Josiah Wedgwood was the source of many eponymous words, but foremost is «Wedgwood blue». Much of his pottery was graced with classical figures in white cameo relief on an unglazed background. Born in Burslem, Staffordshire, England, Wedgwood (1730-1795) was poor and uneducated. His family had a small pottery shop, but pottery was not much in demand. Most pottery was imported from Delft, in Holland, and the higher-quality pottery came directly from China. Wedgwood’s experiments led to a particularly refined green glaze. In 1759, he set up a factory at Ivy House in Burslem that was so successful that he soon needed larger quarters.
In 1769, Wedgwood, together with Thomas Bentley, built a factory called Etruria, where his experiments with ceramic glazes made him famous. Many of his designs on newly patented pottery were executed by a young sculptor named John Flaxman, who ultimately became the first professor of sculpture at the Royal Academy of Art. Wedgwood’s china became identified with the fine cream-colored porcelainlike household ware with which Wedgwood built his reputation. He invented jasperware and Queen’s ware, a household pottery named after Queen Charlotte. He also made advances in black basalt stoneware. The queen became enamored of his white stoneware, and her patronage attracted the attention of the rich, the famous, and the royal. Wedgwood’s fortune was assured.
Wedgwood’s children also did well. His son is credited with having discovered the basic principles of photography, long before the daguerreotype was even dreamed of. His daughter, Susannah, was the mother of Charles Darwin.
It may be apocryphal, but some word historians insist that John Keats was confused about the identity of the urn he described in his Ode to a Grecian Urn. This urn was nonexistent. According to the story, Keats had seen a Wedgwood imitation of a Greek vase. Thus inspired, he wrote:
Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time...
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know.