Seeking a Science-Inspired Name

Seeking a Science-Inspired Name

Liz writes:

I’m a math teacher and science lover, my husband is a history teacher and literary enthusiast. We are expecting our second son, and looking for something that can go with our first son’s name: Truman King, Tru for short.

We’re hoping for a name with ties to science, history, or both. And, because we’re teachers, we’re looking for an unusual name – something we won’t associate with a former student.

Our short list includes Wiles (after the mathematician) and Kepler, but we’re looking for more ideas.

We all know people who color our ideas about a name, for good or otherwise. But teachers have a special challenge, don’t they? They meet dozens of children every year – more, for teachers in upper grades. And their students inevitably shade the way they think about baby names.

Since Liz and her husband are both teachers, it’s a double whammy! Choosing names connected to the subjects they love makes sense. It’s like using a family name. When there are so many positive, powerful associations, another person with the same name won’t do any damage.

Now, to the names.

I think Wiles works. We have kids called Wiley and Wesley and Brooks and Miles, so why not Wiles?

But Kepler? On the plus side, I recognize it as a science reference immediately, and I think lots of others would, too. But it doesn’t feel quite like a given name. I’d put it in the same category as Schrodinger or even Einstein – familiar, but tough to wear.

So let’s think science and mathematics, with some history thrown in, and come up with a shortlist.

NielsNiels jumped out at me immediately, maybe because ends-in-s Wiles is on your shortlist. Depending on the language, Niels is either a form of Nicholas or Cornelius. Danish physicist Niels Bohr won a Nobel Prize in 1922, and he even has a chemical element named in his honor: Bohrium. Niels is popular in Europe, but in the US, it’s quite rare.

Abel – There’s actually a second Niels on this list – Niels Abel, an eighteenth century Norwegian mathematician. He made dozens of contributions to the field during his short life. I love Abel as a brother for Truman because of the subtle hint of virtue name. Truman is honest and Abel is capable. Good connotations, both.

Hardy – I’d never heard of A Mathematician’s Apology before now, but it seems fitting. Written by G.H. Hardy in 1940, the essay is about the art and beauty of mathematics. Hardy’s own specialty was number theory. The G.H. stood for Godfrey Harold. Neither of those names feels quite right for Truman’s brother, but surname Hardy does.

Watson I would love Watson to work! James Watson and Francis Crick are the co-discovers of the structure of DNA. Watson has won a Nobel Prize for his work. And yet, the more I say it, the more I think it just seems too Sherlock. Still, that’s a literary connection, so I’ll leave it on the list.

Fleming – Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin accidentally, and pioneered the field of modern antibiotics. His last name feels both unexpected and dashing. Some credit might go to James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, for that quality. My only hesitation with Fleming is that’s no logical short form, like Truman’s Tru.

RobinsonRobinson makes the list for two reasons. First, there’s English chemist and 1947 Nobel Prize winner Robert Robinson. Second, William Joyce wrote children’s book A Day with Wilbur Robinson back in 1990, the inspiration for Disney’s 2007 film Meet the Robinsons. It’s about both invention and adventure, and there’s a science fair, too. Truman and Robinson, Tru and Rob.

LinusLinus Pauling is the only person to hold two unshared Nobel Prizes. In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Eight years later, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He’s a towering figure in twentieth century science and seems like a fitting namesake. And yet, Truman has a certain boldness, while Linus feels quieter.

Huxley – This name always strikes me as literary, thanks to Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World. But the Huxley family was multi-talented. Aldous’ grandfather was the zoologist Thomas Henry Huxley, a close colleague of Charles Darwin. And Aldous’ half-brother was Andrew Huxley, a noted physiologist and Nobel Prize winner. This makes Huxley a name that works in scientific and literary circles. Plus, it’s just plain cool. Truman and HuxleyTru and Hux, Tru and Huck.

What names would you suggest for Truman King’s brother? And do you have any middle name ideas?

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