"What's in a name?"The answer may actually be: quite a bit!
Your given name (and your family name, for that matter) likely contains a lot of subtle information about you and your history. For example, we often assume names correlate with gender (as I have in previous articles)... Except the gender identity of some common names has changed over history (examples here)! Your name may also correlate with your political affiliation or what job you have.
I recently wondered: do certain names correlate with brilliance or high intellectual achievement?
To find out, I gathered a large dataset of full names from people with PhDs in science (from the IAU and AAAS), as well as the names of lawyers using several recent years of bar exam "pass lists" provided by WA, NY, and TX. In total I was able to easily (read: quickly) gather over 36,000 full names of scientists and lawyers!
With this corpus of highly educated names in hand, let's look at which are most common!
The most common names of scientists:
The most common names of lawyers:
Lawyers have more diverse names
Here I compare the distribution of name frequencies between the datasets. For the top 500 names of Lawyers and Scientists, I've counted the occurrence rate of each name. You can clearly see that the Scientists (red line) are much more concentrated in the first 10-ish names. (Actually this is visible in the wordle's above also) This might seem surprising, given that the lawyer names only come from 3 states in the US, and the scientists come from all over the world.
I next wondered, how does the rank of scientist and lawyer names compare? Obviously names like "Michael" are high in both lists, but how well are they correlated? The answer: Not Very Well!
Huh! Something else is at work here. These names, scientists and lawyers, obviously do not come from the same distributions. I then realized: the scientists sampled are more "senior", while the lawyers are all very "young". The two groups may be separated by over 25 years age difference. This lack of name rank correlation, and maybe the different top names, might be related to the era these names are from. The larger number of women's names among lawyers surely is due to a great increase in the fraction of female attorneys compared to yesteryear.
To investigate this further, I gathered two "ground truth" datasets from the Social Security Administration (SSA): The 100 top baby names over the past 100 years, and the 100 top baby names of 1989. These datasets were broken down by gender, so the rest of my analysis is also.
The top names are...Female Scientists: