Most topologists are familiar with the Hewitt-Marczewski-Pondiczery theorem. It states that if m is an infinite cardinal then the product of no more than exp(m) topological spaces of density character no larger than m has density character no larger than m. In particular, the product of no more than c infinite separable spaces is separable (where c is the cardinal number of the continuum). Hewitt's proof appeared in [Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 52 (1946), 641-643], Marczewski's proof in [Fund. Math. 34 (1947), 127-143], and Pondiczery in [Duke Math. 11 (1944), 835-837]. A proof and a few historical remarks appear in Chapter 2 of Engelking's General Topology. The spread in the publication dates is due to dislocations caused by the second world war; there is no doubt that these discoveries were made independently.
Hewitt and Marczewski are well-known as contributors to general topology, but who was (or is) Pondiczery? The answer may be found in "Lion Hunting & other Mathematical Pursuits" , edited by G. Alexanderson and D. Mugler, Mathematical Association of America, 1995. It is a collection of memorabilia about Ralph P. Boas Jr. (1912-1992), whose accomplishments included writing many papers in mathematical analysis as well as several books, making a lot of expository contributions to the American Mathematical Monthly, being an accomplished administrator (e.g., he was the first editor of Mathematical Reviews (MR) who set the tone for this vitally important publication, and was the chairman for the mathematics department at Northwestern University for many years and helped to improve its already high quality), and helping us all to see that there is a lot of humor in what we do. He wrote many humorous articles under pseudonyms, sometimes jointly with others. The most famous is "A contribution to the mathematical theory of of game hunting" by H. Petard that appeared in the Monthly in 1938. This book is a delight to read
In this book, Ralph Boas confesses to having concocted the name from Pondicheree (a place in India fought over by the Dutch, English and French), changed the spelling to make it sound slavic, and added the initials E.S. because he contemplated writing spoofs on extra-sensory perception under the name E.S. Pondiczery. Instead, Pondiczery wrote notes in the Monthly, reviews for MR, and the paper that is the subject of this article. It is the only one reviewed in MR credited to this pseudononymous author.
One mystery remains. Did Ralph Boas have a collaborator in writing this paper? He certainly had the talent to write it himself, but facts cannot be established by deduction alone. His son Harold (also a mathematician) does not know the answer to this question. Perhaps some reader of Topological Commentary does and will enlighten us all.