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The First Time News Was Fit To Print, XII

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Every Monday, mental_floss ventures into the The New York Times archives to find first mentions worth mentioning. Leave your Volume XIII suggestions in the comments.

ARPANET

June 24, 1975

Aide Says Pentagon Computers Aren't Used To Check Citizens
departmentofdefense.jpgDefense Department officials acknowledged today that they operated a number of computers but they said that none of them were used to hold files on American citizens.

One of the biggest Pentagon computer networks is called ARPANET and D.O. Cooke, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, told a hearing of two Senate subcommittees:

"Let me emphasize that it is not a 'secret' network, that it is used for scientific research purposes, that it contains no sociological or intelligence data on personalities, and that it is a marvel in many ways. But it simply does not fit the Orwellian mold attributed to it."

Lee Harvey Oswald

November 3, 1959

oswald.jpgAmerican Awaits Soviet Word
Lee Harvey Oswald shut himself in his hotel room today to await a decision on his request for Soviet citizenship. Mr. Oswald, a former Marine from Fort Worth, Texas, turned in his American passport to the United States Embassy here [in Moscow] last week-end. "I am awaiting a reply from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet on my application for citizenship and have nothing to say meanwhile," he said over the telephone.

Jerry Seinfeld

March 30, 1979

Funny Finalists Stand Up For Laughs
seinfeld.jpg"The Big Laff Off," 40 stand-up comedians, some of them professionals only in the sense that they had had a few small club dates, most of them amateurs, some of them walk-on novices, performing over six nights in the last two weeks at the city's comedy cabarets, the Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star, and the Improvisation.
* * * * *
The Comic Strip's regular master of ceremonies, Jerry Seinfeld, will be there Monday discussing the complexities of "those little hangers they have for socks" and how embarrassed he is when he has to go to Disneyland, "because all those movable dolls know more than me."

Keep reading for Seinfeld (the show), the iPhone (not the one you waited in line for), Labrador retriever, Don Mattingly, Lorne Michaels and more.

The Seinfeld Chronicles

June 28, 1989

Stand-Up Comics Bloster Sitcoms
jerry.jpgNext week, on Wednesday at 9:30, NBC is presenting The Seinfeld Chronicles, starring Jerry Seinfeld, another rising star in the stand-up arena. Clean-cut and boyish, Mr. Seinfeld takes an offbeat approach to the common functions of everyday life "“ a shower or doing the laundry. In this half-hour special, written by Larry David and directed by Art Wolff (The Tracey Ullman Show), he plays himself, coping with little crises in his private life and transforming them into material for his stand-up routines. The jokes will be familiar to anyone who has seen his cable comedy specials. NBC will be closely monitoring reaction to next week's broadcast.

Labrador Retriever

May 3, 1914

Dog As Caddy: Scarcity Of Boys Causes Innovation
On English Golf Links

remote.jpg An innovation has lately been made by a player on the Tyneside golf course at Rytown, which is likely to be adopted on other courses, particularly where engaged couples like to indulge in the game without human observers. At Rytown, in order to overcome difficulties created by a scarcity of caddies, the player in question trained his dog, a Labrador retriever, to carry his clubs and hunt for lost balls.
* * * * *
"From every point of view the dog is so much the superior of the boy as a caddy that I expect to see dogs used universally in the future. With a dog as your caddy there is no one to hear you swear and no one to make fun of your play."

[Note: The phrase "Labrador Retrievers" (plural) was used once before, in March of 1914. This was funnier.]

iPhone

December 15, 1997

Cyberspace Cutting Edge Seems Pretty Dull
iPhone-Cidco.jpgIt sure was big, whatever it was. More than 65,000 people last week jammed into the Javits Center to attend Internet World, which has become one of the nation's largest trade shows.

But unlike other huge industry events, most notably Comdex, there was less sense that any particular development was revolutionary than that it was time to pay attention to make the reality of switches and networks live up to the dreamy prognostications of techno-utopians.
* * * * *
Many of the 600 exhibitors focused on hardware, software and services of use to those putting together Web sites. Hot categories included programs to serve as hosts for catalogs and take payments for goods and services on line.

Several specialized hardware devices were introduced. For example, Cidco, a telephone accessory maker introduced the iPhone, a $500 telephone with a black-and-white screen that can be used for surfing the World Wide Web. And Encanto began selling a $1,000 all-inclusive device that small business can use to be host of their own Web sites.

Don Mattingly

September 2, 1980

Yankee Hopefuls Face Crossroad At Greensboro
mattingly1.jpgDon Mattingly, a 19-year-old outfielder from Evansville, Ind., hit in the vicinity of .370. He has a knack for turning fastballs into line drives. Mattingly's fielding has been questionable, but he improved after working with Ken Berry, the two-time Gold Glove winner who is now a Hornet coach.
* * * * *
Kim Mattingly, 17, left high school to marry Don....Being married to a minor league player is lonely, Kim says. There are so many bus trips and so many days with nothing to do. Some of the wives look forward to the games as much as the players do. Kim Mattingly likes to get out and walk around the stadium and talk to fans and the wives and girlfriends of other players. She says she realizes that hers is strictly a supporting role to her husband. "When he's happy, I'm happy," she says. "When he goes 0 for 8, then he gets grumpy and he's grumpy to me too."

"Vote With Your Feet"

January 17, 1976

Reagan.jpgReagan Says Plan Could Harm Needy
Ronald Reagan said today that the poor and minorities living in states resistant to social action might have to migrate elsewhere if these states failed to substitute adequate welfare programs for the Federal ones he would like to eliminate.

"You can vote with your feet in this country," he declared in a campaign swing through the countryside of southern New Hampshire. "If a state is mismanaged, you can move elsewhere."

Lorne Michaels

April 23, 1975

New Comedy Series Due Oct. 11 On NBC
A new 90-minute series designed as an outlet for young comedians was announced by NBC-TV yesterday for Saturday nights at 11:30. Entitled Saturday Night, the program is scheduled to premier Oct. 11, replacing the Saturday reruns of Tonight....An NBC spokesman said the time had been chosen because the routines of many of the new comics were too sophisticated for general audiences.

Saturday Night will be produced by Lorne Michaels, who has been a comedy writer for the Monty Python and Laugh-In series and a producer of the Lily Tomlin and Flip Wilson specials.

Previously on The First Time News Was Fit To Print:

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Jon Stewart and the iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, McDonald's
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg

T.jpgYou need not rely on us to find The First Time News Was Fit To Print. Get complete access to the The New York Times archives when you become an NYT subscriber.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
A Chinese Museum Is Offering Cash to Whoever Can Decipher These 3000-Year-Old Inscriptions

During the 19th century, farmers in China’s Henan Province began discovering oracle bones—engraved ox scapulae and tortoise shells used by Shang Dynasty leaders for record-keeping and divination purposes—while plowing their fields. More bones were excavated in subsequent years, and their inscriptions were revealed to be the earliest known form of systematic writing in East Asia. But over the decades, scholars still haven’t come close to cracking half of the mysterious script’s roughly 5000 characters—which is why one Chinese museum is asking member of the public for help, in exchange for a generous cash reward.

As Atlas Obscura reports, the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, Henan Province has offered to pay citizen researchers about $15,000 for each unknown character translated, and $7500 if they provide a disputed character’s definitive meaning. Submissions must be supported with evidence, and reviewed by at least two language specialists.

The museum began farming out their oracle bone translation efforts in Fall 2016. The costly ongoing project has hit a stalemate, and scholars hope that the public’s collective smarts—combined with new advances in technology, including cloud computing and big data—will yield new information and save them research money.

As of today, more than 200,000 oracle bones have been discovered—around 50,000 of which bear text—so scholars still have a lot to learn about the Shang Dynasty. Many of the ancient script's characters are difficult to verify, as they represent places and people from long ago. However, decoding even just one character could lead to a substantial breakthrough, experts say: "If we interpret a noun or a verb, it can bring many scripts on oracle bones to life, and we can understand ancient history better,” Chinese history professor Zhu Yanmin told the South China Morning Post.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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6 Eponyms Named After the Wrong Person
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Salmonella species growing on agar.

Having something named after you is the ultimate accomplishment for any inventor, mathematician, scientist, or researcher. Unfortunately, the credit for an invention or discovery does not always go to the correct person—senior colleagues sometimes snatch the glory, fakers pull the wool over people's eyes, or the fickle general public just latches onto the wrong name.

1. SALMONELLA (OR SMITHELLA?)

In 1885, while investigating common livestock diseases at the Bureau of Animal Industry in Washington, D.C., pathologist Theobald Smith first isolated the salmonella bacteria in pigs suffering from hog cholera. Smith’s research finally identified the bacteria responsible for one of the most common causes of food poisoning in humans. Unfortunately, Smith’s limelight-grabbing supervisor, Daniel E. Salmon, insisted on taking sole credit for the discovery. As a result, the bacteria was named after him. Don’t feel too sorry for Theobald Smith, though: He soon emerged from Salmon’s shadow, going on to make the important discovery that ticks could be a vector in the spread of disease, among other achievements.

2. AMERICA (OR COLUMBIANA?)

An etching of Amerigo Vespucci
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Florentine explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1451–1512) claimed to have made numerous voyages to the New World, the first in 1497, before Columbus. Textual evidence suggests Vespucci did take part in a number of expeditions across the Atlantic, but generally does not support the idea that he set eyes on the New World before Columbus. Nevertheless, Vespucci’s accounts of his voyages—which today read as far-fetched—were hugely popular and translated into many languages. As a result, when German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was drawing his map of the Novus Mundi (or New World) in 1507 he marked it with the name "America" in Vespucci’s honor. He later regretted the choice, omitting the name from future maps, but it was too late, and the name stuck.

3. BLOOMERS (OR MILLERS?)

A black and white image of young women wearing bloomers
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Dress reform became a big issue in mid-19th century America, when women were restricted by long, heavy skirts that dragged in the mud and made any sort of physical activity difficult. Women’s rights activist Elizabeth Smith Miller was inspired by traditional Turkish dress to begin wearing loose trousers gathered at the ankle underneath a shorter skirt. Miller’s new outfit immediately caused a splash, with some decrying it as scandalous and others inspired to adopt the garb.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was editor of the women’s temperance journal The Lily, and she took to copying Miller’s style of dress. She was so impressed with the new freedom it gave her that she began promoting the “reform dress” in her magazine, printing patterns so others might make their own. Bloomer sported the dress when she spoke at events and soon the press began to associate the outfit with her, dubbing it “Bloomer’s costume.” The name stuck.

4. GUILLOTINE (OR LOUISETTE?)

Execution machines had been known prior to the French Revolution, but they were refined after Paris physician and politician Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin suggested they might be a more humane form of execution than the usual methods (hanging, burning alive, etc.). The first guillotine was actually designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, Secretary of the Academy of Surgery, and was known as a louisette. The quick and efficient machine was quickly adopted as the main method of execution in revolutionary France, and as the bodies piled up the public began to refer to it as la guillotine, for the man who first suggested its use. Guillotin was very distressed at the association, and when he died in 1814 his family asked the French government to change the name of the hated machine. The government refused and so the family changed their name instead to escape the dreadful association.

5. BECHDEL TEST (OR WALLACE TEST?)

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel
Steve Jennings/Getty Images

The Bechdel Test is a tool to highlight gender inequality in film, television, and fiction. The idea is that in order to pass the test, the movie, show, or book in question must include at least one scene in which two women have a conversation that isn’t about a man. The test was popularized by the cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and has since become known by her name. However, Bechdel asserts that the idea originated with her friend Lisa Wallace (and was also inspired by the writer Virginia Woolf), and she would prefer for it to be known as the Bechdel-Wallace test.

6. STIGLER’S LAW OF EPONYMY (OR MERTON’S LAW?)

Influential sociologist Robert K. Merton suggested the idea of the “Matthew Effect” in a 1968 paper noting that senior colleagues who are already famous tend to get the credit for their junior colleagues’ discoveries. (Merton named his phenomenon [PDF] after the parable of talents in the Gospel of Matthew, in which wise servants invest money their master has given them.)

Merton was a well-respected academic, and when he was due to retire in 1979, a book of essays celebrating his work was proposed. One person who contributed an essay was University of Chicago professor of statistics Stephen Stigler, who had corresponded with Merton about his ideas. Stigler decided to pen an essay that celebrated and proved Merton’s theory. As a result, he took Merton’s idea and created Stigler’s Law of Eponymy, which states that “No scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer”—the joke being that Stigler himself was taking Merton’s own theory and naming it after himself. To further prove the rule, the “new” law has been adopted by the academic community, and a number of papers and articles have since been written on "Stigler’s Law."

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