The Last Intellectual to Latinize His Name?

Rudolf Clausius, originally Rudolf GottliebGerman physicist and mathematician Rudolf Clausius (1822-1888) was one of the founders of the science of thermodynamics.

Another interesting thing about Rudolf Clausius? He was born Rudolf Gottlieb.

I couldn’t find a concrete explanation for the name change, but I did find this in a college physics book: “Born with the name Rudolf Gottlieb, he adopted the classical name of Clausius, which was a popular thing to do in his time.”

(Clausius is based on the Latin clausus, meaning “closed, shut off.” Some sources say Clausius is an alternate name for Janus, the Ancient Roman god of beginnings and endings.)

Yes, many historical European scholars/artists did adopt Latinized names. Astronomer Tycho Brahe was born Tyge Ottesen Brahe. Artist Jheronimus (Hieronymus) Bosch was born Jeroen van Aken. Violin maker Antonius Stradivarius was born Antonio Stradivari. Map maker Gerardus Mercator was born Gerard de Cremer.

But these folks lived during the 1400s, 1500s and 1600s. It was trendy for Renaissance thinkers, who embraced Classical philosophies and attitudes, to Latinize their names. (Wikipedia has a long list of Latinized names coined during the Renaissance if you want more examples.)

Rudolf Clausius, on the other hand, lived during the 1800s. I can’t think of any other public figure who adopted a Latinized name as late as the mid-19th century.

Was Rudolf Clausius the last European intellectual to Latinize his name? Or do other outliers exist?

(At first I thought Carl Linnæus (1707-1778) might fit the bill, but his surname was the legitimate family name, coined by his father Nils before Carl was born. It’s based on the Småland dialect word “linn,” meaning “linden tree,” in reference to a stately linden tree on the family property.)


2 thoughts on “The Last Intellectual to Latinize His Name?

  1. Rudolf Clausius’s father was Ernst Carl Gottlieb Clausius. The story about his supposed name change found in various English-language sources might very well be due to a misunderstanding: I think it’s likely someone read about “Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius” being the son of “Ernst Carl Gottlieb”, didn’t realise that Gottlieb was a given name and assumed a name change must have taken place.

    Hieronymus Bosch signed his work Jheronimus and is referred to in contemporary sources as Jheronimus, Jeronimus, Jeroen and Joen. He did not use the name Hieronymus.

  2. Well that solves the mystery! Thank you very much, Maarten. None of the sources I checked got that right.

    So Rudolf himself wasn’t the Latinizer. Perhaps it was his father, or grandfather. Hm.

    And you’re right about Bosch — I’ll revise that sentence.

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