Historic Baby Names: Mothers and Fathers of Invention

We’ve looked across history and geography at the men and women whose inventions have affected our lives—in both major ways (the electric light bulb, the elevator)  and minor (the coffee filter, the crossword puzzle)—and picked those with the best baby-name potential.

And here are our top Nameberry picks of historic baby names based on those of important inventors:

Alessandro Volta–Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Gerolamo Umberto Volta was an Italian physicist who invented the battery in the nineteenth century.

Amalie Auguste Melitta Bentz –As you might have guessed from her second middle name, A.A. Melitta  Bentz invented the coffee filter.

Arthur Wynne—Liverpool-born journalist Arthur Wynne created the first crossword puzzle.  Originally called word-cross, it debuted in the New York World newspaper in 1913.

Blaise Pascal—The seventeenth century French physicist and philosopher invented, among other things, the first mechanical calculator in 1642, which he humbly dubbed the Pascaline.

Chester Carlson—invented xerography in 1938, though it was 21 years before the first office copier was available to the public.

Corradino D’Ascanio— Italian General Corradino D’Ascanio  was an aeronautical engineer who designed the first production helicopter, and also the first motor scooter.

Craven Walker—born Edward Craven Walker, he was the inventor of that icon of the psychedelic era, the Lava lamp, aka the Astro lamp.

Edison, Thomas—the most prolific and influential American inventor since Ben Franklin—think phonograph, motion picture camera, stock ticker, the first practical light bulb, the alkaline battery, to name a few. (Baby namers are now warming to his surname.)

Elias Howe— In 1846 Elias Howe patented the first practical sewing machine, which revolutionized the garment industry.

Elisha Graves Otis didn’t invent the elevator but did invent the safety brake device that would make high-rise buildings possible.  Another Elisha, Elisha Gray, invented his own version of the telephone, resulting in a major legal battle with Alexander Graham Bell.

Evangelista Torricilli—A seventeenth century Italian physicist and mathematician and one-time assistant to Galileo, he was the inventor of the barometer.  (In twenty-first century America, however, this name would work better for a girl.)

Gideon Sundback—This Swedish-American electrical engineer and inventor filed a patent for the modern zipper in 1914.

Hedy Lamarr—Yes, that glamorous Hedy Lamarr—she co-invented a frequency-hopping communication system that eventually led in part to such developments as the modem, the cordless phone, Bluetooth and wi-fi.

Josephine Cochrane–a wealthy Midwestern woman who was heard to exclaim, “If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.”  Which is just what she did in 1886, designing the first practical mechanical dishwasher.

King Camp Gillette—An American businessman who innovated the disposable thin blade safety razor associated with his name.

László Bíró—Budapest-born inventor of the now-ubiquitous ballpoint pen, still called a biro in the UK.

Leonardo da Vinci—one of the most creative minds in history: in addition to his vast artistic achievements da Vinci is credited with the invention of the parachute, the armored tank, and the ball bearing, to name just a few.

Levi Strauss—The Levi behind your levis, Levi Strauss was the German –born businessman who was the first to have the idea of manufacturing blue jeans in San Francisco in 1853.

Linus Yale, Sr. and Jr.—a nineteenth  century father and son pair who invented several revolutionary types of locks that are still in use today.

Luther  Simijian—An Armenian-born inventor most famous for his conception of the Bankmatic automatic teller machine (ATM).

Nils Bohlin—The Swede who invented the modern seat belt, while working at Volvo.

Percy Spencer—An American engineer/inventor who in 1945 patented the microwave oven, which he called the Radarange.  The first commercial models were 6 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds.

Philo Farnsworth–the farm boy who conceived the basic operating principles of electronic television at the age of thirteen.

Roxey Ann Caplin— At the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, Madame Roxey Ann Caplin was awarded the prize medal of “Manufacturer, Designer and Inventor” for her innovative corset design.

Rune Elmquist—A Swedish doctor and engineer, he invented both the inkjet printer (1948) and the implantable pacemaker (1958).

Temple Grandin, who was recently portrayed on television in an Emmy-winning performance by Claire Danes, invented revolutionary practices for the humane treatment of livestock.

Theophilius Van Kammel—an American inventor most famous for conceiving the revolving door, which he patented in 1888.

Ub Iwerks, born Ubbe–an animator and inventor who was Walt Disney’s oldest friend–was a special effects pioneer who co-invented the multiplane camera—and also conceived the appearance of  Mickey Mouse.

Any of these inventive names appeal?


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14 Responses to “Historic Baby Names: Mothers and Fathers of Invention”

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alphabetdem Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 1:38 am

Love this list! I love when you guys do these historical ones, and there’s a wide range of both name styles and backgrounds to choose from. I, like many on nb, like names with weight and stories behind them. Excellent job.

I like Amalie, Arthur, Josephine, Leonardo and Levi. And Rune is an interesting choice. I don’t think I would ever use it, but I could see a good chunk of people being drawn to it, and I could understand why!

Evangelista is also a pleasant surprise, though I hope no one names their child Ub!

alphabetdem Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 1:41 am

I forgot to mention one thing–

Craven is terrible. Craven literally means cowardly! What a legacy to give your child. :/

shanbrownie Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 2:08 am

Some cool finds in this list. I’m liking Linus and Chester and Rune would make an awesome middle name.

JodesT Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 2:41 am

I was going to comment DO NOT CALL YOUR CHILD CRAVEN !!! But alphabetdem already got there … phew =)

alzora Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 5:12 am

I was just thinking of the name Roxy/Roxey lately and wondering if it could stand alone. 🙂 Nice to see that it’s been used. I like it.

Pam Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 6:04 am

Our entry for Craven, if you click through, notes that it would not be a wise name choice. Though I like knowing the name of the person who invented the lava lamp!

Alistephe Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 7:22 am

…de Vinci or da Vinci? 😛

UselessKitty Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 10:28 am

I am just happy to see Luther linked to something other than Martin Luther and Martin Luther King JR. for a change. Those are great associations, but not the only ones.

tori101 Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Great blog!
I love so many of these names, I adore the Italian classics like Alessandro, Anastasio and Leonardo for example. I love Josephine, Elias, Luther (unlike UselessKitty I love that the immediate association is MLK and MLK JR how amazing are these associations) and Levi! Levi is my favourite boys name in the whole world.

jc54 Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 4:59 pm

I think this one is my favorite blog! I’m loving the names and the history you’ve given behind the inventors! Levi, Edison, Pascal, Alessandro, Gideon, Elisha, Josephine & Temple. Amazing names & stories! Thanks!

Etruria Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 6:38 pm

I love the idea of names from history. My own kids have ancient Roman middle names. I love the Italian names, and Pascal, Amalie, Levi and Gideon.

But, ugh, Chester is terrible (it’s a bad rhyming name). And there are too many pitbulls named Roxy for it to be used for a little girl.

MaScha2 Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 9:53 pm

I kind of like Thepohilius, cool new way to get to Theo! And Gideon is becoming one of my new favorites!

R_J Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

Great list, as usual. Rune is kind of cool, but sounds like “ruin” said lazily. I like Elias the best.

nlane825 Says:

April 11th, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Love this post! I like finding names such as these that have such a great connection behind them. One names that I have always loved is Tess/Tessa and my husband is an electrical lineman so to me that name is special because it sounds like Nikola Tesla, a very famous man in the electrical world (like Volta) for his inventions and contributions to our current AC electrical system. From this list I liked Amalie, Chester, Walker, Edison, Hedy, Josephine, Nils, and Rune. Jospehine has definitely been growing on me lately I have to say.

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