The Name Number(s) for Political Science

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.

(Image: Washington University Law School)

by Richard Neimi (misspelled)
Political Science Department
University of Rochester, Rochester, New York

In a recent issue of AIR,1 Kevin Krajick pointed out that there are many scientists whose names closely match their fields of study. In doing so he calculated the Name Number (the percentage of such people) for his field, Geology. He challenged readers to mine data bases in their own professions, remarking that “it remains to be seen” whether Name Numbers for other disciplines will out-do geology.

Having made the count for my own field, I can report that political science does not quite reach the plateau set by geology if one considers only names that refer to governmental positions or to concepts studied by the discipline. But if one adds names of holders of governmental positions—even, perhaps, limiting them to heads of countries—then political science soars past geology and may be king of the Hill.

(Image: University of Mississippi)

Following the procedures usedin Krajick’s path-breaking work, I examined the 4,529 names (including those occurring more than once) appearing in the on-line index to the program for the 2005 national conference of the Midwest Political Science Association. Numbers below refer to times the name appears (numbers in parentheses are those of distinct persons):

6 King (4), 1 King Jr.; 2 Rey (1)
1 DeLeon, 1 Leon, 2 Primo (1)
2 Pope (1)
2 Prince (1), 2 Prins (1)
1 Duke
1 El Sherif
3 Khan
2 Power (1); 2 Powers
2 Guerra (but no War, and no Peace)
2 Canon (1)

1 Wise
3 Wiseman (1)
2 Fey (1)
2 Goodman (1)
1 Fair
2 Bliss (1) (but no Justice, or Judge)

6 Hill (3)
2 Law
3 Lawless (1)
3 Levy (but no Tax)

(Image: School of Public Affairs, American Univrsity)

The Name Number, calculated on the above list, is 1.26%, compared to geology’s 1.35%. However, we also find the following names of U.S. presidents:

1 Washington
3 Adams (2)
3 Monroe
4 Jackson (3)
1 Harrison
No Tyler, but a Tyler Johnson, who should probably count double
2 Pierce
1 A. Johnson, no L. Johnson
2 Grant (1)
2 Hayes (1)
8 Wilson
1 Harding
1 Kennedy
4 Nixon (1)
1 Carter
2 Clinton (1)

(Image: University of Oklahoma)

These names alone constitute 0.82%. Adding them to the above yields a new Name Number of 2.08%. Finally, one finds—with only casual inspection—the following names of present and former non-U.S. heads of state:


Were one to expand these lists to include other well-known politicians, political science, I argue, would almost certainly lead all other disciplines in the name game.


Further study could look into the sub-specialties of the above-mentioned authors. Do Professors Washington, Adams, and so on study the presidency? Or at least American politics? Are Gandhi and Mao Indian and Chinese specialists, respectively? Do Wiseman, Goodman, Fair and Bliss study political philosophy? Do Power, Powers, and Guerra write about International Relations? From there, one could move on to consider whether persons take on any of the characteristics of the leaders (or kinds of leaders) whose names they bear. Are Law and Lawless opposites? Is Fair fair? And what should we expect from the Nixons? And, of course, one could see whether names and particular kinds of colleges and universities are linked. Are the Popes at Catholic institutions? Does Canon’s school have an ROTC program? These and many other fascinating questions await more detailed analyses.

(Image: Old Dominion University)

Ironically, the author’s name, Niemi (when not misspelled), is a Finnish word with a geological meaning. It refers to a “point” of land, as in Sandy Point.

1. “The ‘Name Number’ for Geology, and for Other Professions,” Kevin Krajik, Annals of Improbable Research, vol. 11, no. 2, March/April 2005, pp. 14-5.


This article is republished with permission from the July-August 2005 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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