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Did You Know That a Cat Actually Co-Authored a Peer-Reviewed Physics Paper?

Dec 26, 2016 10:18 AM EST
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We all know getting research papers published can be a bit of a pickle. But what if you could use your cat to help you write your paper? Any one of us would choose this method, and it appears someone has made it work - in 1975.

A cat named F.C.D. Willard was the co-author of a peer-reviewed physics paper called "Two-, Three-, and Four-Atom Exchange Effects in bcc ^3He."

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

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

A colleague said it's fine but they'll send it right back, as Hetherington used "we" in his paper than "I." The journal specifically states that "we" cannot be used unless the paper had multiple authors.

At this point changing the paper to the impersonal seemed too difficult. And instead of just rewriting it altogether, the secretary just changed the title page to include the name of the family cat, a Siamese called Chester.

According to Sci-Tech Alert, Chester is the son of a cat named Willard, who Hetherington explained is one of the few unfixed male Siamese cats in Aspen, Colorado. He was given the pen name FDC Willard, which stands for Felis Domesticus Chester Willard.

It was miraculously accepted, and the FCD Willard from the Michigan State University physics department was an officially published cat.

Instead of sharing his work with someone else, Hetherington appeared to be not particularly interested in sharing the spotlight with someone else when he did all the work. He said he was conscious of the fact that researchers' pay and reputation is partly based on their output, and he didn't wan that diluted.He also suspected that if everyone found out the co-author was a cat, then it can be publicity.

Ten lucky friends got signed copies of the paper, and FDC Willard actually lent his paw print. However, FCD Willard was only revealed when someone asked to speak to this Willard character at Michigan State.

FCD Willard went on to publish another article on helium-3 in the French science magazine La Recherche and this time as the sole author. 

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