Melbourne: An Australian physics professor has prompted the Oxford Dictionary to correct a 99-year-old mistake after he discovered that the definition of 'siphon' was wrongly stated since 1911.
Stephen Hughes, a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, claims he discovered the mistake while he was writing a paper on how siphons work.
According to the 'Herald Sun', the Oxford English Dictionary had incorrectly stated that atmospheric pressure is the force in a siphon when it is actually gravity. Siphons are commonly used to empty containers like petrol tanks.
"An extensive check of online and offline dictionaries did not reveal a single dictionary that correctly referred to gravity being the operative force," the Herald Sun quoted Hughes as saying. He added "My initial reaction was shock. I just stood there like a stunned mullet thinking how can this be?"
He emailed the editors at Oxford whose revision team said they would correct the mistake.
Oxford Dictionary spokeswoman Margot Charlton said the definition was written in 1911 by "editors who were not scientists".
"Our files suggest that no one has queried the definition (since 1911)," Charlton said.
She said editors would take Hughes' notes into account when the entry is rewritten.
Story First Published: May 11, 2010 13:41 IST