Last Names First: Science hero surnames
Many of us find surnames especially attractive as firsts, though it can be tricky to find a perfectly balanced name that fits the trend but isn’t too popular. It’s also a plus when a name has a vibrant history or meaningful reference attached to it. Here, I’ve compiled a list of unique and eye-catching surnames of some of the most iconic physicists and astronomers in history.
While my concept of physics is comprised of the faint memory of rolling marbles down ramps in Physics 101, some quotes from my favorite comedy, The Big Bang Theory, and a vague appreciation for the force of gravity, it is clear that we’d live in a very different world without the academic and technological contributions of the brilliant scholars listed below. Think of your neighborhood without electricity, or, equally devastating, high school without calculus. These influential stargazers boasted a variety of unique talents as well as an intriguing assortment of surnames to inspire the nerdy namer.
Dalton– John Dalton is remembered for his important contributions to atomic theory. The atomic mass unit is typically referred to as the Dalton in his honor. Having ranked within the top 500 names for boys for over two decades, Dalton is well established as a surname-inspired first name.
Halley– Astronomer Edmond Halley famously calculated the orbit of the comet that now bears his name. Halley’s comet is visible from Earth with the naked eye every 75-76 years. Though often pronounced Haley, Halley traditionally rhymes with Sally. As a girl’s name, I think Halley transforms the fairly mainstream Haley and Hallie into a subtle celestial reference.
Kelvin– Lord Kelvin (William Thomson) made various contributions to science and technology, ranging from directing the installation of the first telegraph cable under the Atlantic to creating the absolute temperature scale named for him. The name Kelvin could be seen as a quirky Kevin–Calvin smoosh and would work well for a boy.
Newton– One of the world’s best-known and most influential scientists, Sir Isaac Newton is famous for his laws of motion, his description of gravity, the development of calculus, and countless other seminal contributions. While the name Newton has a refined, “old man” sort of charm, I’m not sure I can get behind the amphibious “Newt” as a nickname.
Pascal– Like many on this list, Blaise Pascal of France had various talents extending beyond the study of physics. He was a mathematician, religious philosopher, and inventor whose creations included an early calculator. His name is now used both as a unit of pressure and a computer language, making it an appealing namesake for nerds of all kinds.
Tesla– Nikola Tesla is known for his contributions to the development of the alternating current electricity systems that now supplies power to, well, everything in your home. He often gave impressive demonstrations of his inventions and experiments, and became widely renowned. His surname easily works as a girl’s name.
Thorne– Modern-day astrophysicist Kip Thorne is known for his ideas regarding black holes, gravitational waves, wormholes, and time travel. Dr. Thorne also consulted on and produced the film Interstellar. His surname doubles as a badass nature name.
Jackie is a lifelong name nerd and a busy student working to earn a doctorate in biomedical science. In her minimal spare time, she loves to cuddle with her pets, cook, and name things. Check out Jackie’s blog, Namesplash, at namesplash.wordpress.com.
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