10 Cats Who Made History


10
F.D.C. Willard, Physics Paper Author
A Siamese like this one co-authored a physics paper. BSIP/Getty Images

Michigan State professor Jack Hetherington was in a bind. He had just finished typing a physics paper (that would later become quite influential) when a colleague noted he had used the royal "we" throughout the article. Hetherington planned to submit it to Physical Review Letters for publication, but that periodical had strict rules regarding authorship. If an article used plural words such as "we," it had to have two or more people listed as the authors.

As it was 1975, this was quite problematic; changing all of those "we's" to "I's" via typewriter would be a Herculean task. So, Hetherington decided his Siamese cat, Chester, would become his co-author. But Chester needed a more formal and complete name, so Hetherington dubbed him F.D.C. Willard. The scientist came up with "F.D.C." from "Felix Domesticus, Chester" and chose the surname "Willard" because that was the name of Chester's dad. Voilà – Chester was now the co-author of a prestigious physics paper [source: Grundhauser].

Chester's true identity was soon discovered when a visitor stopped at Michigan State to meet the authors. Fortuitously for Hetherington, university officials weren't upset over the deception. In fact, they liked the idea of Chester becoming a feline physics mascot. Editors around the nation weren't amused by the prank, however, presumably including the editors of Physical Review Letters, which had unknowingly published the piece.

Willard/Chester went on to solo-author another physics paper in 1980, though we suspect his owner might have given just a little help — at least with the typing.

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