Ralph Waldo Emerson said it so well; "When nature has work to be done, she creates a genius to do it."
Indeed, every age has its own share of creative geniuses. Some are recognized in their time and celebrated while still breathing, while others may suffer anonymity or curses until the world catches up to their genius.
When parents daydream about what their child may become, and while trying to choose a name for that child, it's hard not to fantasize about the child becoming a creative genius of some kind. Will he become a famous painter? Will she design the greatest race car ever to hit a track? Will my daughter discover a new way to use the technology we possess and endear it with humanity? Will my son fuse the great arts, say jazz, rap and classical and create a brand new musical art form? Why not?
As Albert Einstein said, "Every child is born a genius." It's our job to keep that genius flame flickering within our child, so starting out with a wonderful moniker that celebrates the creative geniuses of the world is a good start. Maybe they will not become world-famous creative minds, but that's not the only measure of genius, anyway!
So here are some baby names if you're looking to instil creativity and inspiration in your new little bundle-to-be!
Claude Monet was an influential and successful painter, and founder of the French Impressionist movement. The style stressed form and light over realism, therefore the impression was the emphasis. Monet's most famous works include Water Lilies; Impression, Sunrise; Poppies; Water Lily Pond; and Irises in Monet's Garden. While Monet is one of the most famous artists of all time, it didn't necessarily bring him wealth or happiness. During a particularly dark period, he tried to kill himself by jumping into the Seine river. He struggled financially much of his life, and was often misunderstood and underrated in his time. Today art critics regard his influence as extending well beyond developing a whole new school of painting with Impressionism, but opening the door for abstract artists to come.
Monet as a baby name is unusual, but not unheard of by any means. It ranked around 7000 in baby girl names in the US in 2016.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy, writing his first song at age 5, and mastering multiple instruments besides the piano, including harpsichord, organ and viola. He wrote symphonies, sonatas and operas, as well as concertos, masses and chamber music. Born in 1756 Salzburg, Austria, Mozart had his first public performance at age 6. The city-state governments of the time vied to be the leading cultural centers, and would sponsor young artists and provide commissions for their efforts. The Mozart family was itself solidly middle class, with father Leopold earning a living as a composer and concert master. He tutored his children and set up concert tours for them while they were still quite young. It was still not an easy road, and illness and hardships financially took their toll. However, today Mozart is considered one of the most accomplished and talented composers of all time.
Amadeus means "love of God," and could be altered in spelling to fit a parent's style and baby's gender. Nicknames could include Ama, Ami, Deus, or Mady.
Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a French artist, first trained in porcelain. He was born in 1841, and didn't grow up with a lot of money or advantages as his parents were a seamstress and a tailor. Renoir became friends with Monet, and other artists who eventually became members of Impressionism. His first big break came when he was invited to the annual Paris Salon exhibit. His painting "La Esmeralda" was featured, and it was based on a character in Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris. He was invited back the following year, and his fame began to grow. Unfortunately, for artists both then and now, having critical success doesn't necessarily mean financial reward. Renoir struggled, as did many of his counterparts, and his work had to be temporarily halted when he was drafted into the war against Germany. He did not see any action, however. Eventually, he became comfortably successful in art and with domestic life. He unfortunately endured the pain of crippling rheumatism in his hands.
As a name, Renoir, pronounced "Ren Wah," would work for either gender. It is also a unique and rarely used name.
There are a few notable creative geniuses named Franz; Liszt, Shubert, Haydn, and Kafka. Hopefully, you will not think of the goofy SNL weightlifters, Hans and Franz, played by Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon! Liszt was an 1800s prodigy, performing from age 8, and a renowned composer, pianist, arranger and music teacher. Franz Shubert was a gifted Austrian composer who lived to only be 31 years of age, but was industrious and produced hundreds of musical pieces, including 9 symphonies. Franz Joseph Haydn composed over 100 symphonies, considered one of the principal architects of classical music, and oh yeah, he taught Ludwig van Beethoven. Franz Kafka was born in present-day Czech Republic and was a writer of such seminal works as Amerika and The Castle. However, he is best-known for his piece, "The Metamorphosis." He achieved his greatest fame posthumously, sadly.
Franz is the German form of the name, Francis and means "a free man."
American author Jack London was one of the most successful writers of his generation, channeling his rough and tumble adventures in the Klondike gold rush and on a sealing ship. His stories of nature, dogs and wild life are iconic, and include The Call of the Wild, White Fang and The Sea-Wolf. Much of his work has been made into films, and there is a state historical park in California named after and dedicated to the accomplished writer. London was born into poverty in the slums of Oakland, in 1876. He died in 1916 on his Sonoma, California ranch, at the age of 40. London's work embraced the research and findings of Charles Darwin, specifically the idea of the survival of the fittest.
London is a name fitting for both baby boys and girls, but ranks much higher as a feminine moniker. It came in at #132 in 2016 for girls, and at #787 for boys.
The Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne were three unique and talented sisters who had a very creative side, self-publishing their poetry and novels under male pseudonyms, the Bell brothers. They were successful and eventually their real identities were revealed and the stereotypes of what women could do in the literary world were challenged. Some of their most famous works developed new genres, such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Each of the siblings eventually lost their lives to tuberculosis. Only Charlotte married, and didn't do so until age 38, a mere 9 months before her death! Today, every English literature major has to read at least one of the trio's novels as part of a standard curriculum.
Brontë as a name conjures pure romance, and comes from the Greek word for "thunder." It is a rarely used name, but is well-known to those with even a cursory knowledge of literature. It could work as a boy's name as well, if desired. Nicknames would be somewhat limited, but Bron would work.
Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her grandfather founded Amherst College, and her father was a state legislator. She was considered a "spinster" and a severe recluse, living out her days at her family's home. She was well-educated, first at Amherst (naturally) then for a year at a seminary for women. She was quiet and hermit-like, but was individualistic in her thinking. Her views of religion, for instance were not standard for the times. She stayed on the family estate, as did her sister, and cared for her ailing mother, wrote copious amounts of poetry (mostly in secret) and letters, and studied botany. She had a few poems published, but they edited out her highly original style and syntax. After her death at age 55, her sister discovered the treasure trove of poems and sought to have them published. In 1890 the first volume was printed, and the first full edition didn't appear until 1955.
Emily is a popular girl's name charting at #10 last year in the US. It is Teutonic and a form of the Latin "Aemilia," which means "striving," and "eager."
Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916. He was severely injured while serving in WWII as a fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force. He apparently worked as a spy, romancing women as part of the job. He married American actress Patricia Neal and had five children with her. He tried his hand at writing after a writer-friend suggested it. He had a best-selling story collection for adults, but his real fame came as a children's writer, penning such beloved classics as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Fox and Matilda. A number of these have been made into movies, most notably Charlie which was made twice; once starring Gene Wilder and once starring Johnny Depp. Dahl perfected storytelling for kids by telling his own children his tales, stating they were tough critics. Some adults have cringed at the morality tales where children often exact cruel revenge on adults, but children for generations have adored the books and subsequent films.
The name Roald means "famous ruler," and is from Scandinavian roots.
You've heard of Shakespeare, but if not an English major, do you know who is known as the Father of English literature? Geoffrey Chaucer, of course! Chaucer was born around 1340 in London, and later worked in the royal court, serving Countess Elizabeth of Ulster. But that's not why he's considered a creative genius. That is due to his poetic tome, unfinished though it was, The Canterbury Tales. This work is considered one of the greatest English works of literature. A sure sign of his place in storied history? He was the first to be buried in Westminster Abbey's Poet Corner. He fought in the Hundred Years War against France as a teen, and was held for ransom until the King secured his safe return. He worked for a great deal of his life as a diplomat, so it's all the more impressive that he created some of the most important works in English literature.
The name was introduced to England by the Normans. It means "pledge of peace."
Flannery O'Connor is a legendary American short story writer, who created her own particular style and niche in this art form. O'Connor wrote stories set firmly within a Southern mentality, and with a unique framing of the spiritual quest of man and the question of evil. Some called her stories, "grotesque" but she saw them more as realism with Southern flavor, something Northerners didn't get, according to her. She produced a number of short story collections, a couple novels and myriad book reviews and letters. She won a number of prestigious writing awards including the O. Henry Award and the National Book Award in 1972. Flannery O'Connor was born in 1925 in Savannah, Georgia and died in 1964 due to the auto-immune disease, lupus. It was the same disease that took her father while she was in her teens.
The name Flannery means "red valor," and is especially good for naming a redhead.
Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902, survived the 1906 earthquake with injuries, and had a rough time during his elementary years. However, he developed a passion for photography that became his career and propelled photography into the realms of fine art. He is most associated with his iconic wilderness photography, especially shots of Yosemite National Park. He used his photography to foster social justice and environmental causes. He did a photoessay on the Japanese internment camps of WWII. Adams work became so recognized that he had showings in large museums and galleries in the 1960s, and in 1974 the Metropolital Museum of Art in New York hosted a retrospective exhibit of his work. His Ansel Adams Gallery is still family operated to this day. Adams died in Monterey, California in 1984.
While it is sometimes used as a baby girl's name, it is primarily a masculine name. It means "blessed," and is an English derived name. However, it's not very common, only scoring #1381 in 2016 in the US.
Jimi Hendrix was an American original. Considered one of, if not the, best guitarist of all time, Hendrix played the electric guitar in a most unconventional way and with stunning results that ultimately catapulted him to rock and roll glory. Hendrix was born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington. His iconic Woodstock performance of "The Star Spangled Banner," is perhaps his best known live image. He began playing guitar as a teen, joined the Army in 1961 and was in training as a paratrooper when he was injured and discharged. He played back up musician to some music legends, such as Sam Cooke, BB King and Little Richard, among others. His solo career moved with rocket speed, with his first album coming out after working in London in 1967. A second album came out in 1967, and his final album was released in 1968.
Jimi while unusually spelled is a common name, however Hendrix, which could work for either gender is a rarer name by far. In 2016, it ranked #440 on the boy's chart, and #2778 on the girl's list.
John Coltrane was born in North Carolina in 1926, the son of a tailor who was also an amateur musician. Coltrane began playing the sax as a teen, and went on to compose, and collaborate with greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Coltrane is considered to have impacted the entire field of jazz music with both his compositions and his musical stylings. His innovation was unparalleled, and he was awarded a Grammy in 1982, a lifetime achievement Grammy in 1992 and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. He was also given a Special Cititations Pulitzer Prize award. Coltrane died at age 40 from liver cancer, and had suffered from drug addiction earlier in his life.
Coltrane is primarily used today as a boy's name, and the meaning of the name is "young horse; frisky." It is a pretty rarely heard first name, coming in way down the US 2016 list at #4754.
Miles Davis was a world-class trumpeter and bandleader. He won 9 Grammys and is credited with the top-selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue, which sold over 2 million copies. His album Bitches Brew brought the innovation of jazz-rock fusion to the forefront, and he was the first jazz musician featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Miles worked with some of the greatest musicians as well including Coltrane, Chick Corea, and began by working with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker while still in high school. He attended Juilliard as well. Miles received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1990, and his final performance at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1991 with Quincy Jones earned him his final Grammy, awarded posthumously. Not unlike many musicians he suffered from drug and alcohol addiction at periods in his life, but he did conquer those demons. Miles died September 28, 1991 of respiratory failure and pneumonia.
The name Miles comes from the Latin for "soldier." It ranked just out of the top 100 in 2016 for US boys.
Frida Kahlo has become a symbol for feminism and women's artistic freedom. She was born in Mexico, the child of a German expat father and Mexican mother. She endured a long life of physical hardships, including surviving polio with a limp, and then a horrific accident that speared her through her hips, and ultimately causing her to have a leg amputated. She desperately wanted a child, and her losses by miscarriage are represented in some of her art. She was married to the artist Diego Rivera, and both were influential in both social and political causes, although not without controversy for their communist sympathies. Selma Hayek starred in a film about the artist in 2002, and after 6 Oscar nominations, much interest was generated about the artist, who lived from 1907 to 1954. Her greatest works were her uniquely personal self-portraits, revealing her trademark traditional and colorful style of dress and unibrow.
As a name, Kahlo is rare, and fitting for a girl or boy, although it's more likely used for girls. Kahl is the German root for her father's surname, and it means "bald."
Robin Williams easily fits the billing as a creative genius. The iconic comedian and actor was born in 1951, and died tragically soon at age 63 in 2014 by suicide, after struggling with anxiety, depression and newly diagnosed Parkinson's Disease. Robin attended Juilliard, and then became a noted stand up with amazing improvisational skills. He zoomed to stardom when he landed a hit TV series Mork and Mindy in the late 1970s. IMDB.com lists over a 100 acting credits for Williams, and he was nominated for Oscars 4 times and won for Good Will Hunting. He was nominated for 11 Golden Globes and won 5. He also received the Cecil B. DeMille award. He was nominated for 8 Primetime Emmys and won twice. He created rich and varied characters, from the beloved Genie in Aladdin, to the Vietnam era DJ in Good Morning, Vietnam!, to chilling portrayals in One Hour Photo. Other big roles were in Mrs. Doubtfire, Moscow on the Hudson and Dead Poets' Society.
Robin as a name ranked #872 in 2016 for girls, and #787 for boys. It is Teutonic and means "small, tame bird."
A creative genius in the field of sciences, and specifically invention, Nikola Tesla was born in present-day Croatia in 1856. The Tesla coil, invented in 1891, is still used with some radio technology today, and he was the guy who came up with alternating current and sold the patent to George Westinghouse. His love/hate relationship with Edison is legendary, and sometimes difficult to parse truth from tall tales regarding it. Nikola was perhaps a better scientific mind than business one, so never financially prospered as others in his field might have. He was instrumental in the development or discovery of the induction motor, remote control and the rotating magnetic field. He also made some strides in x-ray technology. At the end of his life, it appeared mental illness had some impact, and he devoted much time to feeding pigeons in the park and speaking of his newest work, a "death ray." He died at age 86 in 1943 in New York City, his home for over 6 decades.
Nikola as a name is a Russian variant of a Greek name meaning, "victory of the people." For boys it ranked just a few places out of the top 1000 for 2016, and for girls it ranked #4387, so rarely seen. Obvious nicknames include Nik, Nick or Niky, or possibly Kol.
Harley is a name closely associated with the Harley Davidson company, which has become a huge lifestyle brand. But few people know much about the creative mind behind the name. Even fewer know about a guy name Harley Earl, another notable gearhead. First, the William Harley, who along with friend Arthur Davidson, developed a motorized bicycle, which became the prominent motorcycle brand Harley Davidson. The company launched at the turn of the century and by 1907 they were turning out several thousand motorcycles a year. But the big boost came in doing business with the US government, and until the '50s Harley Davidson was the only American motorcycle company. Harley Earl was born in 1893 in LA, and if you love cars, chances are you love Earl's work. The concept car, first female design team, the Corvette and those cool, fun tailfins--all Earl.
The name Harley is a good fit for either gender, and ranked #210 for girls and #865 for boys in the US in 2016.
Jim Henson's Muppets are American originals, and treasured parts of many a child's growing up (and post-grown, often as well!). Henson was born in 1936, and became a filmmaker, a puppeteer, and an inventor, as well as a screenwriter. His first huge splash was with the Children's Television Network and creating with them Sesame Street. Even bigger commercial success came with his The Muppet Show, which premiered in 1976. This led to feature films, including The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan and The Dark Crystal. He also had other series such as Muppet Babies and Fraggle Rock. When Henson died suddenly and unexpectedly of pneumonia in 1990 at age 53, none other than Big Bird himself appeared at the funeral to sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green." His legacy is continued to this day by his son and daughter, and the Walt Disney Company.
The name Henson ranked in the 4000s in 2016 for boys, and way down in the 14,000s for girls, so it is a good choice for those wanting a more unusual choice.
Johann is the name of a number of celebrated musicians and composers including Brahms, Strauss, and Bach, both Sebastian and Christian, as well as Pachelbel. There are so many creative geniuses with the name Johann, you'd think perhaps that's what the name meant. However, it actually means, "God's gracious gift." Strauss II is best-known for his light dance music, and was nicknamed "The Waltz King," whereas Brahms is synonymous for his lullaby. Brahms also wrote chamber music, symphonies, concerti, choral compositions and piano music. Pachelbel's Canon has served as the wedding march for many a matrimonial event, and JS Bach is considered one of the greats, from the Baroque period. Johann Goethe was a German poet, writer, and stateman. His greatest accomplishment was probably Faust.
Johann as a boy'ss name ranked #1202, and as a girl's name hit the charts at #9339 back in 2014. Nicknames could include Joe, Jojo, Joey Han or Hans.
Winfrey is an ancient Old English and Welsh-Celtic name in origin and means "Joy and peace."
Oprah Winfrey seems to have found both of those in her life, and has been determined to share those things with the world through her hard work, talent and vision, as well as using her considerable earned wealth. Winfrey was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi in 1954, a small, rural area, before moving to Baltimore for what turned out to be an 8-year run with a successful talk show that resulted in a bigger TV show in Chicago. She revolutionized TV with her individualized warm approach to the genre, and her empire grew into a TV network, a magazine, a production company and in 2003 she became the first female African American to be a billionaire. She was nominated for an Oscar in The Color Purple, and has received countless awards from Emmys, to Peabody to Tony, and she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2013, by President Barack Obama.
Billie Holiday, or Lady Day as she was known, was born in 1915 in Philadelphia. She grew up without a father's care or influence, and had a rough start in life. She was sent to a home for troubled girls at age 9, for skipping school. She experienced sexual abuse and heartache, and sadly spent most of her life abusing drugs, specifically heroin, and alcohol. However, she is considered one of the most influential jazz artists of all time. Some of her epic hits include "Strange Fruit," "God Bless the Child," "T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do" and "My Man." She was the first African American female singer to work with a white orchestra when she joined Artie Shaw. She shared her story in her autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues in 1956. This was later made into a feature film starring Diana Ross in 1972. Billie lost her battle with addiction in 1959, however and her funeral featured the most renowned jazz artists of the time in attendance along with a crowd of 3000.
The English name means, "resolute protector."
This Pulitzer-prize winning author was born in Lorain, Ohio in 1931. Morrison still writing in her mid-80s, has piles of literary awards and achievements. Some of the most notable would be her Nobel Prize for Literature, awarded in 1993, the first to an African American woman, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, given to her by President Obama. Toni has co-written and co-created operas, taught at Princeton for many years, and saw her masterpiece, Beloved, made into a feature film produced by Oprah Winfrey. In 2009 she fought against the practice of banning books, and edited a book-length collection of essays, entitled, Burn this Book. Morrison had 2 sons, and lost one tragically a few years ago to cancer. Morrison is busy, completing her 12th novel, and was just honored with a display in the United Nations' lobby.
The name Toni means "priceless," and comes from the Latin, "Anthony." Toni ranked #1434 among US girls' names in 2016.
Meryl Streep is the standard actresses are judged by today. She is the Michael Jordan of the acting world, you could say. Born in 1949 in New Jersey, Meryl graduated from Vassar and Yale Drama School. Through the 1960s she was primarily a stage actress, but in the 1970s she made a big splash in film with Kramer vs. Kramer, Julia and The Deer Hunter. She got her first Oscar nomination for the latter. She won the best supporting actress award for Kramer. Then there was Sophie's Choice, Out of Africa and so many more! She has been nominated for Oscars 19 times and has 3 wins. In 2014, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Meryl has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978, and the couple has 4 adult children, 2 of whom are daughters who act.
Meryl means "bird," and ranked #2981.
Dr. Joyce Brothers was a pioneer, as a female psychologist who became a TV personality with what we now call, a platform. She wrote books, magazine articles, and was a TV host and radio personality. Brothers was born in 1927 and earned her PhD in psychology from Columbia University, having done her undergrad at Cornell. After marrying and having a child, she and her husband were trying to get by on one income, and as a lark she went on the game show, $64,000 Question and she won! This truly launched her into the public awareness, and got her own TV series in 1958. The radio shows, guest appearances, books and columns followed. She even appeared on TV shows as a guest, such as with Taxi, Night Court and The Love Boat. She died in 2013 at age 85.
The name Joyce can be spelled in more modern, inventive ways to be updated, like Joice or Joyse. Joyce is an English name meaning "Lord."
Sources: Biography.com, Babycenter.com