Prominent Namesakes

I told my friend about this site and she asked me to post this for her:

Hi! My husband and I are currently expecting our third child, due in a couple of weeks. We love names that have prominenet namesakes of historical icons. We are both science nerds and especially like names related to scientists, but we aren't limited to that. We have two older children named Ada (after Ada Lovelace) and Wright (after the Wright brothers). We need some help brainstorming more girls names and choosing boys names. This is what we have so far.




Franklin (after Benjamin Franklin) 


Girls: (We need some serious help)






Curie or Marie

Our last name starts with D and rhymes with bore

Thanks in advance!


October 10, 2015 2:00 AM

I love the basis behinds the names you've chosen for your children!

Some ideas I have to for girls to include in your list may be

Jane, after Dr. Jane Goodall.

Perhaps considering Sarah and Angelina (nn Nina), for the Grimke sisters, two prominant women's rights activists and abolitionists.

Susan ( Susan B. Anthony.)  

Elizabeth works for two people, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Elizabeth Blackwell, who was the first female doctor in the US.

I also thought of Amelia for Amelia Earhart, which would be a great tie in to your son Wright.

October 10, 2015 2:09 AM

The names of your friends' children are both excellent and also still quite tied to their namesakes in an obvious way, in a way that many other names are not. From the boy list I love Kelvin best.

On the female side, I might suggest Rosalind (more strongly tied to Ms Franklin than some of the other choices). If they're open to using cross-gender namesakes and not firmly on team Edison, I might also suggest Tesla. If they really want to go big and dramatic, I love Hypatia.

In the non-science side, the name Boadicea showed up on a real-life friend's shortlist, and I was impressed. Emmeline Pankhurst dominates the name Emmeline for me, and it has a very fashionable sound. Sophonisba has two prominent namesakes, a social rights advocate and a Renaissance painter... it's been on our short list.

October 10, 2015 10:57 AM

Just a note:  the spelling Boudicca has pretty much replaced Boadicea these days.

October 10, 2015 12:55 PM

Miriam, how would either of those be pronounced? I have seen both, and never know quite what to do with them.

October 10, 2015 1:27 PM

Both are pronounced Boo-dick-ah, hence the shift to the spelling Boudicca (sometimes Boudica),

October 10, 2015 2:26 AM

I think you've got a great theme going for your kids names. Kelvin would be really fun to encounter in real life and Edison works well too. Franklin as a first name makes me think FDR more than Ben Franklin, though either is a worthy namesake. Hawking is a harder sell for me as a first name, and somehow feels awkward with him still alive.

For girls I like the previous suggestion of Amelia, but if you're looking for an obvious namesake a female given name is less likely to be recognized. I think Ada is the most recognizable, but even that out of context would be hard to tell. If having others recognize the namesake is not so important, then I think you should just choose a name you like from the ones you've listed. If you're going for something more obvious, here are some ideas that might work;




Also, I recommend checking out a previous thread on science themed names. There were many interesting ideas there.

October 10, 2015 8:44 AM

I second Tesla! 

Is this the post you were referring to?

October 10, 2015 8:51 AM

No, there's a much more extensive thread somewhere. I think it's this:

October 10, 2015 12:27 PM

Yes HNG, that's the one I was thinking of. Thanks for finding it.

October 10, 2015 12:54 PM

I like all of your boy ideas; Franklin is probably my favorite namesake, and Kelvin is the most identifiably science-y. I agree with the reservations about Hawking in regard to naming for a living person, especially in light of some of the personal stuff that has come out more recently.

Kelvin makes me think of Joule, which I think could work for a boy or girl.

I also will second the suggestion of Hypatia--I know a toddler Hypatia, who carries it very well. Along the same lines, there's Cleopatra the Alchemist, though most folks would assume she was named for a different Cleopatra, or Diotima the philosopher.

Beatrix, for Beatrix Potter, who was a natural scientist and scientific illustrator before she became famous as a children's author.

A great scientific namesake-name that I recently ran across is Lilavati. The Līlāvatī is a famous mathematical treatise, much of which is addressed to the mathematician's eponymous daughter. Wikipedia gives this example: "Oh Lilavati, intelligent girl, if you understand addition and subtraction, tell me the sum of the amounts 2, 5, 32, 193, 18, 10, and 100, as well as [the remainder of] those when subtracted from 10000."

Female names are hard, because most of the first names of famous scientists, taken out of context, are so generic--lots of Marys and Elizabeths and such--and surnames largely don't work as feminine names (Apgar? Leakey? not so much). A couple of surnames that might work at a stretch are Nightingale and Mead. Alternatively, you could pick a favorite namesake and use both first and last names, to make the connection clear.

A couple more that are a maybe a little less obvious: Laika, for the first living animal to orbit the earth, and Hedy, for Hedy Lamarr, who was recognized after her death for her contributions to radio technology.

For non-scientific namesakes, I'll suggest Coretta, which I think has some of the antique charm of Ada and also an identifiable, cool civil rights namesake.

October 10, 2015 1:33 PM

In the Hypatia vein, there is also Aspasia, whose life illustrates the difficulties of being an intelligent, well-educated, independent woman with a life as a public intellectual in the ancient world.

October 10, 2015 3:02 PM

I really like Edison. 

I think it's adorable, and it fits in perfectly with the vintage charm of Ada and the surname style of Wright.

It's the perfect fit imo! 

I'm a big fan of Harriet, only because I love the nn Hattie. 

I like all the other choices as well. I think I'd be totally charmed to meet a young Sally.

In terms of namesakes, I think Marie is a very fitting choice, and while it's true that only a few would, "Get," the reference, and certainly only when combined with Ada and Wright, I am a fan of subtle themes, so that really makes me like it all the more. Google also tells me she had a brilliant daughter, Irene. 

I don't think Curie is particularly attractive as a fn, and while Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man, he also has some personal baggage that would make me a bit hesitant about using his name, at least right now. Those would be the only two I'd rule out.

I hate to admit that I'm woefully ignorant about prominent women scientists. This thread has me thinking I need to lead a lot more biographies. At any rate, Google leads me to offer Rosalind, after Rosalind Franklin, and Hedy, after Hedy Lamar, who was a brilliant scientist and important to the war effort after her acting career (again, thanks to Google)!

I definitely also recommend taking a look at the science inspired thread that was linked to above. It's quite expansive and very interesting.


October 10, 2015 7:53 PM

I once again hand it over to my friend:

Thank you for all of your wonderful suggestions! The science names post was great.

I can't believe we forgot about Rosalind Franklin. That has moved high up the list. I also like the suggestions of Beatrix and Emmeline. My husband liked many of your bolder suggestions, but they are a little to out there for me. I like them in theory, but can't imagine giving a name like Hypatia to a child. Tesla would maybe be normal enough, but I can't help thinking about the car. 

For boys, I am starting to agree with you that we should hold off on Hawking. I think I like Edison best, but my husband isn't sold. I realized that I forgot to include Kepler on the earlier list. It was one of our top contenders, but I forgot it so.... 

Keep the ideas coming! 

October 10, 2015 8:26 PM

I first thought Edison, but Kepler is a great name and easy to say. 

I wasn't sold on any of the girls names first listed as being obviously sciencey, but I love the suggestions of Rosalind, Beatrix and Emmaline. 

I would also like to suggest Christabel Pankhurst, who pioneered the suffragette movement with her mother, and she lived the latter part of her life in California.

October 11, 2015 1:33 AM

Beatrix Potter's contributions as a scientist make her a really good namesake, I think! She's very much the overriding association for Beatrix in the same way that Countess Lovelace is for Ada, but very few people know that she discovered that lichen is a symbiosis, though (and got laughed out of the royal society for her very correct ideas, after which she pursued children's books). Her scientific background is most evident in the Tale of Thomasina Tittlemouse, where the bugs are very science-illustration quality in their realism. (As that's my daughter's name, I had possibly way too much cake-decorating fun replicating those illustrations last year for her birthday.)

I really like Kepler, too.

I theoretically like Edison but I'd be aware that there's currently a bit of a Edison v Tesla culture war going on, which would make me pause in using Edison on a child.

October 11, 2015 1:44 AM

Wow! That cake is amazing! Is that a heart shape hidden inside? I'm deeply impressed. I can bake an awesome cake, but my decorating skills are far behind that.

I also agree about Beatrix Potter as a fantastic namesake. Her name is still quite tied to her and she was talented in both art and science, as well as being a strong independent woman and a philanthropist. Didn't she study mushrooms as well as lichen?

October 11, 2015 2:02 AM

Thank you! And yes, a heart shape inside! The painting was actually a lot easier than it looks, once I wrangled fondant onto the cake.  Draw with black food coloring marker, then use a paintbrush to color it in like watercolors (using food coloring diluted with alcohol). Totally better than faffing about with piping icing. It was fun to get to choose the theme for the first birthday!

Beatrix Potter was indeed a mycologist, and would make a really great namesake, for the original poster of this thread and also for you!


October 11, 2015 8:31 AM

That cake is perfection! What flavor was it? (Sorry dhunting999 for taking this so much off topic.)

October 11, 2015 1:13 PM

We always do the Nigella buttermilk birthday cake because it's nice and sturdy and also tastes good (How to Be a Domestic Goddess has a vanilla-flavored one, and there's an orange zest version kicking around online too). Would recommend!

October 12, 2015 8:38 PM

Oh I will try that. Citrus flavours are so nice. I love the icing painting idea. Really good Thomasina too -  you're artistically talented!

October 11, 2015 1:11 PM

I am beyond impressed with that cake!

By rooo
October 11, 2015 1:08 PM

What a fun theme! I can only think of a few more:


Issac or Newton

Leonardo (Da Vinci)


Joan (of Arc)

Teresa (as in Mother)

Florence (Nightengale)

Sandra (Day O'Connor)

Ruth (Bader Ginsburg)

Nellie (Bly)


The challenge is that there are a lot of great names where the namesake isn't clear at all (e.g. Emily Dickinson, Julia Morgan, a zillion Margarets).


I would avoid names like Tesla where there is still a current brand associated. One scandal and your kid is forever connected to something negative.

October 13, 2015 12:59 AM

This is a really good point, about Tesla as a brand. That causes me to withdraw my recommendation for it. I do think that the suggestion of Nikola is still more wearable, though.

October 11, 2015 1:23 PM

I have a friend with sons Isaac and Albert.  I guessed right off that she was going for scientists. 

October 11, 2015 1:58 PM

I'd like to heavily second the idea of looking into the background of Thomas Edison. I usually like to give citations if I am going to cast aspersions on someone's character, but I think it was an American Experience documentary on PBS where I got the impression of Edison as something of a bully (and possible anti-Semite) who would send hired goons to smash up rival inventors' labs.  There is some thought that Hollywood was founded in Southern California because the people experimenting with moving pictures wanted to be as far as possible from Edison.  I hate to be so negative about a name on your list, but I really have a strong reaction to it, and others might, as well.

October 13, 2015 1:06 AM

I think more and more people are having that particular reaction these days, as the increasing movement to credit Nikola Tesla has I think been coupled with a more detailed expose of Thomas Edison (e.g. the cartoon I linked above, which has I think been quite popular given the number of times I see the comic reposted or the sentiments from the comic in apparel format on the street).

I think especially the sorts of nerdy/geeky people who would respond to "These are my children Ada and Wright!" with a very positive "oooh, a STEM theme!" are now increasingly likely to respond to Edison with kind of a knee-jerk "ohhhhh, [insert expletive here]" reaction.

October 13, 2015 8:25 AM

That us actually the main reason why we probably won't use. My problem is that I love the way it sounds and cannot seem to forget it. My husband agreed to list it because he wanted to see if others had heard about the controversies and how well known they are. Clearly, you all know about it, so I think Edison is off the list. We are down to Kepler, Kelvin, and possibly Franklin.

October 11, 2015 2:11 PM

To add to your list I would suggest Lise, for Lise Meitner.  Like Rosalind Franklin, she was yet another scientist denied credit for her discoveries; her colleague won a Nobel Prize for their work, and she was left out.  She does have an element named after her, however (Meitnerium).

For the boys I'd suggest Linus, for Linus Pauling.  He first described electronegativity and so any chemistry undergrad is very familiar with the Pauling electronegativity scale.  He also should get credit for much of our understanding of lead toxicity. 

October 12, 2015 9:03 PM

Caroline Herschel, an astronomer

October 12, 2015 9:07 PM

Also, Nellie Bly

October 19, 2015 8:12 PM

We have decided on Kelvin for a boy and either Beatrix or Rosalind for a girl. Now we could use your help with middles. Our daughter's middle name is my maiden name and our son's is my husbands first name. We have compiled a list of names that honor beloved family names from both sides, but cannot narrow it down further and commit.

Boys: Thomas, Robert, and Stephen

Boy or girl (family surnames): Montgomery, Darby, Vanderbilt, Elliot

Girl: Helen, Sarah, Arabella, June

Which combinations do you think work best?

Reminder: Last name is very close to door

By rooo
October 19, 2015 8:42 PM

Lovely choices! I like the following pairings on sound alone, but if there are names more meaningful to you I would give those stronger weight.

Kelvin Thomas Door
Kelvin Montgomery Door

Beatrix Montgomery Door
Beatrix Helen Door
Beatrix Sarah Door

Rosalind Elliot Door (bonus points if she's a redhead)
Rosalind Arabella Door
Rosalind June Door

October 19, 2015 10:22 PM

Ooh, lovely choices for the given name! I don't even know which one I'm rooting for the most!

Ignoring sound, because it comes up so seldom for most people, and going just by style, I think Darby and Elliot offer a good contrast with Beatrix and Rosalind. Both surnames are seeing some use as girl's names nowadays, and thus could offer options if for some reason the classic femininity of the given name didn't fit, either in a particular context or in general.

Kelvin is a surname already (Lord Kelvin's title was based on the name of a river in Scotland), so I would pair it with one of the classic masculine names. Any of the three (or four, if you include Elliot) will work, but keep in mind that Lord Kelvin was named William Thomson, so Kelvin Thomas would be a double reference to him. This isn't a bad thing, and in any case most people would have no idea (including me -- I had to look it up), but it's the sort of thing that's cool to know ahead of time.

If your surname actually begins with D (I don't remember), then Arabella would be lovely with Rosalind but awful with Beatrix.

October 20, 2015 12:30 AM

Ooh, awesome choices! I am so excited to see which one you'll end up using - they're all amazing choices!

I think with Kelvin I like a more traditional firstname choice, to avoid surname-surname-surname in a row, so I might choose from the Thomas, Robert or Stephen menu. I think flow-wise Thomas or Robert break up the two-syllable-ends-in-n trend, so I might upvote those... and then let the positive feelings towards the Thomas or Robert steer you further.

For the girl side, I especially like the surnames because again with the contrast. Helen and Arabella are names that are very like Rosalind and Beatrix, to me. (I love them, but it might be nice for little Beatrix or Rosalind to have maximal options, plus, I enjoy style contrast between names for its own sake.) June is a little simpler in the same retro vein as Beatrix and Rosalind, too. Sarah is perhaps the most dissimilar from the first name choices, but I think you have some fabulous surnames, too. Again, I'd let the namesakes steer you. They're all wonderful combinations.


October 20, 2015 12:31 AM

I'd just avoid Beatrix Arabella for BAD initials. RAD wouldn't be so bad. :)

October 20, 2015 1:58 AM

I really like the first names you've chosen. Based purely on my personal preferences, I would pick Thomas or Robert for a boy and June or Helen for a girl. I think Helen and June work equally well with Beatrix or Rosalind, and I don't particularly like Arabella with either of them. Kelvin Stephen is a bit too rhymey, or maybe repetitive, for me.

Really though, with the exception of possible BAD initials, I think any of these options could work well for you. I'm a big believer that meaning trumps sound on the middle name especially when considering honor names. So which of these people do you especially want to honor? Or which name do you like best? That's the right one, even if the flow isn't great.

November 2, 2015 9:34 PM

Baby girl Beatrix Montgomery arrived early Sunday morning and everyone is already smitten. My friends are so pleased with her name. Thank you so much for all of your help!

November 2, 2015 9:55 PM

Congrats to your friends!

November 2, 2015 10:29 PM

That's a great choice!

November 3, 2015 5:42 PM

Congratulations on little Trixie!

November 3, 2015 6:17 PM

That's great! Congratulations to your friends, and thanks for the update!

November 4, 2015 1:11 AM

Wonderful choice! Please pass on my congratulations!

December 11, 2015 11:11 PM

Congrats. Though it's a family name it also makes me think of lm Montgomery, author. :)

December 11, 2015 10:44 PM

How about Newton for a boy?