5 Famous Things That Were Named After Awful People
We often name stuff in recognition of the people who invented or discovered it, like how we named the algorithm after Al Gore, or our great nation after America Ferrera. But just because someone is significant enough to be "eponymous" (a word itself named after Kevin Eponym), that doesn't mean they're exactly a role model. Look at how ...
Dewey (Of The Decimal System) Was Kicked Out Of His Own Association For Sexual Misconduct
The Dewey Decimal System was named after one Mr. Dewey, obviously. Melvil Dewey was actually born "Melville Dewey," but later legally changed his name to remove some of the redundant letters, perhaps the first sign that not all was normal with him. Or maybe the first sign was how when he was five years old, he alphabetized the spices in his mother's cupboard. At the time this was called being precocious; today we refer to this as obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.
Dewey was especially obsessed with the number 10, which led him to eventually create his decimal system. He founded the American Library Association and became its president multiple times. But his biggest flaw, colleagues said, was his "persistent inability to control himself around women." When he ran a school at Columbia College, he required that all female applicants provide a photo, and the reasoning he gave was "You cannot polish a pumpkin!" I have no idea what this means, but it somehow sounds dirtier than if he'd simply referred to his penis directly.
On an ALA-sponsored trip to Alaska, he made unwelcome advances on four separate librarians. They spoke up, and the organization agreed to push him out. The only possible excuse -- that "All librarians are down to clown, haven't you ever seen a porno?" -- was rejected because it was 1905 and none of said pornos had been made yet. Yeah, this happened in 1905. Considering how much leeway men had for sexual harassment back then, think about how unwelcome those advances of his must have been to get him actual repercussions, and from the very organization he'd founded.
Dewey's daughter-in-law once fled his house to avoid his overtures, and he was still settling sexual harassment suits at the age of 78. That doesn't mean anyone's going to yank his name off the Decimal System anytime soon to punish him, but this past June, the ALA did vote to rename their Melvil Dewey Medal. Because of all the sexual misconduct. Also because of all his racism and antisemitism.
Asperger Sent "Unfit" Children To Be Executed By The Nazis
Hans Asperger, best known for lending his name to Asperger's syndrome, worked as a doctor in Vienna during World War II, where he gave speeches to Nazis about distinguishing low-functioning patients from his more "promising" ones. However, that does not make him a bad person. The Gestapo were looking to round up disabled kids with or without Asperger's input, so he wasn't a villain for choosing which ones to send, any more than Sophie was a villain for making her infamous choice. You might even say Asperger categorized autism to save his patients from the Nazis.
At least, that was the official word on him for a long time. But then historians discovered that, separately from what he did with his own autistic patients, Asperger recommended children for euthanasia in a Nazi clinic that put 800 kids to death. These children weren't on any kind of kill list, but he ordered them killed anyway, reasoning that they were burdens on their parents and thus their dying would be best for everyone. Note that those parents had no say in the matter.
So why don't we rename Asperger's? Hans didn't invent the condition, after all, he just described it. And he wasn't even the first, as Soviet psychiatrist Grunya Sukhareva had done it two decades earlier. But there's no need for you to rush to start up that petition. As of 2013 and the DSM-V, the American Psychiatric Association has already gotten rid of "Asperger's" in favor of the broader "autism spectrum disorder." Which is a bit clunkier, but has the added bonus of not running you into a truly horrific story when you Google it.
Monterey Jack Is Named After A Cruel Landlord Who Didn't Invent It
Monterey Jack cheese is named for a Monterey man named Jack who sold cheese. David Jack, who later went by "David Jacks" because he thought that sounded cooler, moved to California during the Gold Rush. In preparation for his trip, he spent every last dollar he had on guns. Then he sold these guns in San Francisco at a massive markup to men looking to defend themselves and men whom the other men were looking to defend themselves against. Jack had no luck with prospecting, but he lent his gun money out at high interest rates, so he made out pretty well for himself.
Then he and a lawyer named Delos Ashley hatched a plot to make a whole lot more money. The city of Monterey had a claim on 50 square miles that California had bought from Mexico, and Ashley lent his services in ironing out the deal. In return he charged Monterey $1,000. That was more cash than the town actually had, so Ashley convinced them to auction the land off to pay their debt. They agreed, because though they'd rather keep the land, they knew they could still make a pretty huge profit, even after deducting Ashley's fee.
But Ashley arranged for the auction to come so quickly that no one attended but himself and Jack. With multiple bidders in attendance, there was no legal way to prevent the auction from happening, and Ashley won it by bidding ... $1,000. All of which went right back to him, for his legal fee. And he also now had a tract of land over twice the size of Manhattan, which he split with Jack for $500, as they'd planned. Monterey realized they'd been swindled -- they'd later refer to the con as "the Rape of Monterey" -- and sued all the way to the Supreme Court, but it was no use.
Jack became a brutal landlord, charging high rent, foreclosing often, and posting notices only in English to deceive Spanish speakers. He also seemed to believe he was entitled to all products created on his land, as though he were a feudal lord collecting goods from peasants. These products included queso blanco pais, a cheese made by the descendants of Spanish missionaries, which Jack figured he could market under his own name. And so we got Monterey Jack, as well as its variants dry Jack and pepper Jack. When you next put that white stuff in your mouth, picture Jack's smiling face, arms behind his head as you swallow his cheese.
Lord Sandwich Was A Corrupt Womanizer And A Failed Military Man
The sandwich was named for the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu. As the story goes, he wanted a way to eat beef without getting his fingers messy while playing cards. When people share this story, they neglect to ask the real question: Just how much gambling was this man doing for him to be the first guy to think of this? The answer is "so very, very much."
But he also held dozens of different government positions, always shuffled around due to accusations of corruption. Sandwich was commander-in-chief of the British Navy during the Revolutionary War, which should be reason enough for every patriot to hate him. "Americans are raw, undisciplined and cowardly," he said. He then had his ass thoroughly handed to him, and Britain blamed him for the fleet's bad state and England's loss.
And you might have heard of a famous exchange, which goes something like "You'll die either by the gallows or the pox," followed by the response "That depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." It's been attributed to just about everyone (both speakers were Winston Churchill, according to various sources), but the man getting burned in that exchange was in fact Lord Sandwich. He did have bad principles, and he did have a famous mistress. Her name was Martha Ray, and she bore him nine children, five of whom survived.
Martha was a singer, and Sandwich started his affair with her when she was only 17. To make this easier for all, he'd first shut his wife away in castle, labeling her mad. Actually, that may not have been easier for the wife. He put Martha up in a house of her own, and he introduced her to a man he'd met in the military, James Hackman. Hackman became obsessed with Martha, and Sandwich continued encouraging him to visit her. Then on April 7, 1779, when Martha was at the opera, Hackman took out a gun and murdered her. Sandwich himself died a decade later, and it was said that his epitaph should read "Seldom has any man held so many offices and accomplished so little."
Mr. Masochism Dominated His Wife, And Not In The Fun Way
Sadism and masochism, the peanut butter and chocolate of sex, are both named after people. Sadism gets its name from the Marquis de Sade, who's pretty famous for his sexual exploits. Masochism is named for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, who's a little less well known. Leopold signed a contract with his mistress, making him her sexual slave, so it seems to go without saying that he was what you'd call submissive. But the truth is a little more complicated than that. You know how sadism in the bedroom is perfectly fine if your partner is up for it, but otherwise not so much? Masochism is much the same. And aside from his mistress, Masoch had a wife, Aurora von Ruemelin, and she was not at all OK with catering to Masoch's desire for pain.
Masoch had written a book about his sexual adventures with his mistress, and named the main character "Wanda." Afterward, he made Aurora take the name Wanda, even though "Aurora" is clearly the more exotic sex name. He made her dress solely in fur and whip him while he was naked, which she wasn't into at all. Masoch also pushed her to take additional lovers on the side. Which is, again, fine if you're down with it, but rather alarming if you're not.
Aurora eventually published a tell-all titled The Confessions Of Wanda Von Sacher-Masoch, in which she called her entire marriage "misery" and said all those sexual acts were performed under duress. She also spoke out against marriage in general, saying "the feminist movement" should "sweep away all of this old rotten institution." Eventually, Leopold left her for their daughter's governess without divorcing her. Given that Aurora said things like "Women need to have a master to worship," let's hope she found someone more suitable for her. The Marquis de Sade, for instance.
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