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Clever Cat Co-Authors Physics Paper, Is Offered Tenure at Michigan State

Clever Cat Co-Authors Physics Paper, Is Offered Tenure at Michigan State

Would you believe us if we told you that one of modern physics' most important papers had been co-authored by a cat?

In 1975, physicist Jack Hetherington of Michigan State University co-authored a paper for Physical Review Letters with one F.D.C. Willard. The paper is an influential view into atomic behavior still cited frequently to this day.

What nobody knew at the time, however, was that "F.D.C. Willard" was actually Hetherington's house cat—a Siamese named Chester.

As Atlas Obscura writes, Hetherington added Chester as a co-author when he realized that he had referred to himself in the "royal we" in the paper—using "we" and "our" throughout—despite being the paper's sole author. As he learned after the fact, this would endanger its chances of being published.

Rather than re-typing the entire paper (there was no "find and replace" option in 1975), Hetherington simply tacked on Chester's name, calling him "F.D.C. Willard" after his species name, Felis domesticus, his actual name, Chester, and the name of Chester's biological father, Willard.

The ruse worked for a while—and when discovered, it served primarily as a source of amusement within the physics community. Chester crossed the Rainbow Bridge in 1980, but not before being offered a full-time position in Michigan State University's physics department.

This, of course, comes as no surprise to those of us here at HiHomer.com. Siamese cats are really, really smart.

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