Listen&Learn: The Cat Who Helped Write a Scientific Paper

Pre-listening vocabulary

  • atomic: relating to atoms
  • proofread: to check writing for mistakes before publishing it
  • unintentionally: accidentally; unknowingly
  • problematic: causing difficulties
  • credit: to name someone as the creator of something
  • co-author: one of two or more authors

Listening activity

Gapfill exercise

In 1975, a physics professor named Jack H. Hetherington wrote a paper about atomic behaviour. He was planning to submit this paper to a well-known scientific journal called the Physical Review Letters. However, when he was proofreading his work, he realized that he had unintentionally used the word “we” when writing about himself. Although this was a small , it was very problematic. The Physical Review Letters had a rule against the use of the word “we” unless the paper had multiple authors. Hetherington had written his entire paper on a typewriter, and he didn’t want to retype it all just to fix his error. Instead, he simply to credit another author. The author he chose was his cat, Chester. He changed Chester’s name to Felis Domesticus Chester Willard, shortened to F. D. C. Willard, to make it more . Hetherington’s plan worked, and his paper was published. Eventually, he admitted that the co-author was a cat, and even had Chester copies of the paper by making ink paw prints.

Comprehension questions

1. The name of the physics professor who wrote the scientific paper is

Correct! Wrong!

The name of the physics professor who wrote the scientific paper is Jack H. Hetherington.

2. Hetherington chose to credit another author because

Correct! Wrong!

Hetherington chose to credit another author because he had accidentally used the word "we" to refer to himself.

3. Chester's "signature" was

Correct! Wrong!

Chester's "signature" was a paw print.

Discussion/essay questions

  1. Hetherington’s paper is now well-known, and has been quoted by many other researchers. Do you think that his paper would have been as successful if he hadn’t had a funny story to go with it?

Transcript

In 1975, a physics professor named Jack H. Hetherington wrote a research paper about atomic behaviour. He was planning to submit this paper to a well-known scientific journal called the Physical Review Letters. However, when he was proofreading his work, he realized that he had unintentionally used the word “we” when writing about himself. Although this was a small mistake, it was very problematic. The Physical Review Letters had a rule against the use of the word “we” unless the paper had multiple authors. Hetherington had written his entire paper on a typewriter, and he didn’t want to retype it all just to fix his error. Instead, he simply decided to credit another author. The author he chose was his cat, Chester. He changed Chester’s name to Felis Domesticus Chester Willard, shortened to F. D. C. Willard, to make it more believable. Hetherington’s plan worked, and his paper was published. Eventually, he admitted that the co-author was a cat, and even had Chester sign copies of the paper by making ink paw prints.

Written and recorded by Jaksyn Peacock for EnglishClub

Tags: | | | |

Subscribe to EnglishClub Podcasts RSS Feed

17 comments

Leave a comment