908, the company expanded overseas and in 1915, razor sales exceeded 450,000 units, while blades sold over 70 million. During WWI, Gillette even provided all American soldiers with a field razor set, paid for by the government.

2. The Diesel Engine

The compression-ignition engine, more commonly known as the diesel engine, was invented back in 1892 by a French-born German engineer by the name of Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel. Compared to the steam engine, and even the petrol engine, the diesel engine made use of highly-compressed air to ignite the fuel and drive the piston down the cylinder. By comparison, petrol engines mix fuel and air before entering the combustion chamber and which are then ignited by a spark plug. There are several advantages, as well as several drawbacks, to the diesel engine by comparison to its previously mentioned counterparts.

Thanks to it using compressed air, the diesel engine has a slower rate at which it uses up fuel, and makes better use of the heat generated – thus putting its components under less strain. The diesel engine can also work with a variety of flammable fuels, such as coal dust or vegetable oil. In fact, Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his design at the 1900 World Fair by using peanut oil. But because it makes use of hot air for ignition, the diesel engine may have some trouble starting in cold weather, before the cylinders reach operating temperatures. Modern-day diesel engines have various ways of compensating for this drawback.

Another disadvantage for the early-days diesel engine was the fact that it was larger than the average petrol engine. This meant that it could not compete when it came to automobiles. It was only in 1936, when Mercedes-Benz unveiled its 260 D model that used diesel, when things began to change. During the 1950s and ’60s the diesel engine become mainstream in the world of personal cars, but remained mostly a European trend. This was mainly because of the post-WWII austerity measures and the greater longevity and efficiency diesel provided. When Rudolph Diesel designed his engine, he hoped that it would give small craftsmen and businesses an edge in competing with larger manufacturers. Instead, the diesel engine became an integral part of the Industrial Revolution, replacing many steam engines onboard ships, trains, power stations, and factories.

On September 29, 1913, Diesel boarded a ship in Antwerp on his way to London. This was the last day anyone saw him alive. Ten days later, a decomposing body was discovered off the coast of Norway, and based on its personal belongings it was identified as Rudolph Diesel. What actually happened is a mystery even to this day. The most plausible explanation is suicide, but some say that he was thrown overboard. The German military wanted the exclusive rights to his invention, but he was actually on his way to England to talk about using his engine in British submarines. Nevertheless, after his death his wife opened a bag which contained 200,000 German marks in cash, or roughly $1.2 million in today’s currency, as well as several financial statements indicating that their bank accounts were empty. Moreover, Diesel’s last entry in his personal journal, dated on the 29th of September, had a cross marked on it, indicating his own death.

1. Nachos

Not really a traditional Mexican food, nachos are considered to be a Tex-Mex dish invented in the small Mexican town of Piedras Negras, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, Texas (though the origin has been disputed some over the years). This story of the nacho goes back to 1943, when a group of US army wives, whose husbands were stationed at the nearby Fort Duncan military base, were shopping in Eagle Pass. At the end of the day, they decided to have something to eat but realized that all the restaurants were closed. They then crossed the border into Mexico, hoping to find something there. At the Victory Club in Piedras Negras, the maitre d’, Ignacio Anaya, took pity on the hungry ladies and decided to make them something with whatever he found in the kitchen. Ignacio took some tortilla chips, fried and covered them with sliced jalapeños and shredded cheddar, and then put them in the oven for several minutes. He then served his newly-invented dish, calling it by his own nickname, Nacho – hence the name Nacho’s Especiales, or “Nacho’s specials.”

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In 1954, the recipe made it into an Eagle Pass church cookbook and by 1960, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya tried to claim ownership over his invention, but it proved too difficult. The lawyer advising him told Ignacio that “…there’s not much you can do after 17 years. It’s in the public domain.” Nevertheless, his son, Ignacio Anaya Jr, now living in Eagle Pass, is keeping his father’s legacy alive by acting as a judge during the annual nacho competition in Piedras Negras. Every year, October 21 is the International Day of the Nacho.


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