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Dihydrate birefringent calcium oxalate or Weddellite calcification
  1. Carlos Ortiz-Hidalgo1
  1. 1Department of Pathology, The American British Cowdray Hospital, Sur 136 Esq. Observatorio, Mexico City 01120, Mexico

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    I read with interest the recent article by Singh and Theaker about calcium oxalate crystals within the secretions of ductal breast carcinoma in situ1 and would like to comment on the eponym “Weddellite calcification.”

    The term Weddellite is used because originally calcium oxalate was extracted from the Weddell sea. The British explorer and seal hunter James Weddell (1787–1834) on the brigantine “Jane of Leith” (The Jane) of 160 tons, manned by 22 men, in search of fur seals, explored the southern seas (Falkland Islands, Cape Horn, and its neighbourhood). He discovered a “still sea, perfectly clear of field ice” in the furthest south position of 74° 15' S, which he reached on 20 February 1832. It was a record southing that would not be broken until Wilhelm Filchner passed it nearly 100 years later in 1911. Weddell gave the name of George IV to this sea, but the name was abandoned when in 1890 it was proposed the sea be named after its discoverer.

    Weddell published a book of the trip called A Voyage Towards the South Pole. This book is interesting not only as a record of the trip to what was then, and for long after, the highest southern latitude reached, but also because he gave an account of the South Shetlands and South Orkney Islands, which he had discovered on a previous voyage.

    Weddell also discovered the non-migratory earless seal (Weddell seal, Leptonychote weddelli). This marine mammal grows to about three metres in length and about 400 kg in weight and is found around the south pole near the coast of Antarctica.

    Little is known about Weddell's life. He was born on 24 August 1787 in Ostend, a son of a working upholsterer, a native of Lanarkshire, who had settled in London. At a very early age, the young Weddell showed affinity for the sea. With no education beyond the little that his mother had herself been able to give him, he was bound to the master of a coasting vessel, a Newcastle collier. He read widely on the subject of boats and navigation and rendered himself a capable and efficient navigator. He died unmarried in London in relative poverty on 9 September 1834 at the age of 47.2

    Although the purpose of Weddell's trip was not discovery, his name has been retained by three eponyms: the Weddell seal, the Weddell sea, and Weddelite (calcium oxalate).

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