Let's assume that some scientist discovers a phenomenon that has never been noticed before.

He wants to write a paper about it but he doesn't want to constantly write "effect of change of some properties blahblahblah". Can he therefore name this effect with a name of his choice? For example "Discoverer's name's effect". Or "fluffy puppy effect" (just because he likes puppies)?

The same for constants. Can one name newly discovered constant "my name constant"?

This question can be simplified to: "what are standards for naming new physical entities?"

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    To add a small point to Floris' good answer: in general, attempting to name something after yourself is considered a massive faux pas, and doing it would cause you to come across as unprofessional or a crank. The discoverer's name is always attached to the discovery by other people writing about it afterwards.
    – N. Virgo
    Dec 19, 2014 at 13:46
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    Here's one tactic that I have seen tried to get something named after yourself, but I don't recommend it! Give the phenomenon an awkward name in your paper, hoping that others won't want to adopt that name and that they'll end up using your name instead.
    – Jim Conant
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:13
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    Well you can always try. Take this as an example: care.diabetesjournals.org/content/17/2/152.abstract (here the author, Tai, "discovered" the widely known trapezoidal rule originally probably due to Poisson circa 1820 and calls this the "Tai Model". The name has not caught on, but the paper's been cited hundreds of times according to Google Scholar)
    – alarge
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:55
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    An example from mathematics: Stefan Banach named an class of objects "spaces of type (B)" and they eventually went on to be known as Banach spaces, and I've heard it speculated that Banach chose the name in the hopes that this would happen. Dec 19, 2014 at 19:23
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    Not in physics, but the creator of the unscented transform named it after the unscented deodorant on someone's desk, and the name stuck. 'Fluffy puppy effect' might be more of a stretch. Dec 20, 2014 at 8:59

5 Answers 5


Usually the way this works is that a researcher discovers some phenomenon and publishes it without giving a name. Then someone else comes along and writes about "Jones' discovery" and before you know it the world talks about the "Jones effect".

Giving things a name yourself is done in some fields - for example, in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) it is conventional that people who develop a new pulse sequence will give that sequence a "catchy" name (usually some clever abbreviation, never really their own name). So you have names like CAIPIRINHA (which is really the name of a drink, but stands for "Controlled Aliasing In Parallel Imaging Results IN Higher Acceleration").

In the end, the name that the community adopts is the name by which something will be known - so you are free to call it the "teletubby galaxy" but if everybody insists on calling it Andromeda-X42 you will be a lone voice. If you have the good fortune of discovering something new and valuable, name it wisely or be ignored.

Reiterating the point made by Nathaniel: suggesting that a particular phenomenon/constant/equation should be named after you is considered a major faux pas. Others will do it for you - when you try to jump the gun and suggest that it be named after you, you will come across as conceited. I can think of no example of a well known effect that a discoverer named for themselves. Some examples where they did not:

Newton's Laws (he called them "Axiomata sive Leges Motus")

Hooke's Law ("Explaining the power of springing bodies")

Josephson effect (for which he got the Nobel prize... not available for Newton or Hooke, or surely they would have qualified) was described by him (Physics Letters Vol 1, No 7, 1962) as "new effects":

enter image description here

  • he didn't say "we present here the Josephson Effect".

The list could go on and an. If you are the greatest, you don't need to say so - others will do it. No offense intended, Mr Ali.

If you are interested interested, there is a follow-up question on a sister site, History of Science and Math: What famous laws were named by their discoverer?

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    Turing machines were named a-machines (automatic machines) by Alan Turing.
    – Pål GD
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:10
  • “I can think of no example of a well known effect that a discoverer named for themselves.” – sounds like a question for HSM.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:31
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    @Wrzlprmft thanks for the suggestion: hsm.stackexchange.com/q/691/543
    – Floris
    Dec 19, 2014 at 15:51
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    This method is flawed as per Stigler's Law.
    – user41235
    Dec 19, 2014 at 16:22
  • @RenaeLider nice link. Often, the person who gives the discovery visibility gets the credit; indeed that need not be the person who made the discovery. Think Crick and Watts, or Kamerlingh Onnes, to name just two instances off the top of my head.
    – Floris
    Dec 19, 2014 at 17:16

Usually if the results are important enough, the scientists peers will name it appropriately. For instance, if I am the first to write a paper about the gyrostability of felines, I may talk about this "self-righting tendency" and if the context is clear, simply "tendency" or "effect". If I want to name it, and hope that the name sticks, I would choose something catchy and descriptive, but I probably wouldn't name it after myself. A common way to do this is to say something like, "the tendency for falling felines to self-right, which we will henceforth refer to as the Buttered-Side-Up effect, has been recognized since the 15th century {{citation_needed}} but a satisfactory treatment has not been made to date".


There are several levels in your question. A researcher can certainly come up with a name for, say, and effect observed in research. This new name should be descriptive to stand a chance to catch on because it is only when accepted by peers in the field that the name may stick. It is also possible to name effects after their first discoverers and the same applies, if any agree on it it may become used. naming something after one-self is probably a really bad idea. Trying to be funny or ambiguous equally so.

As for constants, one can certainly name a constant anything you wish but if the constant has any wide relevance there are usually organisations that will have to accept names and numbers. some of this work is done within Bureau International des Poids et measures (BIPM) that maintains the SI-system. The different Unions within the The International Council for Science (ICSU) also organise working groups (equiv.) to work on terminology and propose standards for the different fields. within different fields there are varying additional international bodies that organizes nomenclature and terminology.

So standards are usually set by standardizing organisations. There focus on terminology , constants etc. that have wide significance and where accuracy both in terms and numbers are required. On top of that the scientific community self-organizes softer terms such as those of effects or theories but the success of introducing new terminology or what have you is always depending on the peers accepting it in a longer perspective.

  • This answer is field-specific, as in some fields such as CS, funny and somewhat non-descriptive (e.g. acronyms that only become slightly descriptive with some convoluted explanations) names are more or less the norm. Dec 20, 2014 at 18:48
  • Specific to what field? And, the question is not just about acronyms, which I agree anyone can come up with and use. Dec 20, 2014 at 19:12
  • Specific to fields that are not CS or (as mentioned by Floris' answer) MRI. The question is about any names, acronyms are an example thereof, though non-acronym names certainly appear, as well. Dec 20, 2014 at 19:20

Chemists who discover a new element of the Periodic Table have the right to name it. Marie Curie, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry, named her discovery "polonium" after her native Poland.

I would not be surprised to see this practice followed in other scientific fields.

  • Except that the modern interpretation of this is that the discoverer gets to propose a name, which IUPAC then votes on. For example, if you discovered an element and tried to name it aurium, this would probably be rejected for sounding too much like gold. Dec 20, 2014 at 15:33

You may absolutely call your findings whatever you want. I have seen it done many many times - but some people may consider you to be an 'arrogant jerk' (shall we say) for naming things after yourself - especially if they are trivial.

I have seen trivial things being named as if it were something incredible or ground breaking, and all I think is: what a loser. Adding two numbers together that both end with the number 3, does not deserved to be called "Peter's Second Principle of Arithmetic" (this isn't actually a thing, but makes my point)

Honestly, unless you discover a new element or your finding is truly notable don't name it anything. As others have mentioned, the academic community will name it for you if they deem it notable enough.

  • I think there should be a distinction between possessive and non-possessive naming. If Joe Smith relates to something as his Quarkion Principle, then other people should refer to it as Joe Smith's Quarkion Observation. Attaching the principle to himself is not arrogance, but rather the reverse; it would put it on equal parity with similar observations by other people.
    – supercat
    Jan 3, 2015 at 18:18

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