Being an inventor is all fine and good, but if no one knows what you invented, then it won’t do you much good. You have to get the word out about your creation. Part of that involves coming up with a good name for your invention as well. Something catchy that will stick in people’s minds. And if you’re thinking of naming it after yourself to capitalize on your invention’s popularity and go down in history like Henry Ford, for instance, you may want to think again. Plenty of inventors named things after themselves and were still promptly forgotten, even if their invention has lived on.
10. Junkers Planes Were Named For Hugo Junkers
Have you ever heard of an airplane called a junker? Right away, whether or not you’ve heard of it, you’re probably thinking it’s a piece of crap. It’s called a junker, that means junk right? Unfortunately for Hugo Junkers, that’s not true.
The actual name of these planes are Junkers, after the inventor. But many people mistake that for the plural of Junker. The Junkers F13 was the first all-metal aircraft that could carry passengers. It was made back in 1913.
Hugo Junkers made my innovations in civil aviation and is one of the most important founders in the aviation world. He contributed to both military and civil aviation and the work he did is still part of the aviation world today. It’s just that few people outside of the industry know his story and when they hear the name, they often mistake it for a criticism.
9. Shrapnel is Named For Henry Shrapnel
Most everyone has probably heard of shrapnel before. It refers to fragments of something that has exploded, usually a bomb, but could even be from a gunshot or some other explosion that has sent pieces of dangerous debris flying. Those pieces are shrapnel.
Because shrapnel can be formed from almost anything, most of us wouldn’t consider it an invention. It’s not like someone went out there and made all of those little pieces themselves. However, someone had to come up with the concept. That’s where Henry Shrapnel comes in.
Shrapnel was born in 1761 and was a soldier. He specialized in artillery and, to not put too fine a point on it, horrible ways to hurt people. He invented a kind of artillery shell that would explode before impact and spread smaller projectiles over an area. Modern anti-personnel bombs are made using this concept, devices filled with things like ball bearings or nails that maim and kill in a much larger area than a single explosion by itself would.
8. Nachos Were Named for Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya
About 20% of restaurants have nachos on the menu and they’ve been a staple since they debuted all the way back in 1943. A man named Ignacio Anaya was working at a restaurant called Club Victoria when some customers came in to order food. It may have been an odd time of day but, for whatever reason, the ingredients for the normal menu items were not on hand. Anaya, who was the kitchen manager, made up something on a whim – tortillas cut into chips then fried and topped with jalapenos and grated cheese. He put them under a broiler to melt the cheese and called it nachos especial or Nacho’s Special. Why? Because Nacho was his nickname, a shortened form of his real name Ignacio.
The customers loved it, and soon it spread to other nearby restaurants. Within a few years recipes were being shared in cookbooks. Nacho’s became nachos, and it was soon forgotten that the word referred to a man and not the chips.
7. Pap Smear Was Named After a Man
A pap test or pap smear is a test that involves scraping cells from a woman’s cervix to look for abnormalities which can help diagnose cervical cancer. It’s a very important test that is recommended for all women in their 20s at least once every three years.
The test, if you’ve never experienced one, is as uncomfortable as it sounds. Not necessarily painful, though it can be, but not pleasant, either. What most people don’t think about is the name. What the heck is a pap and why is it being smeared?
The full name is Papanicolaou test. That name comes from George Papanicolaou, the man who invented the test. Papanicolaou was born in Greece in 1883 and went through more jobs than seems entirely normal for a historically famous doctor. He was a doctor, of course, but also a rug salesperson, a violinist, a soldier, a zoologist and more.
In America his medical work was with guinea pigs where he discovered he could use a smear of their vaginal secretions to determine their reproductive cycles. He started similar work on humans and discovered he could detect abnormalities that were precursors to cancer. And the rest is history.
6. Popsicles Are Technically Named After Frank Epperson
In the dog days of summer, few things are more refreshing than a frosty, sweet popsicle. Some people just call these ice pops. Because of that, the name sounds pretty generic. Sicle is like an icicle, we all get that. Pop because it’s a pop, right? But what the hell is a pop?
Popsicles were invented by 11-year-old Frank Epperson. Right away you may question how they’re named after him but hold up, it’ll make sense in a moment.
According to legend, Frank had been stirring a drink with a stick but forgot it on the porch on a frosty night and it froze. When he found it later, it was a frozen treat with its own handle and thus history was made. But he was 11, so it didn’t go anywhere. By the time he patented the idea as an adult, no one else had thought of it so he named them Eppsicles. Gross.
His kids agreed. No one wanted to eat an Eppsicle, and they never called it that. They called them popsicles because they were pop’s cicles, as in “Hey pop, make me one of your cicles.” So even though it’s not his given name, their pop took their advice and changed it.
5. The Saxophone Was Named After Adolphe Sax
Most of the instruments used in modern music date back a long time. Guitar, the word, can be traced all the way back to Greek origins and was even then used to describe a stringed instrument. The name “drum” goes back to the 15th century and may be from Middle Dutch, where it seems to have onomatopoeic origins. And then there’s the saxophone.
The saxophone only dates back to 1846 when it was patented by Adolphe Sax. The son of an instrument maker, Sax had been surrounded by instruments much of his life, so inventing a new one seemed natural. His creation was meant to be an improvement on the bass clarinet.
Despite the popularity of his namesake instrument, and even the resurrection of his company, Sax made very little money in his life and friends had to petition the government for financial aid on his behalf in the year that he died.
4. James Salisbury Gave Us the Salisbury Steak
Walk down any frozen food aisle in any grocery store in America and you will doubtlessly find at least a half dozen kinds of Salisbury steak, usually in TV dinners. Once upon a time this food was so popular you could get it in cans and was even part of a health-food craze in the late 1800s.
Salisbury steak was invented by Dr. James Salisbury, part of his plan to treat soldiers during the Civil War. Salisbury was an early proponent of germ theory and also diet being linked to health. Not novel ideas today but they were back then.
During the Civil War, stomach ailments were not just annoying, they were deadly. Salisbury proposed beefsteak and coffee as a cure-all and the Salisbury Steak was born. Part of the genius of the steak was that it was grilled. Salisbury was promoting protein as having health benefits and his beef patty, because it was grilled instead of boiled like most other meats of the day, kept all of its B vitamins and really was healthier than other dishes at the time.
It got a tremendous boost during World War One when no one wanted to eat the German-sounding “Hamburg” steak and everything was renamed for Salisbury, making Salisbury steak a part of the language and culture ever since. Even to this day, soldiers eat Salisbury steak or something like it when deployed.
3. Ritalin Was Named After the Inventor’s Wife
Of all the products you expect to be named for a person, a prescription medication popularly used to treat ADHD probably isn’t one of them. Most modern drugs tend to have gibberish sounding names. There’s a whole process behind giving drugs a brand name that involves ensuring it doesn’t sound like another drug on the market, it can’t make the drug sound better or more effective than another drug, and so on.
Ritalin would probably still pass those rules today, but it didn’t need to since it was developed back in the 1940s. The proper name for it is methylphenidate, but that’s a mouthful so Ritalin became the brand name that was chosen by Leandro Panizzon, the man who both created and self-tested it.
Panizzon didn’t just try the drug himself, he gave it to his wife Marguerite. She played tennis and found that the drug helped improve her game. The results were very quick, something Ritalin is known for, and it proved to Panizzon that he had come up with something worthwhile. In honor of his wife’s help in testing, he named it after her, using her nickname Rita.
2. Ben Gay Was Invented By Jules Bengue
Bengay is a pain relieving cream meant to treat muscle and joint pain. You rub some in; it warms up; you feel pain relief. It’s been around since the late 1800s as well. The unusual name and the age are probably the reason many people aren’t aware it was named after the man who created it. More or less.
The original Bengay formula was created by Dr. Jules Bengue, a French physician. It was marketed in France for years before the doctor took the formulation to the United States. From 1898 until 1933 it was sold as “Baume Analgesique Bengue ” or “Analgesique Baume” or other similar names. In 1933 the words “Ben-Gay” were added underneath, seemingly to aid Americans with the French pronunciation of the doctor’s name.
Eventually Ben-Gay became the only name, with a smaller description of it as an analgesic balm, and finally the name was changed to the unhyphenated Bengay that is on the labels today.
1. M&M’s are Named for Their Creator and Investor
M&M’s are one of the most popular candies in the world and, so the story goes, were inspired by candies eaten by soldiers during the Spanish Civil War. Nowadays the Mars company makes 400 million of the little chocolates every single day. They come in many varieties including plain, peanut, almond, crispy, coconut, mint, dark chocolate, white chocolate and more. Each one is stamped with the instantly recognizable “M” on the candy shell. So what do those Ms mean?
Each M is the initial of a different person. One is Forrest Mars, son of Frank Mars who founded the Mars candy company. The other is Bruce Murrie, son of the founder of Hershey’s, who invested in Mars. They teamed up to make M&Ms and the candy is named, or at least initialed, in their honor.