An impressive obit in the NYT today for Nevin Scrimshaw (by Douglas Martin), who by anyone’s gauge should count as a hero of medicine:

Nevin S. Scrimshaw, Pioneer Nutritionist, Dies at 95

Dr. Nevin S. Scrimshaw, a nutritionist who improved the health of millions of children in developing countries by creating low-cost vegetable-based foods for weaning infants, died on Friday in Plymouth, N.H.

Read the whole thing: a truly admirable life. Here I note his family name, a noun that is in its own way admirable.

From Wikipedia:

Scrimshaw is the name given to scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the handiwork created by whalers made from the byproducts of harvesting marine mammals. It is most commonly made out of the bones, muscle and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses. It takes the form of elaborate engravings in the form of pictures and lettering on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving highlighted using a pigment, or, less often, small sculptures made from the same material. However the latter really fall into the categories of ivory carving, for all carved teeth and tusks, or bone carving. The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 to 1759 on the Pacific Ocean, and survived until the ban on commercial whaling. The practice survives as a hobby and as a trade for commercial artisans.

OED2 has scrimshaw in this sense from 1864, in a slang dictionary, with the frustrating etymological note:

Of obscure origin; the surname Scrimshaw , if not actually the source, may have influenced the form of the word.


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