We have a lot of things around us, that are named after the principle guys behind it. Is the naming done by the respective person or someone else (like IUPAC for physics)?

Example 1: We have Ampere's Circuital Law. Did Ampere name it that way or someone else gave that name? Example 2: Plank's Constant. Did Plank publish his paper with his name for the constant? Example 3: Nicol's prism.

If the naming is because of someone else:

  1. What will happen if a scientist publishes a paper with his name for something?
  2. How do scientists refer a work named after them (read the example)? Example : Say Maxwell published the equations and now they got the name "Maxwell's equations". Now Maxwell wants to publish something new based on the equations. Will he write "As per Maxwell's equation..." or "As per my equations..." ?

Note : There are questions already asked here which sound similar, like When are units that are named after persons given their names? but they ask "what" and not "how".


1 Answer 1


Usually not, though there are exceptions. Names in honor of X are usually given by others than X herself. And it cannot be otherwise: the name of an object must be accepted by the research community. It is considered immodest to suggest your own name yourself. Many various naming patterns, with examples, are analysed in my answer and other answers to this similar MathOverflow question:


Same applies to other sciences. None of the objects you listed was named by the inventor himself. Moreover, most mathematicians and scientists are shy to use their own name as a name of an object, even when it is established.

Examples: Hilbert used to ask "What is a Hilbert space?"

Sturm, once said in a lecture: "And now I am going to explain the theorem whose name I have an honor to bear..."

  • $\begingroup$ What about in medicine (e.g. Asperger's Syndrome)? $\endgroup$
    – nick012000
    Jan 2, 2020 at 5:32

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