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Girl Who Named Pluto, At 11, Dies At 90 158

Posted by kdawson
from the no-phair dept.
notthepainter notes the passing of the woman who, as an 11-year-old girl, named Pluto. "Frozen and lonely, Planet X circled the far reaches of the solar system awaiting discovery and a name. It got one thanks to an 11-year-old British girl named Venetia Burney, an enthusiast of the planets and classical myth. On March 14, 1930, the day newspapers reported that the long-suspected 'trans-Neptunian body' had been photographed for the first time, she proposed to her well-connected grandfather that it be named Pluto, after the Roman god of the underworld. Venetia Phair, as she became by marriage, died April 30 in her home in Banstead, in the county of Surrey, England. She was 90. ... More vexing to Mrs. Phair was the persistent notion that she had taken the name from the Disney character. 'It has now been satisfactorily proven that the dog was named after the planet, rather than the other way around,' she told the BBC. 'So, one is vindicated.' " Venetia's great-uncle Henry, who was a housemaster at Eton, had successfully proposed that the two dwarf moons of Mars be named Phobos and Deimos.
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Girl Who Named Pluto, At 11, Dies At 90

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  • by bigjarom (950328) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:42PM (#27931937) Journal
    How is this even a story? Maybe if she had named a REAL planet...
  • Damned Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

    by karaage (1543207) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:45PM (#27931975)
    Ripping off public domain folk tales was not enough. They had to go after the planets, too.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How can you rip off something that is in the public domain?

      • Re:Damned Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:48PM (#27932601)
        ...By practically claiming it as your own? How many people think that The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White and Pinocchio were thought up by Disney? I would imagine that most kids, and a good amount of adults think that, at least for some of them.

        Sure, its not wrong because public domain works are meant to be copied. But it kinda kills part of the experience to know that the movies you thought Disney did a great job doing, had been around for centuries before Walt was born.
        • Re:Damned Disney (Score:5, Insightful)

          by residieu (577863) on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @12:49AM (#27933557)
          That's the beauty of the public domain. Anyone can take those ideas and characters and make something out of them. Disney did a really great job adapting these old tales. The fact that they weren't original ideas by Disney doesn't take away from that (did anyone ever think Disney came up with them?) Dreamworks was able to use many of those same characters in their Shrek movies, because they're not Disney's characters, they're everyone's characters.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonaskoelker (922170)

            (did anyone ever think Disney came up with them?)

            Did you never think that? I'll happily admit that I did think that that for some time.

            If you ever did, when did you change your thinking? Was it because you heard about "the original version" of $FAIRYTALE, or heard the movie referred to as "the Disney version"?

            I think that in the absence of other information it's reasonable to think that $FAIRYTALE is made by Disney when you watch it and see it says "Disney" somewhere near the beginning.

            The fact that they're not original to Disney seems like one of those

            • Did you never think that? I'll happily admit that I did think that that for some time.

              I never did, but I was growing up a little before every house had a VCR, and there were only four channels so Disney-on-demand was not available. I first got my fairytales in the form of paper and ink - and often you'd have three or four versions of the same story in different books, varying in details such as the presence or absence of heroic woodcutters, the eventual survival or otherwise of two little pigs and one big

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by mdwh2 (535323)

            I don't think the point is that it's wrong, more the hypocrisy of Disney: they make use of the works of other people who are long dead, but they want the work that the company owns - including derivative works that they created out of other people's works - to remain in copyright indefinitely. Even though Mickey Mouse was also created by people who are presumably dead now.

            Imagine if all the authors of those fairy tales had lobbied the Governments to extend copyrights indefinitely? None of those Disney stori

        • by digitig (1056110)
          For that matter, how many people realise that Shakespeare lifted most if not all of his stories from earlier sources. I did a term paper a few years back comparing Shakespeare's King Lear to an earlier poem called "The Tragedy of Cordelia" telling the same story with the same characters and the same names, and the overall plot is that of the folk take "Cap o'Rushes". The question isn't where your source material comes from (once it's public domain), it's what you do with it.
        • How many people think that The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Snow White and Pinocchio were thought up by Disney?

          Well, it's not as if Disney was very accurate in their recreations. Disney has a habit of removing the part of the story where a hero, heroine, or other main character dies at the end.

      • Re:Damned Disney (Score:4, Informative)

        by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao AT hotmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:02PM (#27932703) Homepage
        By buying laws that make sure their stuff won't ever fall into public domain.
  • God speed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:51PM (#27932029)
    We'll forever remember your contribution(s) to the scientific community.
  • Just Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:58PM (#27932111) Homepage Journal

    It got one thanks to an 11-year-old British girl named Venetia Burney, an enthusiast of the planets and classical myth. [...] she proposed to her well-connected grandfather that it be named Pluto, after the Roman god of the underworld.

    Now THAT is a nerd's nerd. At the age of eleven, names a planet after a Roman god. I can just picture it now. "Grandfather, I rather think that naming it aaaafter the god Pluto might be the most appropriate course." Maybe I've seen too many Fruit Newton commercials, though.

    • Re:Just Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

      by catmistake (814204) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:11PM (#27932237) Journal

      Now THAT is a nerd's nerd. At the age of eleven, names a planet after a Roman god.

      Not all that original, really... they're all named after Roman gods. Now if she had suggested "Loki" or perhaps "Hellboy," I'd call her my nerd.

    • I misread your post as "after a Romulan God". Now THAT would be a nerd's nerd.
      • I misread your post as "after a Romulan God". Now THAT would be a nerd's nerd.

        Well, where do you think Star Trek got the name "Romulus" from?

    • Re:Just Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by syousef (465911) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:46PM (#27933063) Journal

      Now THAT is a nerd's nerd. At the age of eleven, names a planet after a Roman god. I can just picture it now. "Grandfather, I rather think that naming it aaaafter the god Pluto might be the most appropriate course." Maybe I've seen too many Fruit Newton commercials, though.

      These days the kid would never be allowed to read classic Greek Mythology at age 11 lest it damage their precious innocent psyche, or prompt them to go postal at school.

    • In the USSR at least, a book of classical Greek mythology was the most widespread children book.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        And yet, you can't drink the tapwater in Moscow. Perhaps it should have been "the little engine that could". Or maybe that monster book with Grover at the end (sorry for the spoiler warning) :P

    • by infinite9 (319274)

      Now THAT is a nerd's nerd. At the age of eleven, names a planet after a Roman god. I can just picture it now. "Grandfather, I rather think that naming it aaaafter the god Pluto might be the most appropriate course."

      No kidding. My daughter would try to name it after, like, you know, oh my god, myspace.

  • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:02PM (#27932155) Homepage

    TFA quotes Neil deGrasse Tyson saying "Pluto is the god of the underworld, a distant place you don't want to go to," and Capt. Freeman saying "Pluto is the prototype of Satan in many minds..."

    The Greek underworld is more akin to the entire Christian afterlife. Sure, it had Hell-like Tartarus [wikipedia.org], but it also had the Heaven-like Elysian Fields [wikipedia.org] (in French: Champs-Elysees), and plenty of places between.

    And Pluto/Hades was certainly no Satan! In at least one myth, the brothers Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades drew lots to see who would rule the air, sea, and underworld. Zeus drew first and chose air. Poseidon was thrilled, because he wanted the sea anyway. And poor Hades was stuck with the underworld.

    Also from TFA, "...scientists at the Lowell Observatory voted unanimously for Pluto, partly because its first two letters could be interpreted as an homage to Percival Lowell..." Very cool.

    • by Ian Alexander (997430) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:27PM (#27932411)

      And poor Hades was stuck with the underworld.

      Yah, cause Satan is so thrilled with Hell [wikipedia.org].

      Maybe the link between Hell and Hades had to do with its portrayals in verse. I remember in the Odyssey, when Odysseus called up all the dead spirits trying to find Teiresias (or however the hell you spell it), NOBODY liked Hades, and from the sound of it he talked to like everybody who died in the Iliad and then some. Surely one or two of the people he talked to would have gone to the nicer spots out of random chance? Like maybe one of the Aiantes?

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        yeah, I always thought that was kind of interesting about Greek mythology. the afterlife just SUCKED. I mean, isn't the whole point of a religion promising an afterlife to give the plebes something to look forward to while they slave away for their rich masters and religious leaders?

        • The idea of a judgment after death didn't really come into existence until Zoroaster, and his ideas didn't really come into prominence until the Achaemenid Persian Empire. Until then, which would have been in the first millennium BCE, the thinking went (with little variation) that when you died you just went to a really boring place. The Jews called it Sheol. The ancient Sumerian city-states didn't even have the idea of an afterlife- so you'd have an incentive to live your life to the fullest while you stil
    • Wait.. the main boulevard in France, the one they sing the song about, the one with the big arch over it.. is named after the greek underworld?

      That's really creepy, when you think about it.

      • I didn't know France was a city, I guess you meant the main boulevard in Paris ?

        The Elysium Fields is the resting place of heroes, so I think it's a fitting name : the Arc de Triomphe has sculptures all over it, detailing the wars fought by France, and there's also the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (who died during WW1) at its foot.

        • by AlXtreme (223728)

          the Arc de Triomphe has sculptures all over it, detailing the wars fought by France, and there's also the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (who died during WW1) at its foot.

          Champs-Elysees [wikipedia.org]. It is indeed a fitting name.

      • by operagost (62405)
        It's also the name of a street in New Orleans [google.com] that's the mailing address of about a hundred different orgs tied to Acorn, the President's "community organizer" reference. Acorn is currently under investigation for voter fraud in 14 states.
  • but it's still not a planet [nationalgeographic.com].

    Sorry, karma burning a hole in my pocket
  • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:24PM (#27932383) Homepage

    Plutonic? [urbandictionary.com]

    Astrological etymologies:
    Mercurial - unpredictable temperment
    Venereal - sexually indulgent
    Lunatic - crazy
    Martial - war-like
    Saturnine - gloomy
    Jovial - happy

    But "nepotism" is from nephew, not Neptune. And "platonic" is from Plato, not Pluto.

    • Venereal - sexually indulgent

      And all married men suddenly cried out "The whole 'Women are from Venus' thing is a scam!"

  • Auden (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Lost on a fog-bound spit of sand
    In shoes that pinched me, across the strand
    I hear the plosh of Charon's oar,
    Who ferrys no one to a happy shore.

  • Planet X (Score:3, Funny)

    by Repton (60818) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:33PM (#27932469) Homepage

    Don't they mean Planet IX?

  • What do we do about Pluto Nash?

    Hulu! An evil Alien plot to destroy the world!

  • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:36PM (#27932513)

    So where's the C&D letter against Disney for using the name she coined for a planet?

    Surely it causes consumer confusion.. I mean, when I see titles like The Complete Pluto, Volume One [amazon.com]; I expect a DVD authorized by the foundation or scientists who discovered the planet, and it to be about the planet.

    But instead the proper trade name as assigned the Pluto brand planet is used with a piece of fiction in a manner that is not only confusing but dilutes the mark...

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Umm, Pluto is eponymous. As long as they didn't try to trademark it, there's nothing wrong. The term being many centuries old would never have fallen under IP laws of the US or pretty much any other modern state.

    • But instead the proper trade name as assigned the Pluto brand planet is used with a piece of fiction in a manner that is not only confusing but dilutes the mark...

      I'm sure that billions of Plutonians have been sharing your sentiments for years, and have been trying to organize a lawsuit due to the irreparable damage caused to their estates.

  • I say we should call it a dwarf death...
  • "When I left Brattleboro I resolved never to go back to Vermont, and I feel quite certain I shall keep my resolution. Those wild hills are surely the outpost of a frightful cosmic race - as I doubt all the less since reading that a new ninth planet has been glimpsed beyond Neptune, just as those influences had said it would be glimpsed. Astronomers, with a hideous appropriateness they little suspect, have named this thing "Pluto." I feel, beyond question, that it is nothing less than nighted Yuggoth - and I
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:09PM (#27932783)
    When I was your age, Pluto was Planet X!

    -Venetia Phair
  • correlation does not imply causation, this is no proof that naming planets causes death. (Come on, someone had to say that, this is /.)
    • by iggymanz (596061)
      dang! if it causes death 79 years later, great, I'm naming a planet! I'm 45, I'll be pissing on all your graves till 2088, bitches!
  • She just died now? So her copyright is still valid for another 70 years! Quick, somebody sue the solar system!
  • Pluto IS a Planet (Score:2, Informative)

    by laurele (1115971)
    It should be noted that the IAUâ(TM)s controversial demotion of Pluto is very likely not the last word on the subject and in fact represents only one interpretation in an ongoing debate. Only four percent of the IAU voted on this, and most are not planetary scientists. Their decision was immediately opposed in a formal petition by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASAâ(TM)s New Horizons mission to Pluto. Stern and like-minded scientists favor a
    • Didn't the people that did vote for demotion do it in a way that locked out a majority of the voters? I seem to recall that the vote was set up in a rather shady way, when many of the participants weren't present, basically guaranteeing the result they hoped for, and when the rest of the membership found out, they hit the roof.

  • Wait... so Pluto was called "Planet X" before it had a name, and it's no longer officially a planet?

    So that means it used to be Planet X, but now it's an ex-planet!
  • by hoofie (201045) <graeme@@@graemeandkim...com> on Wednesday May 13, 2009 @03:08AM (#27934303)
    My wife [a senior nurse] came home from work one day about 4 years ago saying that she and her staff had been looking after an old lady on a ward at Epsom General Hospital. One of the surgeons pointed her out and said she was rather special since had named the planet Pluto. Apparently the old lady was very pleasant and polite but hadn't told anyone of her claim to fame.

    Not really believing this story I googled a bit and found a name. My wife refused to tell me the name of the woman but when I said 'Venetia Phair' she was very surprised as she thought the whole thing was a massive wind-up.
  • Planet X was the name given to a hypothetical fifth gas giant that could influence the orbit of Neptune and account for the discrepancies between the computed orbit and the observed orbit. It later turned out that one of the two (though I forget which) was slightly off, and when corrected the theory matched the observations exactly, and no Planet X was needed.
  • It has now been satisfactorily proven that the dog was named after the planet, rather than the other way around

    How do they know both weren't named after the Roman god?

  • I rather think that Ms. Phair would have enjoyed this song by Clare and the Reasons [youtube.com].

    Pluto I have some frightful news dear
    in the New York Times
    They've just reported you've been overthrown (aah ahh ahh)
    from your solar throne for good

    Pluto they say that you can't handle
    your own gravity
    well how can you overcome your body force
    to clear the path for your own orbit

    Now all the planets will gather around and have a thing for you
    They'll wrap their orbits warmly around you and send you off with love
    Chin up pluto the s

  • She didn't dies, she died.

    Hamlet dies, everyone dies. But a person dies just the once.

    She died. She is dead. Stop trying to make her less dead by avoiding the past tense.

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