Sunday, June 7, 2009

Bookshelf: The Reverend Guppy's Aquarium

In this marvelously titled book, Philip Dodd tells the backstory of eponymous objects. Dodd researched, networked and traveled around the world to investigate the invention of such things as the Frisbee, Jacuzzi, sandwich, leotard, Mercedes (Benz), and foxtrot, as well as the naming of the Grafenberg spot, the Tony and Oscar awards, various flowers, and guppies. Apocryphally but, as it turns out, not in reality, guppies were discovered in the West Indies by an English clergyman of the same name.

Dodd approached each eponym as a quixotic yet sincere quest. He went to see relevant locales for himself, ferreted out obscure facts, and interviewed inventors, their descendants and other family members, neighbors and business associates, and aficionados. The book ends up being an ode to the intricacy and serendipity of invention. Recommended.

The Reverend Guppy's Aquarium by Philip Dodd
ISBN-13: 978-1592403479
Gotham Books, 2007

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