Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen was the first person to cross the Northwest Passage (1905), to reach the South Pole (1911), and to reach both poles (1926).
His name, Roald, can be traced back to an Old Norse name made up of the words hróðr, meaning “fame,” and valdr, meaning “ruler.” It first appeared on the U.S. baby name charts in 1912:
- 1915: 6 baby boys named Roald
- 1914: 7 baby boys named Roald
- 1913: 5 baby boys named Roald
- 1912: 10 baby boys named Roald [debut]
- 1911: unlisted
Why 1912? Because, even though Amundsen reached the South Pole in December of 1911, the rest of the world wasn’t aware of his accomplishment until after he’d left Antarctica and arrived in Tasmania in March of 1912.
The SSDI shows a similar rise in the number of Roalds born in 1912:
- 1915: 4 people named Roald
- 1914: 5 people named Roald
- 1913: 6 people named Roald
- 1912: 9 people named Roald
- 1911: 3 people named Roald
Many of the U.S. babies named Roald during the 1910s were born to parents who had emigrated from Norway.* Amusingly, four or five of these baby Roalds were born into families with the surname Amundson or Amundsen.
Peak usage happened in 1928, the year Roald Amundsen went missing and was presumed dead after a plane crash in the Arctic.**
Finally, though I don’t have any data to back it up, my hunch is that the name Roald also saw increased usage in other regions in the 1910s and 1920s, and perhaps later. Amundsen’s two most famous namesakes are writer Roald Dahl, born in Wales in 1916, and chemist Roald Hoffmann, born in Poland in 1937.
Source: Roald Amundsen – Wikipedia