Is the Ferris wheel actually named after someone named Ferris?
Yes. It's named after its inventor, Pittsburgh bridge builder George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., who unveiled the first Ferris wheel to the world at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. The exhibition was organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America.
The wheel Ferris designed for the fair was gigantic and very popular with visitors. It was 250 feet across and it could hold 2,160 people. It reportedly carried more than a million paying customers during its 19 weeks of operation.
Tragically, Ferris didn't have long to enjoy the success of his invention. He died three years later at the age of 37.
For more information about the Ferris wheel and its inventor, try to find a copy of The Ferris Wheel by Lois Stodieck Jones, published in 1984.
In the meantime, here is a link to a 19th century newspaper account of the wheel called 266 Feet in Air.
-The Fact Monster