Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Stan and Vas on holiday Part 4

From Stan's lightly fictionalised journal

Saturday 12 August

I've been to the Belgian National Records Office and it's official: There are only 9 famous Belgians! They are:

Adolphe Sax - inventor of the saxophone (also the saxhorn and saxtromba)

Lambert Adolphe Quetelet - Mathematician and inventor of the Body Mass Index

Gerardus Mercator - Cartographer, mathematician and geographer (hence Mercator projection)

Jean-Marc Bosman - Footballer who caused the transfer rules to change

Eddy Merckx - Legendary cyclist

Rene Magritte - Surrealist painter and theorist

Georges Remi aka Hergé - Creator of Tintin

Jean-Claude Van Damme - The Muscles from Brussels

Audrey Hepburn - Who, I hope, requires no introduction

One reason for the lack of famous people is the relative youth of the country, which was only founded in 1830. Hence the introduction of earlier "Flemish" personalities, and the slightly questionable inclusion of Audrey Hepburn, born in Brussels (as Edda van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston) to a British father and a Dutch mother.

The Belgians themselves see this situation as a challenge rather than a problem and have a plan in hand to upgrade Johann Tserclaes Tilly from "well known general" to "famous general" by 2015; to rebrand an existing famous historic figure as Belgian by 2017; and to create a brand-new modern celebrity by 2020!

[With apologies for Stan's grotesque ignorance of famous Belgians, who are currently enumerated by one website to the figure of 259]


Stan said...

Actually whilst touring the scientific instrument museum in Gent the guy there was telling us that it was a Belgian who discovered the structure of Benzene (and I was going to remember his name for when the topic next came up) however a brief bit of googleing and turned up Kekulé, Friedrich August von Stradonitz who by my reckoning is German.

There was also the inventor of Bakalite but I haven't had the chance to google that yet.

Neil said...

Bakelite was Leo Hendrick Baekeland, and he really was Belgian. I chose Adolphe Sax ahead of him, as Saxaphones are more entertaining than Bakelite.

Kekulé appears to have been at Ghent University 1858-1865, and came up with the cyclical structure of Benzene in 1865 but that doesn't make him a Belgian. Especially considering the debate over whether he, Couper or Loschmidt actaully came up with it, which continues elsewhere on the internet.