Monday, January 27, 2014


Here’s something you don’t hear every day: Ten of the world’s top crime writers are competing to see who gets to have a morgue named after them. Yup. A morgue.

It’s part of the “Million for a Morgue” campaign to help Scotland’s University of Dundee raise funds for a new research facility at the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification. Fans can go the Million for a Morgue website, donate money and make their vote count. The competition closes once one million pounds have been raised, and the writer with the most votes—whether it’s Tess Gerritsen, Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver, Jeff Lindsay, Stuart MacBride, Peter James, or Val McDermid—gets immortalized (unlike the corpses stored therein).

Which got me thinking: What other things have been named after authors?

It can be a somewhat tricky excursion into the facts. For instance, there is widespread speculation that the Oh Henry! candy bar was named for William Sydney Porter, who wrote under the pseudonym O. Henry. Not true. Apparently, it was named for a boy who frequented the company store and was often asked—“Oh, Henry!”—to perform odd jobs.

But for this installment of the Why Not 100, I did manage to locate 22 pretty darn cool (and a few pretty darn curious) entities—from beers to butterflies and from whales to words—named after authors.

I’ll rank them, too, roughly according to the impressiveness of the honor:

1. A dinosaur (Michael Crichton)

I mean, c’mon. A dinosaur? Imagine the wonder on the face of any eight-year-old boy if you told him that someday somebody was going to name a prehistoric beast after him. An ankylosaur species, discovered somewhat recently and formally described by a Chinese paleontologist, was named in honor of the author of Jurassic Park. So while the beast may be extinct, it is forever immortalized as a Crichtonsaurus.

2. A whale (Herman Melville)

This is a close second because it’s similar—a massive beast, now extinct. In 2010, scientist discovered an ancient whale who chomped huge chunks of flesh from other whales millions of years ago. It grew up to 60 feet long and sported tusk-like teeth. Along with whales, it liked to dine on sharks and dolphins. Pointing out that the author of Moby Dick included a chapter about fossils (the whale’s skull was found in the Peruvian desert) and made frequent digressions into natural history, researchers named it Leviathin melvillei. As one UCLA paleontologist put it, “You gotta love any time you get a nod to literature in taxonomy. It was a big whale, so why not?"

3. A giant tree (J.R.R. Tolkien)

There are a good many things throughout the world named after the master of Middle-Earth—from restaurants to streets to schooners. Many of them can be found in Tolkien’s native England. But nothing quite compares to the honor bestowed by Canada’s Wilderness Committee, which launched a campaign several years ago to force the Canadian government to take urgent action and ban old growth logging. Sounds a bit like re-taking Mirkwood or preserving Lorien, right? Well, in British Columbia’s upper Walbran Valley, one of Canada’s most massive trees—an ancient cedar measuring 15.7 feet in diameter—is named the Tolkien Giant.

4. A waterfall (the Bronte sisters)

Way back in 1854, Charlotte Bronte wrote about a waterfall—“a perfect torrent racing over the rocks, white and beautiful!” She and her sisters, Emily and Anne, loved that place, located just outside of the village of Haworth  in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. Now it has a name: Bronte Waterfalls.

5. An asteroid (Iain Banks)

In June 2013, the Committee for Small Body Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union gave asteroid 5099 an official name—Iainbanks. The late sci-fi master didn’t beat back cancer long enough to see it happen (his last novel, The Quarry, was recently released posthumously). But as one committee member put it, the asteroid—nearly four miles wide and residing in the Main Asteroid Belt of the Sol system—“will be referred to as such for as long as Earth Culture may endure.” My favorite part of the story is the official citation: "Iain M. Banks (1954-2013) was a Scottish writer best known for the Culture series of science fiction novels; he also wrote fiction as Iain Banks. An evangelical atheist and lover of whisky, he scorned social media and enjoyed writing music. He was an extra in Monty Python & The Holy Grail."

Pretty cool, right? But not actually uncommon. There are also minor planets named, for instance, Janeausten, Annefrank, Lewiscarroll, Cslewis, Tolkien, Kafka, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Jack London, Orwell, Dickens, Dahl, Clarke, Asimov, and Bradbury. And speaking of Bradbury…

6. A mars landing spot (Ray Bradbury)

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury’s classic collection of stories from the 1940s, imagined man's experiences on Mars (and interactions with the telepathic Martians). In “The Earth Men” he wrote, "The Martian desert lay broiling like a prehistoric mud-pot, waves of heat rising and shimmering. There was a small rocket-ship reclining upon a hilltop nearby." On August 22, 2012—which would have been Bradbury’s 92nd birthday—NASA paid homage to the science fiction author who died a couple of months earlier. The team overseeing Mars rover Curiosity tweeted, “In tribute, I dedicate my landing spot on Mars to you, Ray Bradbury. Greetings from Bradbury Landing!”

7. A Mercury crater (Madeleine L’Engle)

A whole bunch of big holes on Mercury have been named after writers. The list includes Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, Homer, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, Herman Melville, Pablo Neruda, Edgar Allen Poe, William Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Sophocles, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, William Butler Yeats, and Emile Zola. And in March 2013, the International Astronomical Union approved the latest names for nine impact craters on the planet closest to the sun. One of them is now forever known as L’Engle, in honor of the author of A Wrinkle in Time.

8. An airport (Ian Fleming)

Ian Fleming, the novelist who created James Bond, named his character after ornithologist James Bond, who allowed Fleming to use his Jamaica estate for writing. Fleming later purchased his own estate on the Caribbean island and named it Goldeneye. A few years ago, Jamaica completed upgraded and expanded an airport used primarily by private jets. It used to be known as the Boscobel Airstrip. It is now Ian Fleming International Airport.

9. A town (Rudyard Kipling)

There are a number of towns named after authors. And there are a number of locales named after the author of The Jungle Book, including a lake and a small village in England. But here’s what I like about this: There are actually two towns named after him on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—about 100 miles apart, each with a smattering of residents. One, about 30 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie, is called Rudyard. The other, at the head of Green Bay on the northern end of Lake Michigan, is Kipling. They were named by railroad general manager Frederick Underwood in honor of his favorite author, and Kipling loved it. In a thank-you note to Underwood, he wrote, “I write to beg you to send me a photograph if possible, of either Rudyard or Kipling or preferentially both. I shall take a deep interest in their little welfares.”

10. A Chicago neighborhood (Washington Irving)

I was born and raised in the Chicago area, and I never realized that Irving Park, the neighborhood on the northwest side of the city, was named after Washington Irving. It was named by a New Yorker named Charles Race, who bought the land and honored the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Still, I think I’d rather live in Loma Portal. It’s a neighborhood in the community of Point Loma, California. I’m not sure I’d like the fact that it’s one of those look-at-me neighborhoods that goes all out with holiday decorations. And I probably wouldn’t love the “Point Loma Pause” (all conversation tends to cease frequently because it’s in the takeoff flight path of a nearby airfield). But the streets—I’d love the streets. There are countless thoroughfares around the world named for authors. But in Loma Portal, the east-west streets are in alphabetical-author order: Alcott, Browing, Curtis, Dumas, Elliott, Freeman, Goldsmith, Homer, Ibsen, James, Kingsley, Lytton, Macauley, Newell, Oliphant, Poe, Quimby, Russell, Sterne, Tennyson, Udall, Voltaire, Whittier, Xenophon, Yonge, and Zola. A recent book was even published about all of them: Reading Between the Lampposts: The Literary Giants of Loma Portal. 

11. An elementary school (Maurice Sendak)

Lots of schools have been named after authors (in fact, schools in at least 16 states have been named for Mark Twain, even though that wasn’t even his real name).  But this one particularly makes me smile. In February 2013, a new elementary school in Brooklyn (P.S. 118) was named the Maurice Sendak Community School, in honor of the author who was born in Brooklyn and died about nine months earlier. The principal commented, “We want to be a place where kids are flexible thinkers, and they step outside of the box, and Maurice Sendak was known for his creativity.” Is there a more appropriate namesake for a school than a man who celebrated Wild Things?

12. A word (George Orwell)

I might argue that this should top the list. The works of certain authors have been so influential, offering such profoundly unique perspective, that their names have become eponymous—that is, the author has became an adjective. Technically, these words weren’t “named” for the authors. Rather, they evolved from the authors’ work. Still, a handful of authors are immortalized not only in the pages of their books, but also in the dictionary. When something is Kafkaesque, it is distinguished by a “nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.” A Dickensian tale is “reminiscent of the novels of Charles Dickens, especially in suggesting the poor social conditions or comically repulsive character that they portray.” And when the Ottawa Citizen recently ran a story about director Martin Scorcese and his tendency to make his movie villains likeable, the headline was: “Welcome to Scorcese’s Modern ‘Shakespearean” Masterworks.”

But I think one author eponym tops them all, and about a decade ago The New York Times felt the same way. Geoffrey Nunberg wrote, “On George Orwell's centenary—he was born on June 25, 1903—the most telling sign of his influence is the words he left us with: not just ‘thought police,’ ‘doublethink’ and ‘unperson,’ but also ‘Orwellian’ itself, the most widely used adjective derived from the name of a modern writer.” He adds that the word “brings to mind only sordid regimes of surveillance and thought control and the distortions of language that make them possible.”

13. A butterfly (Vladimir Nabokov)

There is a book called Nabokov’s Butterflies, which examines the passion for butterflies prevalent in the works of the famed author. Vladimir Nabokov’s butterfly-collecting trips were an annual summer routine. In fact, he wrote Lolita while traveling throughout the western U.S. in pursuit of winged works of art. The man was seen with a butterfly net about as often as J.R.R. Tolkien was seen with a pipe. In 1948 he wrote, “I discovered in nature the nonutilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.”

Nabokov also said, “A writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist.” Indeed, he was a scientist as much as he was an author and professor of Russian literature. He published 18 scientific papers in the field of lepidoptery—and one of his hypotheses (about the evolution of a particular blue butterfly) was finally accepting as scientific fact more than three decades after his death. Indeed, he named nearly two-dozen genera, species, and subspecies of butterfly over the years. And aptly, there are seven genera and species named after him, including the Nabokovia. There’s also one called the Madeleinea lolita.

14. A frog (Charles Darwin)

Naturalist, biologist, author of the science-shaking On the Origin of Species… One of the most influential figures in human history, this prince of evolution, is also a frog. The irony, perhaps, is that the Rhinoderma darwinii, which Darwin first discovered in Chile during a voyage around the world in the 1830s, is endangered. Disease (a hyper-aggressive fungus) and tree farming leave the species barely hanging on. And here’s something else interesting about the frog named for the author of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex: the frogs are also the only vertebrates, aside from sea horses, in which the male of the species sort of gets pregnant, carrying developing sacs and getting a baby bump.

15. A bug (Patrick O’Brian)

Patrick O’Brian is best-known for his Aubrey-Maturin series, set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Daisya obriani is a species of Lesser Weevil named after O’Brian, surely because his books have a number of references to weevils board ships, including an exchange between Captain Jack Aubrey and physician Stephen Maturin in which the captain points to a pair of weevils that have crept from the crumbs and asks his friend which he would choose. Maturin chooses the one on the right because “it has a perceptible advantage in both length and breadth.” Aubrey responds, “Don’t you know that in the Navy you must always choose the lesser of two weevils?”

16. A service area (Walt Whitman)

Say what you want about New Jersey, but they know how to name rest areas. There are stops along I-95, the New Jersey Turnpike, named after Vince Lombardi, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, and Clara Barton. But there are also three writers in the mix—Walt Whitman, James Fenimore Cooper, and Joyce Kilmer. I suppose it’s appropriate to name a bathroom break locale after Rutgers graduate Kilmer (“I think that I shall never see… a poem lovely as a tree.”) and New Jersey native Cooper (“God planted the seeds of all trees…”). But Whitman, of course, was most famous for “Song of the Open Road” from Leaves of Grass (“…the long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.”) Now you can stop at the Walt Whitman Service Area and grab a bite at a Cinnabon.

17. An e-mail program (Eudora Welty)

When Steve Dorner was in college he read a story by the great southern writer Eudora Welty called “Why I Live at the P.O.”—a tale about sibling rivalry and varied attempts at communication between family members (through radio, letters, and trips to the post office). Later, in 1990, while Steve Dorner was working for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, he created an early email program consisting of about 50,000 lines of code. When it came time to name the program, he explained it this way: “The story stuck with me. When it came time years later to name the program, I remembered the title, rearranged it a bit to 'Bringing the P.O. to where you live,' and used it for the program's motto. Then I named it Eudora.”

18. A psychedelic rock band (H.P. Lovecraft)

Although he isn’t the only author who has lent his name to a collection of musical artists, be it a brass band or a rock band or a folk singing duo, there’s something particularly appropriate about a collection of artists known as Love Craft. H.P. Lovecraft died in poverty in 1937, only later becoming famous as an American horror fiction writer. Who would have guessed that, decades later, bands like Black Sabbath and Metallica would be inspired—in song and lyrics—by his work? Or that in 1967, a Chicago psychedelic rock band would name itself H.P. Lovecraft and play haunting, eerie music inspired by his writings? They soon shortened the name to Lovecraft and eventually Love Craft.

19. A mixed drink (Ernest Hemingway)

It has been said that if you’re a movie star, you know you’ve made it if you’ve had a deli sandwich named after you. For writers? Alcohol seems to fit the bill. There are beers, for instance, named Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Oscar Wilde Mild, and Longfellow Winter Ale (not to mention Rock Bottom Catcher in the Rye, the Hops of Wrath, and Brave New Wheat). But writers can be complicated, so maybe a mixed drink is most appropriate.

It hasn’t come close to reaching the cultural mainstream like some nonalcoholic fare has—a Shirley Temple or Roy Rogers or Arnold Palmer—but you can order a Jack Kerouac. That’s a drink comprised of tequila, rum, and orange juice over ice. A Graham Greene? It’s a martini made of gin, dry vermouth, and a dash of crème de cassis. But I think I’d probably order a Hemingway-inspired cocktail, if only because Hemingway really loved his cocktails. (There’s even a whole book about it: To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion.) The Hemingway Daiquiri, invented in Havana in 1921, includes 1 ½ ounces of white rum, ¼ ounce of maraschino liqueur, ½ ounce of grapefruit juice, ¾ ounce of lime juice, and ¾ ounces of simply syrup. Pour it into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Drink until the sun also rises.

20. A tavern (Edgar Allen Poe)

No, it’s not all that unusual to find a drinking establishment named for an author. There’s a pub in Croatia called Tolkien’s House, for instance, and there’s a Jack London Saloon in northern California. But a couple of places called Poe’s Tavern do a particularly fine job of combining the ghoulish and the gastronomical. One of the taverns is on South Carolina’s Sullivan Island, where Poe was stationed while in the army. A few years ago, the owners opened another version in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Not only does the décor evoke 19th-century America, but the dining is room is festooned with Poe memorabilia, including a large portrait of the author painted on a brick wall. And the menu offers a nod to the master of the macabre, including a cheese sandwich called Gold Bug, a bacon-and-cheese combo called Pit & Pendulum, and the fried egg-bacon-and-cheese Tell-Tale Heart.

21. An entree (Charles Dickens)

Charles Ranhofer, the chef at the famous Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City for more than three decades in the late 19th century and the author of the 1,000-page encyclopedic cookbook The Epicurean, had a talent for naming dishes after famous people, including literary lions. There was the bisque of shrimps la Melville… and chicken saut George Sand… and lobster cutlets la Shelley… and salad la Dumas. After Charles Dickens made a visit to New York in 1867, Ranhofer named two dishes after the author of Oliver Twist—beet fritters a la Dickens and veal pie a la Dickens. “Please, sir, I want some more.”

22. A Cannabis strain (Jack Herer)

Jack Herer was a Cannabis decriminalization activist and the author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes, a book (published in 1985) about the Cannabis plant and its numerous uses. In it, he offered $100,000 to anyone who could disprove the following statement:

“If all fossil fuels and their derivatives, as well as trees for paper and construction were banned in order to save the planet, reverse the Greenhouse Effect and stop deforestation; then there is only one known annually renewable natural resource that is capable of providing the overall majority of the world's paper and textiles; meet all of the world's transportation, industrial and home energy needs, while simultaneously reducing pollution, rebuilding the soil, and cleaning the atmosphere all at the same time... and that substance is… Cannabis Hemp... Marijuana!”

About a decade later, somebody created a new strain of Cannabis. It’s a cross between strains that seem to have use-appropriate names—Skunk #1, Haze, and Northern Lights. And it’s called Jack Herer.


  1. Naturally, right after posting this I had a phone conversation with a woman who attended Camp Walt Whitman in New Hampshire. The whole camp recites his poem "I Hear America Singing" at their opening campfire each summer. I think ol' Walt would prefer that to a rest area.

  2. I especially like the fact that a Brooklyn elementary school is named after Maurice Sendak, a Brooklynite who transformed picture books for young and not so young readers.