This evening I stumbled on the fact that John von Neumann and Fibonacci both have asteroids named after them. Then I wondered how many more famous mathematicians have asteroids named after them. As it turns out, most of them: Euclid, Gauss, Cauchy, Noether, Gödel, Ramanujan, … It’s easier to look at the names that are not assigned to asteroids.
I wrote a little script to search for the 100 greatest mathematicians (according to James Allen’s list) and look for names missing from a list of named asteroids. Here are the ones that were missing, in order of Allen’s list.
- Alexandre Grothendieck
- Hermann K. H. Weyl
- Carl Ludwig Siegel
- Muhammed al-Khowarizmi
- Bhascara (II) Acharya
- Alhazen ibn al-Haytham
- Andrey N. Kolmogorov
- Jakob Steiner
- Hermann G. Grassmann
- M. E. Camille Jordan
- Jean-Pierre Serre
- Michael F. Atiyah
- Atle Selberg
So of the top 100 list of mathematicians, 80 have asteroids named after them and the 20 above do not.
Alexandre Grothendieck, is the greatest mathematician—11th on James Allen’s list—not to have an asteroid named in his honor.
4 thoughts on “Asteroids named after mathematicians”
Aristotle accualy has an asteroid named after him, but it is his Greek transcribed name Aristoteles that was used for the name. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minor_planets:_6001%E2%80%937000#123
Thanks. I caught a couple asteroids by inspection that were minor variations on mathematician names, but I missed Aristoteles. I updated the post.
That makes it an even 80 who have asteroids and 20 who don’t. Pareto would be pleased. :)
I followed the link and that ranked list of 100 greatest mathematicians is hilarious. There’s just something so ridiculous about the way in which (some) mathematicians seem to think there’s a strict ordering of mathematical ability. I recall this attitude from my high school math olympiad days.
I agree that a strict ordering doesn’t make sense.
Allen’s page was a convenient list of famous mathematicians, adequate to answer the question of whether it’s common for famous mathematicians to have an asteroid named after them. The 80% statistic is to be taken with a big grain of salt, but Pareto would be amused.