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
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 – 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]

Wladislaw Somerville Lach-Szyrma was the son of Krystyn Lach Szyrma (1790–1866) and Sarah Frances Somerville (1802–1869). Krystyn was a Polish professor of philosophy who fled Poland c. 1830 to escape persecution amidst the November Uprising. He abandoned his teaching position at the University of Warsaw and started a new life in England, where he married Sarah Somerville of Plymouth.

Wladislaw was born on 25 December 1841 in nearby Devonport (which was still a town as it had not yet been assimilated by the city of Plymouth). He had one younger brother, Stanislaw Stuart Lach-Szyrma, who died in infancy (18 February 1844 – 19 June 1844).

Wladislaw married twice. His second wife, Rosina Atkinson (1846–1929), bore 13 children.

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 had published his obituary.[1] From 1873 until 1890 he served as vicar of St. Peter's Church in the port town of Newlyn.[2]

Wladislaw 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. His 1883 novel, Aleriel, or A Voyage to Other Worlds, was one of the first works to use the word Martian as a noun.[3][4]

He died in Barkingside, Essex on 25 June 1915.[5]

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. ^ "That's a Funny Name: The Lach-Szyrma family page". Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved 2011-06-04. 
  2. ^ Jenkin, C. J. (2009) Newlyn. A view from Street-an-Nowan. Penryn: R. Booth Ltd.
  3. ^ Pool, P. A. S. (1974) The History of the Town and Borough of Penzance. Penzance: Corporation of Penzance.
  4. ^ Mark Forsyth (16 September 2010). "Wladyslaw Lach-Szyrma and the First Martian". The Inky Fool. Retrieved 2013-05-07. 
  5. ^ "Wladyslaw Somerville Lach Szyrma". Ancestry.com. Retrieved 24 July 2014. 

External links[edit]