George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was born in Dublin, Ireland, attended school there, but left for England to earn a living. Intensely interested in socialism, Shaw was an early member of the Socialist Fabian society. He was appointed reviewer for the Pall Mall Gazette, which enabled him to see many plays. Shaw became disgusted with what he saw and decided to write plays of better quality. He wrote five unsuccessful novels before his first play, Widower’s Houses, produced in 1892.
Despite Shaws inauspicious beginnings he rose to be the greatest literary figure of his time. He wrote Arms and the Man (1894), Man and Superman (1903), and Pygmalion (1912), for the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, on which the hit show My Fair Lady was based.
Shaw was a legend in his day. His personality, his wit, his movements — everything he said or did — received international notice.
Realizing that many adjectives would be used to describe him, Shaw decided to come up with one himself. Shawian didn’t ring well, so he Latinized his name and came up with Shavian, which has been used to refer to his style of writing ever since.
Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), born in Bradford-on-Avon, received a commission from the British army and served as an artillery officer in Gibraltar, the West Indies, and Newfoundland. During his career he rose from the rank of lieutenant to lieutenant general.
Shrapnel began investigating hollow projectiles at age twenty-three and worked on this project for twenty-eight years, sometimes spending his own money to buy necessary materials. His first shell was used with horrendous effect in Surinam on the coast of South America to capture the Dutch possessions in Guiana in 1804. The Duke of Norfolk spoke highly of this projectile, and the Duke of Wellington used it in 1808 and later against Napoleon at Waterloo.
The shrapel shell consisted of a spherical projectile filled with a number of lead balls and a small charge of black powder set off by a time
fuse so that it would explode in midair, scattering the shot with great force over a wide area. It was considered an excellent and reliable antipersonnel weapon for offense until World War II, when it gave way to more advanced weaponry. However, the word for shell fragmentation or any explosive device came to be called shrapnel, now a generic name applied to a variety of shell explosives, whether from artillery, bomb, or mine.
Shrapnel never understood why the British government would not compensate him for his untiring and persistent work in perfecting the invention of the explosive or even to reimburse him for the personal money he spent on it. As an old soldier, he faded away, a disappointed man.