St. Clair resident Mark Shrapnell testified before the House Elections and Ethics Committee today on an election reform measure he suggested to Rep. Dan Lauwers, but what many people in the committee room didn’t realize is that he’s got a famous distant cousin.
Mark is related to British Major General Henry Shrapnel, who invented the shrapnel shell in 1784. The munition consisted of a hollow cannonball filled with lead shot that burst in midair. The family name later became synonymous with any type of fragmentation from artillery shells.
“It’s quite an unusual name but well known in the military community,” said Shrapnell, a 1976 Michigan State University graduate.
People have asked him about his name over the years, especially people with a U.S. service background.
Mark Shrapnell said the family split around the 16th century when two brothers began using different spellings of their last name, with Mark’s side using two “l’s” and the other side taking the single “l” spelling.
Shrapnell said there are other historical figures in the family. Henry Jones Shrapnell was an English anatomist who worked with Edward Jenner, the creator of the smallpox vaccine. “Shrapnell’s membrane” in the ear is named after his distant relative.