Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2002 10:22:54 -0500

Author: Machele Cable

Subject: Re: Galileo Galilei

Post:

My uncle and I had much the same conversation while he was researching
our family tree. He was able to go back 17 generations from himslef, to
the 1400s.

Surnames are a relatively new custom (in the scheme of human ancestry)
dating back to about the 1400s, (give or take 100 years). This is when
writing began to be a general record keeping thing, (remember, it was
usually the scholars of the church who kept records), at least in
Europe...it's very hard to find family records beyond that, unless
you're of royal lineage. Thus, people had to be able to distinguish
who's who. Suppose a father named David had a son named Erik. Erik would
them be recorded as Erik, David's son. Still, Erik would have been known
widely as 'Erik" because that was his given name. At some point,
'David's son' became 'Davidson' and the surname became part of the
family, but the tradition of calling people by their 'given' name stuck.
(I was told, but don't know for sure, that many scottish surnames names
beginning with Mac or Mc was because 'Mac' was a gaelic short form of
'from' or 'of'. So MacDonald meant 'from Donald'. The same kind of thing
was true for Irish names like O'Brain = 'of Brian'.)

Even today, the first name tradition is common in royalty...Queen
Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Pope John Paul, etc. I don't know ANY of
those last names!

Chele


Gary Karshner wrote:

> Nice question:
> Tycho Brahe, and Michelangelo also come to mind. I have
> wondered why; it is the Tychonic Universe, but not the Nicolaus
> Universe, as in Nicolaus Copernicus. I suspect it has to do with the
> custom of the time. The Greeks who were the models of these thinkers
> were all referred to by their first and probably only name. If there
> is more then one of that name, then they are referred to by where they
> are from, Hero of Alexandria, or a place associated with them, like
> Eratostenes of Syene.
> Gary
>
> At 06:43 AM 11/15/02 -0500, you wrote:
>
>> This is something I've wondered about for years: Why is Galileo the only
>> scientist we (and textbooks) normally refer to by his first name (unlike
>> Newton, Einstein, Joule, etc.)? I hear that Galileo was really his last
>> name. Anybody know?
>
>
>
>

--
~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~
Machele Cable Lab Manager Physics WFU
Phone: (336) 758-5532 Fax: (336) 758-6142
~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~
Friends are the Bacon Bits in the salad bowl of life.
~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - ~
There's a thin woman inside of me trying to get out,
but I can usually shut her up with some chocolate!

Back