Monday, January 25, 2016

Nominative determinism


Upon seeing this photo from the town of Koo Wee Rup, Victoria, that I posted on Facebook, our friend Geoffrey Irvin posited that it appeared to be a clear case of nominative determinism, which Wikipedia defines as "the hypothesis that a person's name can have a significant role in determining key aspects of job, profession or even character."  The article notes:

The term nominative determinism had its origin in the 'Feedback' column of the British popular science magazine New Scientist in 1994:

"We recently came across a new book, Pole Positions — The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London — A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: 

"Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname." Hunt's example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology by A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon. We feel it's time to open up this whole issue to rigorous scrutiny. You are invited to send in examples of the phenomenon in the fields of science and technology (with references that check out, please) together with any hypotheses you may have on how it comes about. No prizes, other than seeing your name in print and knowing you have contributed to the advance of human knowledge."

What do you say?  Shall we see if our readers here can continue to advance human knowledge and offer other examples, either that support the hypothesis or cast doubt upon it?  Please submit your entries as comments.  Thanks!

29 comments:

Jeffrey Flier @jflier said...

From Twitter:

My dad Milton Flier was a pilot in the airforce.

Arash Mostaghimi @AMostaghimi said...

From Twitter:

I am a dermatologist. I will let you guys take it from there.

Peter Elias said...

From Facebook:

Over the course of my career I have known or worked with a urologist named Dr. Raoul Waters, an orthopedic office with Drs. Bonebrake and Krutch, a neurologist named Dr. Shrink and a psychiatrist named Dr. Brain.

Marijke Vroomen Durning said...

From Facebook:

There's an ornithologist in Montreal by the name of Dr. Bird.

Irene Porokhova said...

From Facebook:

A law firm in San Francisco: Lawless & Lawless; cardiologist in Kiev, Ukraine: Porkfat; psychiatrist: Slaughterhouse.

cmarchwinski said...

Julie Jargon is a reporter at the WSJ.

GeoffBuZZnik said...

Archaeologist at Sydney University Dan Potts.

Hilary Corrigan said...

One of my friends received hand surgery from a Dr. Hand.

Mary Freer said...

From Facebook:

Best example I ever found - two researchers at Manchester University who are experts in the area of domestic violence with the name Dobash. (She had taken his name so it's clearly not a congenital nominative determinism.)

Janice said...

My Dad was a criminal defense attorney,mdespite the last time, Lynch. For a while he shared an office with a lawyer whose last name was Bury. He claims that, in general, his clients tended to walk due to errors by the State and/or the use of the magic wand which he occasionally waved after hearing a client's version of the story. (His clients were often in jail, awaiting trial for very violent crimes.)

Anna S said...

I find this absolutely fascinating! in my nearly 20 years in health care I have come across a GYN named Dr. Hyman, a urologist named Dr Stackpole, and an orthopedist named Dr. Drillings.

Nina Shippen said...

And then there was the cardiologist I met named Dr. Blood.

Anonymous said...

I swear this is not a joke - during my surgery rotation at Ramsey County Hospital as a 3rd year med student I assisted a general surgery intern in a BKA. During our conversation I learned he was in his preliminary training and would start Urology residency later in the year. His name was Richard Long Jr. And you guessed it - his father was also a Urologist.

David said...

I'm not kidding, the urologist that did my vasectomy--Eric Seamen MD.

Thanks for the laugh on this particular subject.

DS said...

The book, Freakanomics, contained an excellent analysis of the impact first names have on people's success later in life. If you have never read any of the books in the series, I recommend them. Despite the title, they contain serious micro-economics.

George said...

But Paul, names were given to denote profession or other identifying elements.

Paul Levy said...

Uh oh, a chicken and egg problem?

Maria T. Maffei said...

From Facebook:

My gynecologist in college was named Dr. Clapp.

joanne casella said...

Hand surgeon in Boston Dr Nalebuff

Michael said...

Hilarious! But despite the attractiveness of the theory I suspect sadly this is rather an example of selective recall. We remember the few times this happens and the many when it does not.

cerebral e said...

Urologist Mr Burns-Cox (there seem to be a lot of Urologists on this list!)

Stacey Gordon said...

I had a dentist named Dr. Smiley

Dr Cummings said...

As Ed Mcmahon used to say to Johnny, "I am with you". That is to say, with George. Patronyms are not flippant.My name,Cummings, is a Gaelic derivative of "cumin", the spice. Smith=blacksmith, Levy=tribe of Levi, Jorgenson=son of Jorgen, etc., etc.. These are stupid coincidences. Funny....but just flukes. Is this really what you ponder now Paul?

Paul Levy said...

Just for fun!

Dr Cummings said...

Stay in touch!

Dr Cummings said...

Oh, and you were a great coach.

Paul Levy said...

Wait, "were"??? (Still doing it, both soccer and elsewhere . . .)

But thanks!

Dr Cummings said...

Glad to hear you are still doing it, because you were great with Rayna and that crowd. Send me an email sometime and I would love to catch up. We have a lot in common.

Don

Paul Levy said...

Please your email here, and I will (and won't post it.)