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R.I.P.: Venetia Phair

15 May 2009, 04:25 UTC
R.I.P.: Venetia Phair
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Fans of everyone's favorite erstwhile planet, Pluto, mourned the passing on May 5th of Venetia Phair, nee Burney, at the age of 90. Phair gave the little pseudo-planet its name way back when in 1930, when it was first discovered by Clyde Tombaugh. She was only 11 then -- Tombaugh was merely 24 -- and living in Oxford, England, with her grandfather, a retired librarian at the famed Bodleian. She had no idea her name would continue to stump avid Trivial Pursuit players 50+ years later.It's a sweet story, actually, and has nothing to do with the Disney character, Pluto (also introduced in 1930). Her grandfather, Falconer Madan, read her the news story of the planet's discovery over breakfast on the morning of March 14, 1930, which mentioned the planet had yet to be named. Young Venetia was fascinated at the time with the planets in the solar system. She told BBC News in 2006, "At school we used to play games in the university park, putting... lumps of clay at the right distance from each other to represent the distances of the planets from the sun."She also loved Greek and Roman mythology. In fact, at the time of the ...

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