Thursday, April 13, 2006

Identity Crisis (Moore or Less)

I never thought that the idea of losing "Moore" as a last name would be saddening.
But it is. And it became increasingly apparent today.
Today, Dr. Forcade presented our research at the Colloquium for the grad students and faculty of the math department here. I was on the list as co-author, so I came to show my support and watch my research appear on the board. This is much different from when I gave the presentation last month. It's a whole new experience to have someone else present for you. Honest.
So Dr. Forcade had some overhead transparencies. He went through the history of the problem labelling the important people who had worked on it: D. D. Wall, D. W. Robinson, D. Bailey, Sun & Sun, etc.
And then, he got to the present day. And there it was:

H. Moore

And then I stopped breathing. There I was mentioned with all these great men. My name. My initial (you know you're a mathematician when you use initials instead of names).

Later on in the talk, Dr. Forcade presents our main theorem. It's labelled:

Theorem (Forcade, Moore)

Isn't that beautiful? Moore is a really great last name, I think. It looks elegant. It looks refined. It looks mathy. You can trust a person whose name is Moore. Look at it. Solid beginning, solid ending. No frills. This person is the real thing. Many brilliant people carry that name. I'm not brilliant, but with a name like Moore, people sure will believe it.

And then I realized it. After August 19, my name will be Moore no more. The solidity, the unmoving genius that comes with "Moore"-- all gone.

Dr. Forcade and I are writing a paper to be published. It'll (hopefully) be ready for publication in June. It won't be published in June, just submitted for publication and it'll be submitted under Moore. It may happen that when it's published, I'll be a Farley. Can you imagine the terror? Here I am going by two names in the mathematical world. You can't do that. It's just not done. How will people trace your work to you? How will MathSciNet remember you?

And this is why women don't go into math.

It comes down to this: I'm going to take McKay's name when I get married because I've always imagined doing that. It's right for me.

But I mourn the loss of "Moore." It really is a good name. And it's been me for a score of years. And I'm going to miss it. I'm sorry. "H. Moore" nor "H. R. Moore" will ever become a real mathematician. The person who I am right now, and have been all my life will never be a mathematician. H. Moore's dreams, H. Moore's aspirations die on August 19.
But I guess H. R. Farley can dream.


  1. I can see how you feel. But you are not alone. I know two aspiring scientists both doctoral candidates..who have kept their previous last name for school work, and have only changed their name for the rest of the world.

    I know another grad student who hyphenated her name. It's not that bad.

  2. Anonymous2:53 PM

    When I got married I also mourned the loss of my maiden name. It was such a classic name and my new name, like yours, was somewhat uneventful. I resolved the matter by taking my maiden name as my middle name. I enjoy the combination (with no hyphen) and it has helped me retain that part of my identity.


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