W. S. Lach-Szyrma

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Wladislaw Somerville Lach-Szyrma
Born (1841-12-25)25 December 1841
Devonport, Devon
Died 25 December 1915(1915-12-25) (aged 74)
Barkingside, Essex
Occupation Curate, writer
Language English
Nationality British
Ethnicity Polish-English
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Period Victorian era
Genre Science fiction
Subject History of Cornwall
English folklore
Literary movement Victorian literature
Notable works Aleriel, or A Voyage to Other Worlds (1883)
Relatives Krystyn Lach Szyrma (father)
St Peter's Church, where Lach-Szyrma served as vicar from 1873 until 1890. The church opened in 1866.

The Reverend Wladislaw Somerville Lach-Szyrma, M.A., F.R.H.S. (25 December 1841 to 25 June 1915) was an English curate, historian and science fiction writer who is credited as the first writer to use the word Martian as a noun.

Personal life[edit]

Lach-Szyrma was born on 25 December 1841 in Devonport, formerly a town and now a district of the city of Plymouth in Devon. His father was Krystyn Lach Szyrma, a Polish professor of philosophy who abandoned his teaching position at the University of Warsaw and expatriated c. 1830, to escape persecution amidst the November Uprising. Krystyn started a new life in England, and married into the Somerville family of Plymouth, Sarah Frances Somerville (1802 to 1869). He had one sibling, a brother Stanislaw Stuart Lach-Szyrma (18 February 1844 to 19 June 1844). Lach-Szyrma married Rosina Atkinson (1846 to 1929) and they had thirteen children. He died in Barkingside, Essex on 25 Jun 1915.[1]

After studying the classics in a Literae Humaniores course at Brasenose College, Oxford, Wladislaw accepted a curacy in Pensilva; so began a life of service to the Church of England in Cornwall. In 1869 he took the curacy at St Paul's in Truro, followed in 1871 by another in Carnmenellis. He became ill during a visit to Paris; after a short recovery, he returned to England to find that several newspapers published his obituary.[2] From 1873 until 1890 he served as vicar of St. Peter's Church in the port town of Newlyn.[3]

W S Lach-Szyrma was keenly interested in the history of Cornwall; he wrote prolifically about the churches and antiquities there—especially those of the district around Penzance. He was also a pioneering writer of science fiction; he is credited as the first writer to use the word Martian as a noun.[4][5] This precedent occurs in his 1883 novel, Aleriel, or A Voyage to Other Worlds.

Publications (selected)[edit]


  • 1864: On the Relation of the Slavonians to the Other Indo-European Nations.
  • 1878: A short history of Penzance, S. Michael's Mount, S. Ives, and the Land's End district. Truro: Lake and Lake.
  • 1882: "M. Sebillot's System as applied to Cornish Folk-lore". Transactions of the Penzance Natural History and Antiquarian Society. New Series: pp. 132–150.
  • 1884: Newlyn: Its History and Legends. Penzance: Oakmagic, 2001 (Originally published as: Newlyn & its Pier. Penzance: W. S. Lach-Szyrma, 1884.
  • 1889: Relics of the Cornish Language. Penzance (with W. C. Borlase and S. Rundle) (reissued [Dumfries?]: Oakmagic, 2008 ISBN 1-904330-97-5 )
  • 1891: A Church History of Cornwall and of the Diocese of Truro. London: Elliot Stock
  • Curious Churches in Cornwall.

Science fiction[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wladyslaw Somerville Lach Szyrma". ancestry.com. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Jenkin, C. J. (2009) Newlyn. A view from Street-an-Nowan. Penryn: R. Booth Ltd.
  4. ^ Pool, P. A. S. (1974) The History of the Town and Borough of Penzance. Penzance: Corporation of Penzance.
  5. ^ Mark Forsyth (September 16, 2010). "Wladyslaw Lach-Szyrma and the First Martian". The Inky Fool. Retrieved 2013-05-07.