Where did the baby name Klisha come from in 1983?

New Jersey high school student Klisha Buell (in 1983)
Klisha Buell, with ant colony

In 1983, the curious name Klisha was a one-hit wonder in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1985: unlisted
  • 1984: unlisted
  • 1983: 6 baby girls named Klisha [debut]
  • 1982: unlisted
  • 1981: unlisted

Where did it come from?

High school student Klisha Buell, who helped who develop a science experiment that involved sending a colony of ants into space aboard the Challenger in June of 1983.

Hundreds of students at two predominantly African-American high schools in Camden, New Jersey, worked together over several years to design and create all the components of the research project, which had two main objectives: to study the effects of weightlessness on ants, and (more broadly) to get minority students interested in science.

Students in science classes, doing research in entomology and astrophysics, designed the experiment. Students in drafting classes drew blueprints, and those in metal, wood and electrical shop classes put it together. Students developed flow charts and programs for the microprocessor that controlled cameras and the student-designed regulators for light and temperature. Journalism classes wrote newsletters and press releases. Art students painted murals of space scenes in the hallways.

Dozens of students attended the launch of the space shuttle Challenger at Cape Canaveral on June 18th. (It was the Challenger‘s second-ever mission. Not only was the ant colony on board, but so was America’s first female astronaut, Sally Ride.)

After the space shuttle returned, the ant colony and equipment were retrieved by several students. One of those students was Klisha Buell, who was often quoted in articles about the experiment. Her name was mentioned, for instance, in Ebony, in Jet, and on the front page of the New York Times.

Unfortunately, none the ants — including the queen, named Norma — survived the journey.

But the experiment was still considered a success. All of the student-designed equipment functioned perfectly over the course of the mission, and both schools saw evidence that their students had become more interested in science. One teacher mentioned that “enrollment in our science classes has gone up 50 percent.”

What are your thoughts on the name Klisha?

P.S. Sally Ride was the third woman in space; the first was Valentina Tereshkova. The Challenger went on to complete seven more missions before the tragic tenth mission, which involved high school teacher Christa McAuliffe.


Image: Clipping from Jet magazine (1 Aug. 1983)

4 thoughts on “Where did the baby name Klisha come from in 1983?

  1. I wonder if it’s pronounced kay-lee-sha (implied apostrophe after the K) or like Keisha with an L in it, or otherwise. Cool experiment with the ants — what an honor to have NASA undertake a high school’s project.

  2. Klisha Sharlotta Ramos-Buell was only 57 when she died last year. She still lived near Camden, only 20 miles away in Sicklerville, NJ. According to her sister (in law), apparently her favorite line was: “Let’s make it happen!” <3

  3. Her siblings were Kimberlee Shyneise, and… Lloyd Douglas. Kind of disappointed her brother didn’t get a unique name!

  4. @Sharky – I’ve been saying “Keisha with an L” in my mind, but I have no idea if that’s how she said it — none of my sources included a pronunciation.

    @Emma – I’m sad to hear that she passed away. :( I love her catchphrase — it sounds like she was very cool person.

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