10 inventions named after people
Inventors’ Day is celebrated on different days in many countries to recognize the contributions of inventors. In the US, the event falls on 11 February – the anniversary of Thomas Edison’s birth. We would like to take this occasion to explore the linguistic contributions of inventors to the English language. Browse our list below to find out which things were named after the people who invented them.
This iconic hard felt hat is named after William Bowler, the English hatter who created it in 1850. It is believed that Edward Coke, the younger brother of the 2nd Earl of Leicester, initially commissioned the design for his gamekeepers who needed to protect their heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback.
The term boycott entered the English language during the Irish Land War to denote a withdrawal from ‘commercial or social relations with a country, organization, or person as a punishment or protest’. It comes from the name of Captain Charles Boycott, a land agent in Ireland, who was a prominent early recipient of such treatment with the encouragement of the Irish Land League in the autumn of 1880.
It was the French educator Louis Braille who gave his name to a form of written language for the blind or visually impaired – now simply known as Braille. Interestingly, Braille devised the system after learning of the military cryptography of French Army Captain Charles Barbier. The officer had come up with a code of dots impressed on paper that allowed soldiers to communicate in the dark.
French-born German engineer Rudolf Diesel is credited with inventing the diesel engine (also known simply as diesel). He patented the design for a new, more efficient internal-combustion engine in 1892; the first prototype was exhibited in 1897.
The original Ferris wheel was constructed by the American engineer George W. G. Ferris. It was opened at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 as the largest attraction with a height of 80.4 metres, intended to rival the centrepiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition – the Eiffel Tower.
In 1947, the Russian lieutenant and small arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov created a sub-machine gun for the Soviet Army. The AK-47, short for Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, or simply Kalashnikov, went on to become the standard issue assault rifle of the Red Army.
This wide-mouthed glass jar, commonly also referred to as Mason, was created by the American tinsmith John Landis Mason, who was granted a US patent in 1858. Sadly his invention didn’t make him rich – Mason died in poverty in 1902.
German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri was working at the Kaiserliches Gesundheitsamt (Imperial Health Office) in Berlin from 1877 to 1879 as an assistant to Robert Koch when he invented a transparent dish used for the culture of microorganisms – the Petri dish.
Pilates – a system of exercises using special apparatus – got its name from Joseph Pilates, a German-born physical fitness specialist. He developed the system in the UK and US during the first half of the 20th century after having studied both Eastern and Western forms of exercise.