Archive for November 18, 2011

13 Best Names in Mathematics

What’s the best name ever? My vote goes to an Army Reservist whose name — and I’m not making this up; you can find documentation here — is

Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster

If names truly imply destiny, then this guy was born to be a tough-as-nails sergeant.

A close second is Moxie Crimefighter Jillette, daughter of comedian Penn Jillette. One can only hope that she grows up to be a superhero.

These names got me to thinking: What are the best names in the math world? The math equivalent to Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster would be Algebra von Calculus. Alas, no real person has ever borne the burden of that name. But with multiple thousands of mathematicians since the beginning of time, there have got to be a few gems in there, right? Indeed. Here’s my dirty baker’s dozen.

1. August Beer – Are you kidding me? My favorite month and my favorite libation? Honestly, this name could only be bested by Ultimate Frisbee Copulation, and no mathematician with that name has yet walked the Earth.

2. Weinan E – To my knowledge, the only mathematician with a single-letter last name.

3. Walcher of Malvern – If things didn’t work out with mathematics, he was ready to be a fearless knight.

4. Srinivasa Ramanujan – It just rolls off the tongue so effortlessly.

Nametag - Srinivasa

5. Jon Barwise – True to his name, his best work was done on beer-stained napkins.

6. Helmut Ulm – The letters in his last name are a subset of the letters in his first name. How cool is that?

7. John Viriamu Jones – The inclusion of Viriamu, which is the Erromangan translation of Williams, makes extraordinary this otherwise very ordinary Welsh name.

8. Ken Ono – Six letters total, and the last name is a palindrome that also means delicious (Hawaiian), is the alternative name for Wahoo (fish), and is an acronym for “Or Nearest Offer.”

9. Udny Yule – Why it’s cool defies description. It just is.

10. Brian Pink – Not many mathy folks can pull off this color, but the Australia Statistician wears his name without shame.

11. Nate Silver – A good name, but he gets bonus points for having a cool title: psephologist (elections analyst). And double bonus points for his statement, “It’s always more interesting to apply [numbers] to batting averages than algebra class.”

12. Chike Obi – First sub-Saharan African to hold a doctorate in mathematics.

13. Persi Diaconis – Just an unbelievably cool name, predestined for greatness.

Not worthy of the Top 13, the following are a few honorable mentions…

  • Morris DeGroot – Sounds like a comic book character, and it has perfect cadence.
  • W. B. R. Lickorish – Three initials, and his last name is a popular treat.
  • Alicia Boole Stott – She got her middle name from her father George, who was no slacker in the math world. Then she married an actuary whose last name has a consonant repeated three times. But to ensure that her name didn’t overpower her brilliance, she coined the term polytope. Nicely done, Alicia.
  • Jim Propp – The inventor of the SRAT has a name that is most propper.
  • James Ax – If name really dictates destiny, shouldn’t little Jimmy Ax have grown up to be a serial killer? Kudos to him for rising above his nomenclatorial limitations.
  • Lewis Carroll – Okay, perhaps this one should be disqualified since it’s a pseudonym — but it is a great name, no?
  • Nathaniel Nye – Alliteration, anyone?
  • Panini of Shalatula – A great mathematician and my favorite lunch-time snack. Win-win!

November 18, 2011 at 12:12 pm 3 comments

About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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November 2011

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