The term supernova was coined in the 1930s by a memorably odd astrophysicist named Fritz Zwicky. Born in Bulgaria and raised in Switzerland, Zwicky came to the California Institute of Technology in the 1920s and there at once distinguished himself by his abrasive personality and erratic talents.
He didn't seem to be outstandingly bright, and many of his colleagues considered him little more than "an irritating buffoon." A fitness buff, he would often drop to the floor of the Caltech dining hall or other public areas and do one-armed pushups to demonstrate his virility to anyone who seemed inclined to doubt it.
He was notoriously aggressive, his manner eventually becoming so intimidating that his closest collaborator, a gentle man named Walter Baade, refused to be left alone with him. Among other things, Zwicky accused Baade, who was German, of being a Nazi, which he was not. On at least one occasion Zwicky threatened to kill Baade, who worked up the hill at the Mount Wilson Observatory, if he saw him on the Caltech campus.