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After about 48:37 in the really wonderful video Jocelyn Bell Burnell Special Public Lecture: The Discovery of Pulsars (linked below) Dr. Bell Burnell describes the invention of the word "pulsar" do describe the pulsating radio sources she'd discovered.

One of the many humorous bits caught my attention:

These days as you know the name has traveled. There's watches called pulsars, certainly in the UK there's models of Nissan cars, you can sometimes find geraniums called pulsars, same name.

I'm told that in the United States the watch company tried suing the radio astronomers for use of the name!

The words "I'm told that..." suggests that this may be difficult to track down easily, but the story might be known to other astronomers or there may be other recountings of this.

Question: Did a watch company really try to sue radio astronomers for using the word "pulsar"? If so, which astronomers were the likely targets? All of them? Could it have been a radio astronomical society rather than an individual astronomer?


Jocelyn Bell Burnell, winner of the 2018 Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, delivered a special talk at Perimeter Institute about her 1967 discovery of pulsars and her remarkable career in physics.

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    $\begingroup$ if answers aren't forthcoming here, this question might be more at home on Skeptics $\endgroup$
    – Aaron F
    Sep 13 at 15:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AaronF I know what you mean. I'll keep an eye on it to see how it goes. It would need some rewriting first in order to meet the Skeptics SE question style. Let's see if any Astronomy "folklore" is forthcoming first. Thanks! $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 13 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ It seems rather unlikely, "Pulsar" is used by both Seiko (for watches) and Nissan (for cars) If Seiko's lawyers can live with cars being called "pulsars" it would be surprising for them to actually sue astronomers.... Perhaps some kind of search triggered an automatic letter. I doubt it was a serious attempt to sue. $\endgroup$
    – James K
    Sep 13 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ @PM2Ring Yes, she says "It was Anthony Michaelis who came up with the name Pulsar" which is the name in the first bullet on the slide showing when she says this. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_R._Michaelis "Whilst at the Daily Telegraph, in 1968, Michaelis was the first person to coin and use the term "Pulsar" to describe the discovery of Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish of the 'Pulsating Radio star' in 1967." $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 13 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ @JamesK thought not yet ready for prime time, there's an answer that explains that Seiko only recently took possession of the US company that made and sold pulsars. Seeing them in the linked Wikipedia article, I think I saw one or two at the time, I don't think there were many companies that sold red LED 7-segment wristwatches. youtu.be/iNJVCEvq2cE $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Sep 14 at 9:53

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