[Ads-l] Request for Modern Examples of Misquotation

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Sat Dec 19 23:25:29 UTC 2015

On Fri, 18 Dec 2015 15:31:34 Zone-0500 Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>

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The book I am currently composing will include a discussion of the
genesis of misquotations, and a variety of conjectural mechanisms will
be presented.

Do you, dear reader, know of any examples of misquotation that were in
some distinctive way facilitated by modern communication networks,
social networks, and/or the manipulation of electronic text?
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You may be interested in the following, from http://jeff560.tripod.com/e.html article on "eponymy".

<quote> <snip>

The general practice of eponymy has attracted attention, especially the widespread phenomenon of misattribution. Stigler (see below) quotes a cynical remark from an unnamed historian of science, "Every scientific discovery is named after the last individual too ungenerous to give due credit to his predecessors." Misattribution has also inspired laws of eponymy--eponymous laws of eponymy, naturally. 

Boyer’s law, that "mathematical formulas and theorems are usually not named after their original discoverers," was proposed by H. C. Kennedy ("Who Discovered Boyer's Law?" Amer. Math. Monthly, 79:1 (1972), 66-67) on the basis of the many instances described in Carl B. Boyer’s History of Mathematics (1968). Boyer gave his opinion of eponymy in the exclamation, "Clio, the muse of history, often is fickle in attaching names to theorems!" 

Stigler’s law of eponymy, that "no scientific discovery is ever named after its original discoverer," was formulated by Stephen Stigler ("Stigler’s Law of Eponymy" (1980), reprinted in Stigler (1999)). Unlike Boyer, Stigler saw patterns in naming and attempted to explain them using the ideas of the sociologist Robert K. Merton. Stigler tried out his hypotheses in a case study of the GAUSSIAN (NORMAL) distribution. 

Another law complicating eponymy is Whitehead’s law: "Everything of importance has been said before by someone who did not discover it." (The remark was popularised by Merton but Michael Berry calls it a law.) See the entry RAO-BLACKWELL for an illustration of the difficulty of applying this law, especially to the work of a living discoverer who argues back. Whitehead’s remark is from the essay Organisation of Thought published in a collection with the same title (1917). He was discussing the relation between traditional logic and modern logic and the sentence before read, "To come near to a true theory and to grasp its precise application are two very different things, as the history of science teaches." Berry, incidentally, calls the Boyer-Stigler law Arnold’s law after V. I. Arnol’d who complains of Western neglect of Russian contributions: see the entry CAUCHY-SCHWARZ for an instance. 
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"eponymy" is defined in MWCD11 as "the explanation of a proper name (as of a town or tribe) by supposing a fictitious eponym".

the entry for RAO-BLACKWELL reads

RAO-BLACKWELL THEOREM and RAO-BLACKWELLIZATION in the theory of statistical estimation. The "Rao-Blackwell theorem" recognises independent work by C. R. Rao (1945 Bull. Calcutta Math. Soc. 37, 81-91) and David Blackwell (1947 Ann. Math. Stat., 18, 105-110). The name dates from the 1960s for previously the theorem had been referred to as "Blackwell's theorem" or the "Blackwell-Rao theorem." The term "Rao-Blackwellization" appears in Berkson (J. Amer. Stat Assoc. 1955) ((From David (1995).) 

In an ET Interview (p. 346) Rao shares some reminiscences about getting his name attached to the result, which may reflect more generally on the practice of EPONYMY. When Rao objected to Berkson’s use of Blackwellization Berkson replied that Raoization by itself "does not sound nice." The other memory was of an exchange with D. V. Lindley who had attributed the result to Blackwell. When Rao wrote to Lindley pointing out his priority, Lindley replied, "Yes, I read your paper. Although the result was in your paper, you did not realize its importance because you did not mention it in the introduction to your paper." Rao replied, saying that it was his first full-length paper and that he did not know that the introduction is written for the benefit of those who read only the introduction and do not go through the paper! 

In Russia the name Rao-Blackwell-Kolmogorov theorem is used in deference to a 1950 article by Kolmogorov. 
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The entry for Cauchy-Schwarz reads

CAUCHY-SCHWARZ INEQUALITY. This name seems to have become standard only since the 1930s. The first JSTOR match is in 1930--an article by A. E. Ingham--and the term appears in the widely-used Differential and Integral Calculus, 2nd. ed. by R. Courant (1937). The history of the contributing inequalities is given in Inequalities by G. H. Hardy, J. E. Littlewood and G. Polya (1934): the inequality for sums is due to A. L. Cauchy in 1821 (p. 373 of Oeuvres 2, III) and the inequality for integrals to H. A. Schwarz in 1885, "although it seems to have been stated first by Buniakovsky" in 1859. In Russia the integral version is known as the Buniakovskii inequality. The name "Cauchy-Schwarz" is often misprinted as "Cauchy-Schwartz" suggesting, perhaps, a spurious connection to one of the twentieth century mathematicians L. and J. T. Schwartz 
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