How do people get scientific theories and units named after them?

121 views
0

For example, I doubt Georg Ohm declared V = IR shall be known as Ohm’s law and that the unit of resistance will be named after himself in his scientific journal publications. How does the scientific community decide and agree on naming things after people and how long after the particular concept/discovery is made is a formal name given?

In: 0

When you’re talking about a complex idea or equation, it’s cumbersome to always refer to the equation as “the equation that Ohm proposed in his last paper”. It’s much easier to just write “Ohm’s law” as shorthand. Eventually this catches on.

There’s not really a single way this happens, and historically there is a separate story behind almost every law and named unit but generally it goes a bit like this:
Someone will propose some physical relation that they have observed in a published work. Generally this won’t even be given a name in the original text. When people later expand upon this work they might reference it in text as “The relation demonstrated by JarJarAwakens”.

If this relation is demonstrated by others and becomes influential then it’s not uncommon to see it start being referenced as “JarJarAwakens Relation”, or if the correlation is strong enough then JarJarAwakens Law. There is no singular body which makes formal the names of these laws, and in fact many laws have multiple names (E.g Hubble’s law vs The Hubble–Lemaître law).

Usually it is proposed by the scientific community to honor the inventor of the theory, so it doesn’t become common until well after the theory has been published. Occasionally a particularly egotistical scientist will lobby to get their name attached to something. Cough cough KELVIN cough cough.

There are a lot of areas of science that have their own particular set of things that need names – particles in physics, chemicals in chemistry, species in biology, etc. These fields all have their own traditions, and some have an organised body to regulate names, such as IUPAC for chemistry and the IAU for astronomy. Generally the person who discovers something gets a big say over how it’s named – a fun example is the J/psi meson, a particle which was discovered independently by two groups at about the same time, one of which decided to call it the J meson and the other the psi meson before they became aware of each other’s work.

Units of measure tend to be named after a famous dead scientist who did some important work that’s relevant to the unit. Ohm’s law was developed by Ohm himself, but I think the unit was first defined after his death?

But scientific theories tend to go through a lengthy period of refinement, discussion and experimental testing, and they often go through multiple names before people settle on one.