Wednesday, October 09, 2013


An Individualist

M.K.C. MacMahon, "Ellis [formerly Sharpe], Alexander John (1814–1890), phonetician and mathematician," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography:
By any criterion Ellis was an individualist to the point of idiosyncrasy. According to Alfred Hipkins's daughter, he was in later life a portly man, who wore a greatcoat (except in summer) which he called Dreadnought. It contained twenty-eight pockets, into which he stuffed manuscripts and 'articles for an emergency'. He carried with him a large bag containing a variety of tuning forks, together with two sets of nail scissors—one for each hand—a corkscrew, string, and a knife sharpener. His furled umbrella ('bumbershoot'), monocle (for formal occasions), and shoes 3 inches too large for him ('barges') were further distinguishing characteristics. A strict teetotaller, he allowed himself only a limited intake of food and drink—the latter being 'warm water and a little milk'. He weighed himself daily, with and without clothes....Despite his outward appearance, Ellis was a thoughtful, sociable, and affable person, and modest about his considerable erudition. He was driven by a genuine love of learning and the desire to put that learning at the service of others, especially the economically less advantaged members of society. His activities and published work, voluminous (about 300 publications) and crossing several disciplines, attracted the attention and approval of scholars in Britain, Europe, and North America.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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