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No. 108: Nov-Dec 1996

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Nominative Determinism

We can no longer resist passing along this very important anomaly, which in essence is the human compulsion to take up a profession described by his or her surname. No less an authority than C. Jung wondered about this common phenomenon in his classic Synchronicity; An Acausal Connecting Principle. He noted, for example, that Herr Feist (Mr. Stout) was the food minister and Herr Rosstauscher (Mr. Horsetrader) was a lawyer. He mused:

"Are these whimsicalities of chance, or the suggestive effects of the name, as Stekel seems to suggest, or are they 'meaningful coincidences'?"

Jung never answered his own question.

The British New Scientist, in its "Feedback" column, has since tackled this enigmatic phenomenon many times. Nominative determinism was introduced first in 1994, when it was remarked that a paper on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology was authored by J.W. Splatt and D. Weedon!

New Scientist readers added many more examples, proving just how powerful this psychological force really is.

"The head of planning for British Airways is Rod Muddle...Frances Crook is the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform...S.M. Breedlove writes on sexual dimorphism for the Journal of Neuroscience...The US Heritage Foundation's senior researcher on children in foster care is Patrick Fagan...etc. ad infinitum."

(From New Scientist "Feedback" columns of April 20 and June 22, 1996)

Tik-tok, was the most famous thinking machine in the Land of Oz. But is Tik-tok the only robot in the picture? Perhaps there are three!Tik-tok, the famous thinking machine in the Land of Oz

From Science Frontiers #108, NOV-DEC 1996. 1996-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987