Mrs. Bad Astronomer has a guest post on her husband’s weblog, pondering why the press typically refers to Hillary Clinton by her first name. This called to my mind a related question in astronomy, appropriately enough, which I’d like to toss out as thought-food:
Two of the greatest figures in the Scientific Revolution are Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. The former was among the greatest mathematicians of his day, and the latter had comparable prowess with astronomical observations. And, for some reason, everybody calls the first one “Kepler,” while the second is known as “Tycho.” Look on a map of the moon: there’s a crater called Tycho, where a monolith was found nine years ago, and one called Kepler (the names for these and other craters were doled out by an Italian astronomer, Giambattista Riccioli, in 1651, who was a big fan of Tycho and attached his name to the most prominent crater). Both men invented models for how the solar system worked; nowadays, historians of science speak of the “Tychonic universe,” which had the Sun going round the Earth but other stuff going around the Sun, and everybody still talks about Kepler’s Three Laws.
Is it just that “Johannes” is too generic, while “Brahe” sits roughly on the tongue?
Given their tempestuous working relationship — Kepler and Tycho were not the sort of personalities which could get along — I’m sure the celebrity magazines of their day would have blessed them with a joined name, something like “Jo-cho” (sounds like Yoko), if those magazines had only existed.