About Names: Albert means ‘bright,’ and Einstein wasn’t the only one to live up to his name

Scientist Albert Einstein

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 14th column, he looks at the history of the name Albert.

Albert is an ancient Germanic name combining “adal” (noble) and “beraht” (bright). Albert was a French form brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066. It replaced Old English Æelbriht, source of the surname Albright.

The first famous Albert was St. Albert the Great (1193-1280), who resigned as Bishop of Regensburg in 1262 to devote his life to scholarship. Albert wrote works on astronomy, chemistry, physiology and other subjects. One of the first since ancient times to record careful observations of nature, he’s patron saint of natural scientists. By 1400, Albert was very rare in England. It’s often assumed that it only revived when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840.

So Albert was in use on both sides of the Atlantic before 1840. There’s no denying, though, that Prince Albert’s fame skyrocketed it. In 1850, Albert was No. 20 in England. In 1880, when Social Security’s baby name data begins, it ranked No. 15 in the U.S. Alberts in entertainment include film producer Broccoli (1909-96), Blue Oyster Cult drummer Bouchard (1947) and actor Molina (1953). Comedian Albert Brooks was born Albert Lawrence Einstein in 1947. If he used his real name, people would think it a bad joke.