Thursday, January 12, 2012

Contrived Coincidence: James Alexander Dewar & Peter Bent Brigham



   James Alexander Dewar invented the Twinkie in 1931.  The Twinkie and similar products were loaded with trans-fats and hydrogenated oils for years prior to the government stepping in to try to improve the nation’s health.  Trans-fat is a leading cause of heart disease.

   Peter Bent Brigham endowed $5.3 million in 1877 for the construction of a hospital in his name.  The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital was established in 1913 and would become a leading hospital for the treatment of heart disease.

   These men are cousins.


John Bent (1596-1672) & Martha (1600-1679)
Joseph Bent & Elizabeth Bourne
Peter Bent & Elizabeth
Joseph Bent & Rachel Fuller
Hopestill Bent & Elizabeth Brown
John Bent & Elizabeth Badcock
Peter Bent & Mary Parris
Jesse Bent & Hannah Vose
Mary Bent & Josiah Fay
Jesse Bent & Dorothy Freeman
Elizabeth Fay & Uriah Brigham
William Freeman Bent & Abigail Chapman
Peter Bent Brigham (1807-1877)
Eliza Bent & Alexander Dewar

Allen Dewar & Louisa Gray

James Alexander Dewar (1897-1985)


   Is it a coincidence that these two men are related?

   Yes, because I forced the coincidence.  There is no such thing as coincidence.  When two things occur at the same time, we can’t help but look for a connection.  Humans are hard wired that way.   Coincidence is an illusion.

   I started researching James Alexander Dewar because the Hostess Company is in the news with headlines of a potential bankruptcy.  An equal number of headlines predicted the end of the Twinkie.  I thought the ancestry of the inventor of the Twinkie would make an interesting blog post.  I always look for a connection to my own family first.  I didn’t find one.

   The surname Bent kept jumping out at me along with the name Peter Bent Brigham.  Don’t ask me why but the name Peter Bent Brigham has always been lodged in the back of my gray matter.  With a middle name of Bent, it indicated a probable maternal maiden name and a link to Dewar’s family.  With that link, I could connect a heart-clogging snack with a heart-fixing hospital.

   Family trees are a network of connections.  With any network of connections, there are a statistically large number of optional pathways.  If I didn’t find a Brigham link then I would have contrived something equally amusing.  Also with a network of connections, someday network analysis techniques will be a common place method for breaking through brick walls and proving family history mathematically.

   Next I should find the connection from the Twinkie to Dewar’s Scotch.  Tasty.

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