Dr. Seuss’ books are beloved by children, but did you know the author never had biological children of his own? Also, he invented the word “nerd.”
Born Theodor Seuss Geisel in Springfield, Massachusetts on March 2, 1904, the future children’s hero adopted his pen name while studying at Dartmouth College and the University of Oxford.
He went on to write over 60 books and create his own simplified-vocabulary to help combat childhood illiteracy, before passing away to oral cancer in September 1991 at age 87.
Dr. Seuss’ work has since been immortalized in countless books, magazines, theme parks and in Hollywood movies such as “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000), “The Cat in the Hat” (2003) and “The Lorax” (2012).
Here are five facts you probably didn’t know about the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who has charmed readers for decades:
1. He was an Academy Award winner.
In 1948, Seuss won an Oscar for his involvement in the documentary “Design for Death,” which is about Japanese warlords. He won again in 1951 for writing the animated short “Gerald McBoing-Boing.”
2. He worked with the creator of “Looney Tunes.”
The popular holiday cartoon “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was a team effort. Seuss was friends with Chuck Jones, the acclaimed animator and director behind Warner Bros.’ “Looney Tunes,” and they worked together on the 1966 TV special. Though, it’s watched year after year by many, at the time of its release it wasn’t very popular.
3. Writing children’s books wasn’t his only profession.
Before Seuss wrote his first children’s book, “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” in 1937, he had a career in advertising. His most popular advertisements were probably for Standard Oil and Flit bug spray, with the catchphrase “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” He also joined the army during World War II, and is known for saying: “The only good thing Adolph Hitler did in starting World War II was that he enabled me to join the Army and finally stop drawing ‘Quick, Henry, the Flit!'”
4. He might be responsible for the word “nerd.”
In his book “If I Ran A Zoo,” one of the characters lists a “nerd” as a fantastic creature he’d like to have. An illustration describes one as a “red and yellow and white-haired sourpuss.” Obviously, the word has evolved to the way we use it today, but Seuss had a role in popularizing it.
5. He drew propaganda for the army, and some of his books are based on World War II.
“Horton Hears A Who” is an allegory for how the United States treated post-war Japan, and “Yertle the Turtle” is actually about Adolf Hitler. These stories spoke to Seuss’ involvement in the war, where he served as the commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit of the United States Army Air Forces. He was also responsible for writing propaganda cartoons and promotional films.
6. His first wife committed suicide while he was having an affair
Despite the colorful and update tone of his work, Seuss’ personal life had a dark, tragic element to it. After battling cancer and other illnesses, his wife Helen (whom he’d met at Oxford) committed suicide in 1967. Seuss had been conducting a not-so-secret affair with Audrey Stone Dimond, and the couple married just eight months later, remaining together until his death in 1991.