Smoosh the Biblical Gabriel with the nouveau Jalen, add a certain retro vibe and what do you get?
Thanks to Emily for suggesting Galen as our Baby Name of the Day.
Galen is from the era perhaps most out of favor today: the 1940s. Larry and Gary were in the US Top 25; so were Ronald and Donald. Girls’ names in vogue included Shirley, Carol, Brenda, and Nancy.
Galen keeps company with Virgil and Homer, names that can read hayseed in 2011, but were once attached to the sharpest minds of antiquity.
The original Galen, Galenos, or Galenus lived in the second century, a Roman citizen of Greek ancestry. He received an extensive education and became a noted physician. But he was no mere bone-setter; instead, he served as personal physician to gladiators and emperors, made significant advances in anatomy, and penned a treatise entitled “The Best Physician is also a Philosopher.”
Not all of Galen’s observations were correct. Dissecting a human corpse was unthinkable in the era, so Galen’s observations were based on dissections of monkeys. But his work formed the basis of medicine for centuries.
His name comes from the Greek galene – calm. There are other possible origins:
- Places named Gahlen in Germany and similar names in other Germanic languages gave rise to the surnames van Galen and von Galen. The von Galen family of Westphalia was especially distinguished. Several branches of the family held titles or distinguished themselves on the battlefield or in the church. Clemens von Galen, a bishop and later cardinal, was one of the most vocal opponents of the Nazi regime;
- A handful of English surnames resemble Galen – there’s Galun, Galyen, Galyan, Gaylon, and Gallyon, too. They first surface in the 1200s, and might derive from gaile – jovial.
There have been men named Gale over the years, and one fictional figure could help spark a revival of boys called Gale: the valiant Gale Hawthorne, a love interest for Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games trilogy.
For the most part, Gale has read feminine in recent years, and you can find a few female Galens, too. But a surprising number of men have answered to the name, including:
- Born in 1940, Galen Hall played football for Penn State and now coaches at his alma mater;
- Galen Cisco was a Major League Baseball pitcher for in the 60s;
- Galen Adams was a character on television’s Gunsmoke for twenty years, but he was better known as Doc;
- The name appears more than once in the Planet of the Apes franchise;
- Galen Tyrol was a character in the rebooted television series Battlestar Galactica;
- Galen Clark was a major force in creating Yosemite National Park;
- Galen Gering has had a long career on daytime television, transitioning from Passions to Days of our Lives.
Galen peaked in 1949 for boys, and has been out of the US Top 1000 since 1996. Today he’s either exactly right for our times, or hopelessly out of style. Maybe he’s a little bit of both. If one parent is all about Julius and the other digs Jayden, Galen could be the best possible compromise. The Gunsmoke character gives him a certain cowboy cool, and he fits in with Braeden and Cale.