Alice, Pooh and the atom bomb

Published 9:19 pm Wednesday, August 26, 2015

By Frank Roberts

So good ol’ Alice is now 150 years old. I’d send her a card, but I don’t know the zip code for Wonderland.

Made famous by Lewis Carroll and Walt Disney, she has her own exhibit this year at the Morgan Library & Museum — not the one in Suffolk, the one in New York.

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Lewis Carroll was born in 1832. In 1898 he dropped his pencil and crayons. If you want to find out more, correspondence, notes, and more are on exhibit at the “other” Morgan, which also exhibits the author’s original manuscript, plus some drawings and photographs.

All of those items were presented by Carroll to little Alice Liddell, “the child who inspired.”

While Lewis is best known for his little friend’s adventures, in some circles he is better known for being a mathematical genius, his ability to speak several languages and his love of Latin.

He was on a boat ride with little Miss Liddell and two of her family’s 11 girls when he first told Alice’s story. The youngster liked it so much, she asked him to write it down.

The busy Carroll, who, among other things, was an Oxford University professor, first published “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” in 1864. Since then, the tale has never been out of print.

By the way, it was an instant hit, so if your little ones don’t know about Alice’s adventures after she dropped into the rabbit hole, now is as good a time as any to tell them all about it.

Or are they too sophisticated for such wonderment? If so, maybe you can slip in a robot rabbit or zingy zombie for company.

There are, of course, a whole bunch of little heroines in literature: the lovely Cinderella, kind of an independent chick; Beauty, whose boyfriend was the Beast; the little-known “Twelve Dancing Princesses,” who kept company with the Frog Prince. Miss Rumpelstiltskin was anxious to wed so she could have a last name that would be easy to sign. Sleeping Beauty had lots of loveliness, but too much nap time. And last, but certainly least, there was the Bride of Frankenstein. To each his own, I say.

Another group of kids’ favorites — Tigger, Piglet, Kanga and Roo, characters in A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” — had a surprising and largely unknown connection to the atomic bomb.

Honestly! Italian scientist Enrico Fermi was instrumental in developing the instrument of death that helped end World War II. The connection? He was working to learn the English language, in large part, by reading ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” The stories were so helpful, he gave his instruments the above-mentioned names.

During a 60-year career spanning newspapers, radio and television, Frank Roberts has been there and done that. Today, he’s doing it in retirement from North Carolina, but he continues to keep an eye set on Suffolk and an ear cocked on country music. Email him at