Back-to-School Baby Names Highlight Historical Figures from the Sciences to Fine Art

As the back-to-school season approaches, it’s not only students who are getting ready to learn. Expecting parents can also delve into the world of education, drawing inspiration from historical figures across various disciplines for their baby’s name. From the sciences to fine art, these names carry a legacy of innovation, creativity, and achievement.

We have curated a list of baby names that pay tribute to some of the most influential figures in history. These names not only offer a unique moniker for your child but also serve as a testament to human accomplishment, potentially inspiring your little one toward their own path of discovery and excellence.

English Class Baby Names


Back-to-School Baby Names

Gwendolyn is an elegant and charming baby name for girls. There have been many famous Gwendolyns, but the best known is the poet Gwendolyn Brooks. She won a Pulitzer Prize, a Robert Frost Medal, and the National Medal of the Arts. Her poetry inspired many to reconsider notions of inner-city life. Gwendolyn is an appellation of Welsh origin that means “white ring.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Henrik might seem like an odd name, but it belonged to one of the most influential playwrights of all time, Henrik Ibsen. Known as the “father of realism,” Ibsen brought modernist views to the theater. For fans of A Doll’s House, Henrik would make the best name for a boy.

Henrik originates from Norwegian and means “ruler of the home.” From the sound of the name to its meaning, Henrik conveys strength and power. If you’re looking for a bold children’s name with a nod to the performing arts, Henrik would be ideal.


Back-to-School Baby Names

Maya is a beautiful name on its own, but knowing that it belonged to legendary poet, Maya Angelou makes it even more special. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years. Her poem, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the most famous American poems of all time.

A notable character named Maya comes from The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a German children’s book that’s popular worldwide. The name Maya is Spanish, Hebrew, and Greek in origin and means “water.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Many people don’t know this, but author E.B. White‘s first name was Elwyn. White wrote children’s classics, Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. Stories of lively animals that have to make decisions just like people do entertain and educate children today. In addition to the children’s books, White wrote for The New Yorker for nearly twenty years. Parents who wear their “New Yorker” tote bags around town would do well for their son by naming him Elwyn.

Elwyn is an uncommon name but it has a winning ring to it. The name comes from old English and means “wise friend.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Louisa May Alcott published her novel Little Women over 100 years ago, and it’s still just as popular as ever. She wrote strong, three-dimensional female characters that many young girls still connect with today. Alcott was a pioneering abolitionist and feminist and dedicated her life to the advancement of women through education and work.

The name Louisa means, “renowned warrior.” If you are looking for a strong name for your baby girl, Louisa is a fine choice.


Back-to-School Baby Names

Beckett is most commonly known as an English surname. Think of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett. Beckett wrote the classic, Waiting for Godot. He is such a treasure to Ireland they named a major bridge for him. There are plenty of other notable Becketts, many of whom are Irish. If you’ve got Irish ancestry and would like to honor it, Beckett would be a great name for your child.

Beckett comes from a root that means “beehive” or “bee cottage.” It is more popular today in the US than ever, ranking in the top 200 most given names for boys. “Beck” as a nickname is charming and would stand out.

Math Class


Back-to-School Baby Names

Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer who is widely regarded as the world’s first computer programmer. She was born in London in 1815 and showed an early aptitude for mathematics, which she pursued with the help of tutors and mentors. Lovelace is best known for her work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, a mechanical calculator considered one of the precursors to modern computers. Her notes on the machine included what is now recognized as the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine, making her a pioneer in computer programming.

Today, she is remembered as a trailblazer for women in STEM fields and an inspiration to generations of programmers and innovators. Ada is a name of German origin, meaning “noble.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Alan Mathison Turing, often considered the father of modern computer science, was a British mathematician, computer scientist, logician, and philosopher. Born in London in 1912, he contributed significantly to mathematics, cryptanalysis, and computer science. Turing is most famous for developing the first modern computers and decoding the encryption of German Enigma machines during World War II. Despite his groundbreaking work, Turing faced persecution due to his homosexuality, which was criminalized at the time. His life ended tragically in 1954, but his legacy continues to influence the field of computing and artificial intelligence today.

Alan is a top-200 name in the US today. It is of Irish origin and means “handsome” and “cheerful.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Hypatia, an ancient Greek name, has a distinguished namesake. Hypatia of Alexandria was an early philosopher and scholar of mathematics and astronomy. If you’re a fan of the artist Judy Chicago, you probably know she included a setting for Hypatia at her famous The Dinner Party. Unfortunately, this name has never taken off for baby girls born in the US. That’s a shame because this name means “supreme.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Terence Chi-Shen Tao, born on 17 July 1975, is an esteemed Australian mathematician and a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Recognized as a child prodigy, Tao began learning calculus at age seven and became the youngest person in history to win a medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad at age 10. He moved to the United States to pursue a PhD at Princeton when he was 16. Tao was awarded the prestigious Fields Medal in 2006 for his contributions to partial differential equations and combinatorics. His research spans pure and applied mathematics, including significant contributions to compressive sensing in signal processing. He is also the author of a widely read blog on mathematics.

Terence was once a cherished choice in the US, but it has fallen from favor. The name originated as a Roman clan name, Terentius. The meaning of the appellation is uncertain, but it could mean “smooth.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Katherine Johnson was an exceptional American mathematician who made significant contributions to NASA’s space programs with her mastery of complex manual calculations. Referred to as a “human computer,” Johnson’s work in orbital mechanics was crucial for the success of the first and subsequent US crewed spaceflights.

Her calculations enabled astronauts to orbit Earth and land on the Moon successfully. Notably, Johnson was also a trailblazer for both racial and gender equality, as she was one of the first African-American women to work as a NASA scientist. Her life and achievements were highlighted in the 2016 film Hidden Figures.

Katherine is a name of Greek origin that means “pure.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi was a remarkable Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, and geographer who produced influential works in multiple disciplines. Born around 780 AD, Al-Khwarizmi is often referred to as the father of algebra, and his contributions to mathematics were so significant that the term “algorithm” is derived from his name. He was also a director at the renowned House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where he translated and adapted important mathematical and scientific texts from earlier Greek and Indian scholars.

Muhammad is one of the world’s most cherished appellations. The Arabic root of the name means “worthy of praise.”

Science Class


Back-to-School Baby Names

Marie Salomea Skłodowska-Curie, a physicist and chemist of Polish origin who became a naturalized French citizen, conducted groundbreaking research on radioactivity. Her contributions to the field were so significant that she became the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize. Not only that, but she also has the distinction of being the first to win two Nobel Prizes and the only person to have won in two different scientific fields.

Marie is the French form of Mary, meaning “drop in the sea” or “bitter.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Percy Lavon Julian was an American research chemist and a pioneer in the chemical synthesis of medicinal drugs from plants. He laid the foundation for the use of steroids in modern medicine. In recent decades, the name Percy has not been favored by parents as it has gained a reputation as a moniker for spoiled rich boys.

However, this royal name has a storied history with origins in the French tradition, referring to the place Perci-en-Auge, which translates to “one who pierces the valley.”

RELATED: Broody, Intellectual Baby Names Are on the Rise: Here Are 25 Examples That Highlight the Trend


Back-to-School Baby Names

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was a British chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose seminal work significantly advanced our understanding of molecular structures, particularly that of DNA. Franklin’s most notable contribution to science was her pioneering use of X-ray diffraction techniques to study the structure of DNA. Her creation of the famous Photo 51 provided crucial evidence for the double-helix structure of DNA, fundamentally shaping our understanding of how life is passed down from generation to generation. A true trailblazer!

Rosalind has not been a popular choice in the US since the 1970s. The name is of Latin origin and means “pretty rose.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Albert Einstein, born in Germany, was a theoretical physicist who is frequently ranked among the most influential scientists in history. He revolutionized scientific thought with his groundbreaking theories of space, particularly the special and general theories of relativity. Einstein’s work earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921. He also made significant contributions to the development of quantum mechanics. Einstein’s theories changed our understanding of the universe, from the smallest particles to the vast expanses of space and time.

The name Albert has been trending down for decades now. The name is of German origin and means “noble” and “bright.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician, and former NASA astronaut who made history as the first African-American woman to travel to space. Born on October 17, 1956, Jemison’s journey into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992 marked a significant milestone in space exploration. Besides her astronaut career, Jemison is also a trained medical doctor who served as a Medical Officer in the Peace Corps and is fluent in Russian, Japanese, and Swahili.

The appellation Mae is currently experiencing a renaissance in the US. We are so glad it’s climbing once more! Mae is a short form of Mary or Margaret and means “bitter” or “pearl.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, and physicist known for his significant contributions to developing alternating current (AC) electrical systems. Born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, Lika (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Croatia), Tesla’s work revolutionized how we produce, transmit, and use electrical power. He held around 300 patents for his inventions, showcasing his prolific mind and innovative spirit.

In Eastern Europe, Nikola is a masculine name, a Serbian form of Nicholas. In Western Europe, the name tends to go to more girls, making it a solid unisex option. The Greek root of this name means “people of victory.”

History Class


Back-to-School Baby Names

Audre Lorde was an American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist. She was a self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, capitalism, heterosexism, and homophobia. She also went by an amazing name, Audre. The name has English origins and means “noble strength.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

While you could go with Bayard, we love Bayard Rustin’s surname even more. Rustin was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement and fought against racial discrimination for equality. He was at the center of the Civil Rights Movement even though he has not historically been taught about in schools because he was openly gay. It’s a shame that someone who had such an outsized role organizing the March on Washington, Freedom Riders, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has not garnered the attention he deserves.

Rustin is the French preferred form of Russell, which means “red-headed.” This name made the US top 1000 in 1979 and 1980 but has since fallen from favor. Honor a legend and help bring back this gorgeous name by choosing Rustin for your baby boy.


Back-to-School Baby Names

Renowned US tennis player Billie Jean King, who has won an impressive 20 Wimbledon titles, is perhaps best known for her historic victory over Bobby Riggs in the landmark “Battle of the Sexes” match in 1973. After Riggs made derogatory comments about women’s athletic abilities, King stepped up to the challenge and defeated him in a thrilling match, winning a $100,000 prize. This momentous event showcased King’s exceptional skills on the court and helped break down gender barriers and promote equality in sports. Billie is a gender-neutral form of William, meaning “steadfast protector.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

The name Buzz is a completely American invention that came from a nickname meaning “little village in the woods.” We know that’s not too common, but astronaut Buzz Aldrin would beg to differ. The name Buzz is super fun, and we think your little spaceman could pull it off. It’s one of our favorite space-inspired names for boys.


Back-to-School Baby Names

Florence Nightingale often referred to as “The Lady with the Lamp,” devoted her time and efforts to nursing wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Her unwavering passion and dedication to this profession revolutionized the public’s perception of it. She recognized the importance of proper sanitation in patient care, which is said to have saved countless lives. Nightingale’s impact on healthcare and her tireless work in improving conditions for patients continue to inspire nurses today. Florence is a name of Latin origin, meaning “prosperous.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

The Hudson River is a picturesque waterway that flows through the heart of New York City. It’s named after Henry Hudson, an English explorer who sailed up the river in 1609. The river runs for over 300 miles, from the Adirondack Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, and serves as an important transportation and shipping route for the region. Hudson is an English name that means “Hugh’s son.”

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Fine Art Baby Names


Back-to-School Baby Names

Kara Elizabeth Walker is an American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and filmmaker who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. Her work is so powerful that it has elevated the artist as one of the greatest, most in-demand talents in the world. Kara, as a name, peaked in the 1980s but remains more popular than the Cara variant. In Norse mythology, Kara was a Valkyrie, lover of Helgi, who charmed his enemies in battle by enchanting them with song. You will also find the name in Latin and Irish tradition, giving a number of possible meanings from “face” to “friend” to “dear.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

We love the photographs captured by the legendary Ansel Adams but it’s his unique name that we really love. Ansel is a name of German origin that means “with divine protection.” The name was last popular in the US in 1923! We think it’s due for a comeback! Ansel is growing in popularity, however, and it could enter the US top 1000 most popular name for boys in the coming years.

Ansel Adams is known for his iconic, black-and-white photographs of the American west. Documenting the natural splendor of our national parks and the American wilderness, Adams really proves a great excuse to choose this name.


Back-to-School Baby Names

Georgia O’Keeffe was an American modernist artist known for her distinctive paintings of flowers, skyscrapers, and landscapes. Born on November 15, 1887, in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O’Keeffe’s innovative art played a significant role in the American modernism movement of the 20th century. Her large-scale flower paintings, with their close-up and vivid depiction, are especially iconic and brought her international fame. Georgia comes from Latin and means “farmer.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Alexander Calder was an innovative American sculptor recognized for his unique mobiles and static “stabiles.” Born in 1898a in Lawnton, Pennsylvania, Calder hailed from a family of artists and forged his own path with his three-dimensional kinetic sculptures, which Marcel Duchamp aptly named “mobiles.” These creations are carefully weighted to achieve balance and suspension in the air, relying on air currents alone for their movement. Calder’s work added elements of humor and chance into uniquely engineered designs, changing the course of modern art. Calder is of English origin and means “rocky water.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Eva Hesse was a German-born American sculptor celebrated for her revolutionary use of materials like latex, fiberglass, and plastics. Born in Hamburg, Germany, she fled the Nazi regime as a child and later became a US citizen in 1945. Establishing herself in the New York art scene of the 1960s, Hesse developed an innovative approach to sculpture that significantly influenced subsequent generations of artists. Her work, characterized by its organic, emotional, and energetic qualities, challenged the conventions of minimal art and continues to inspire artists today. Eva is a name of Hebrew origin, meaning “life.”


Back-to-School Baby Names

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an influential American artist who rose to prominence in the 1980s as a part of the Neo-expressionism movement. Born in Brooklyn to Haitian and Puerto Rican parents, he left home as a teenager to live in Lower Manhattan. His work, characterized by its raw gestural style and graffiti-like images with scrawled text, revolutionized the face of contemporary art. His paintings are largely responsible for elevating graffiti artists into the realm of the New York gallery scene.

Compound names don’t get much love from American parents, but they are delightful. Jean and Michel are the French forms of John and Michael. Both names originate in Hebrew and mean “God is Gracious” + “who is like God?”

These back-to-school baby names uniquely blend personal identity and historical significance. Each name tells a story of achievement and innovation, carrying the legacy of remarkable individuals from the sciences to fine art. As you consider these names for your little one, remember that each one brings a rich history and the potential to inspire your child towards their own path of discovery, creativity, and excellence.

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