Where did the baby name Aldrin come from in 1969?

Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon (Jul. 1969)
Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin on the moon

In May of 1961, just three weeks after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, President John F. Kennedy challenged America to make it all the way to the moon:

I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.

In July of 1969, the crew of the Apollo 11 — astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin — did just that. They launched on the morning of July 16, reached the moon on July 20, and returned to Earth on July 24.

And, thanks to live TV coverage via satellite, approximately 650 million people worldwide were able to witness Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon’s surface. (Millions also tuned in to see the astronauts splash down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean several days later.)

So how did this historic event influence U.S. baby names?

According to the U.S. baby name data, the name Neil saw a spike in usage in 1969:

  • 1971: 1,422 baby boys named Neil [rank: 182nd]
  • 1970: 1,567 baby boys named Neil [rank: 178th]
  • 1969: 1,681 baby boys named Neil [rank: 164th]
  • 1968: 1,052 baby boys named Neil [rank: 218th]
  • 1967: 1,158 baby boys named Neil [rank: 200th]

The same year, the name Aldrin popped up for the very first time:

  • 1971: unlisted
  • 1970: 5 baby boys named Aldrin
  • 1969: 22 baby boys named Aldrin [debut]
  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted

Finally, the name Apollo returned to the data in 1969 after a several-year absence:

  • 1971: 14 baby boys named Apollo
  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: 15 baby boys named Apollo
  • 1968: unlisted
  • 1967: unlisted

Apollo’s debut in 1965, and high usage again in 1971, are also likely linked to the space program in some way.

Speaking of the space program…how did it come to be named “Apollo”?

Dr. Abe Silverstein, a manager at NASA, chose the name in early 1960 after looking through a mythology book and deciding that the image of “Apollo riding his chariot across the Sun was appropriate to the grand scale of the proposed program.”

Sources: July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind – NASA, A President Issues NASA’s First Historic Challenge – NASA, From the Moon to your living room: the Apollo 11 broadcast, The Apollo 11 splashdown, 50 years later, What’s in a Name? – NASA, SSA

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