Saturday, 6 October 2018

E is for Eponym

Science Week is looming over the horizon again 11th-17th November. Same time last year one of the spritely and enthusiastic engineers at The Institute owned the opportunity, secured a small grant from Science Foundation Ireland SFI, and convened a committee to make something happen. One idea that surfaced was to rent-a-geodesic-dome and fill it with posters illustrating famous and inspiring Irish scientists. This was like a pub quiz to me or mud-wallow to a pig. In addition to my assigned brief-bio [Jocelyn Bell Burnell] I did two extra posters which hadn't made the list [Denis Burkitt] and [Maude Delap] . . . because I could. Not everyone else had 5 years of Blobs to data-mine for such tasks.

Spritely the Engineer made quite a lot of noise about the metrics of the process. He created a pre-Questionnaire soliciting Joe Public for the gaps in their engagement with science; and a post-Questionnaire asking how The Institute's events had impacted on their status quo ante. After some months he announced that the level of feedback was the highest in the country. A large part of this was because he hectored and begged and bullied us all into a) responding b) getting our cousinage to respond c) responding again with a different name etc. Whatever about gaming the system, the upshot was that, a couple of months ago, SFI gave us even more money for SciWeek2018. As ever, the money came with strings: we had to be yet more inclusive especially wrt to women-in-science; and, on the icons and inspiration front, we had to look beyond Ireland to Europe.

When I got back to my desk after the "scoping and ideation meeting" [no kidding: that's how some people call others to arms], I started to think about which European scientists, living or dead, would be a) interesting for Jane Public to hear about and b) would give additional ooomph to a youngster-in-science. My first ideation-and-scope was to list all the lads who had given their names to units of scientific measurement:
James Watt = Alessandro Volta x André-Marie Ampère [power = electric potential x current].  That was a) all men except for [Marie] Curie = Ci =  radioactive decays per second b) rather limited, c) rather obvious. Then I started on Things Eponymous: items in the physical, chemical or biological world that had been attached to a named person - often their discoverer or describer. Down Syndrome; Boyle's Law; Bell's Palsy; Guillain–Barré syndrome etc. Suddenly I twigged that I could make an alphabet of these which requires a chunk of research, yes, but is a finite project.

I couldn't find anything for X although we could fake it with Katherine Lonsdale and X-ray or Dorothy Hodgkin and X-ray. And I know Y is a fudge because I have a Y person Thomas Young but not a Y thing. The answer is Young's modulus: a measure of a material's stiffness.
A is for area I is for islets Q is for quadrant
B is for bundle J is for joint R is for reflex
C is for cat K is for knot S is for score
D is for disease L is for lymphoma T is for tube
E is for effect M is for mimicry U is for unit
F is for fibres N is for number V is for virus
G is for gland O is for oval W is for wheel
H is for hammers P is for principle Z is for zone
Here's a little task. For each and all of the items in the table, associate its first letter with one-and-only-one of the scientists listed below
Thomas Addison [__]; Virginia Apgar [__]; Amadeo Avogadro [__]; Yvonne Barr [__]; Paul Broca [__]; Giovanni Cassini [__]; Henry Clutton [__]; William Cowper [__]; John Davis [__]; Loránd Eötvös [__]; Gabriele Falloppio [__]; George Ferris [__]; Wilhelm His [__]; Thomas Hodgkin [__]; Paul Langerhans [__]; Gérard Marchand [__]; Robert Mertens [__]; Ernst Moro [__]; Vilfredo Pareto [__]; Karl Prusik [__]; Jan Purkinje [__]; Pythagoras Pythagoras [__]; Erwin Schrödinger [__]; Theodor Svedberg

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