Can your naming choices land your baby in Mensa? The data says, “eh, maybe.” A group called MooseRoots, which aggregates name data for genealogy hobbyists, found something interesting when it looked at 14,750 famous brainiacs. The Nobel laureates, scientists, inventors, artists and composers it gathered all had a few things in common, but one that stands out was baby names that kept popping up over and over again.
On the blog post it wrote to introduce the findings, the company noted, “It’s much easier to climb the ranks of the elite when you have a bit of a head start. Prepare your child for greatness by giving him a name that has been borne by many accomplished people.”
Interested? If you’re having a little boy you hope will one day cure cancer or write an opus, try one of the following names, listed in ascending order by number of smarty-pants associated with them:
If you’re expecting a little girl instead and have a feeling she’s got the great American novel in her or at least the formula for time travel, you might try one of these:
Of course, there’s only one problem with naming your baby into prestigious academia: It’s probably the only thing that won’t get them there. Sure, you can look at correlative data all you want, but you need causation to actually draw a meaningful conclusion about data sets (ask your genius baby to explain it to you if you’re not sure what that means). Factors like parental income, an environment that nurtures creativity and learning and, most of all, genetics play much bigger roles than name choice.
The fact that these names are largely European in origin and that MooseRoots had to shoehorn girls’ names in when it saw that the gender balance was lopsided tells the real story. People who have historically had the privilege of both access to education and accolades recognizing their work have also — shock upon shocks — been given common, popular names, especially for the past two centuries. These names will pop up on lists of “Most common names of [insert desired result here]” if only because they are common enough to cast a wide net. After all, Elizabeth is just as likely to show up as a common name for female murderers (Borden, Bathory) as it is for geniuses.
Lists like this one are truly fun for the name-hunting expectant parent or stray data nerd, but that’s about all it’s good for. Just like that study a while back showed that by tacking more initials onto your kid’s name could trick other people into thinking they were successful, this is just one more gimmick that certainly won’t hurt to try but that can’t stand on its own as a “raise a successful genius strategy.”
We all want our children to do well, and we all secretly hope they’ll be geniuses who go on to do amazing things, but a name is just a drop in the bucket, and ultimately it’s everything you’ll do after you name your baby that actually matters.
Also worth remembering is that while we’ve traditionally associated genius with IQ, geniuses come in many, many forms. It’s safe to say that Vincent van Gogh turned his brain into Swiss cheese by sticking those lead paint-saturated brushes into his mouth, but we wouldn’t exclude him from the ranks of artistic greats just because his IQ didn’t clear the high bar. The more we learn about “multiple intelligences,” the more we discover that IQ doesn’t measure a person’s potential sufficiently.
So name your child whatever you think suits them. If it happens to be “John” and they happen to discover a way to invent automatic transport travel, more’s the better.