Co-Author Cat

Co-Author Cat


In 1975, a physicist made his cat the co-author of his scientific paper to avoid replacing "we" with "I" throughout his paper.


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It wouldn't fly now, but back in 1975, it was a whole different story, because a cat named F.D.C. Willard was the co-author of a peer-reviewed physics paper called "Two-, Three-, and Four-Atom Exchange Effects in bcc 3He."

Published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the paper describes the results of an experiment exploring the behavior of the helium-3 isotope at various temperatures.

Conducted by Jack H. Hetherington, a professor of physics at Michigan State University, the experiment yielded important insights that are still being referenced today, but when Hetherington tried to submit it for publication, there was a problem.

"I had submitted the paper and was rather proud of the work, considering it suitable for rapid publication in Physical Review Letters," Hetherington told author R. L. Weber for his 1985 book, More Random Walks in Science.

"Before I submitted it, I asked a colleague to read it over and he said, It's a fine paper, but they'll send it right back."

Why? Hetherington had opted to use the royal "we" in his paper rather than "I", and the journal had a specific rule that prohibited the use of "we" unless the paper had multiple authors.


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