A row has broken out over the seemingly innocuous decision to rename Dubrovnik airport to Croatia. It is now officially known as Ruđer Bošković Airport, named after the famous astronomer, doctor, poet, philosopher, mathematician and diplomat, born in what is now Dubrovnik in 1711. This mathematician is credited with laying the foundations of atomic theory and discovered the absence of an atmosphere on the moon.
So why this bad atmosphere in the Balkans?
Notions of nationhood are fluid, particularly in the Balkans, where maps have been redrawn countless times, often amid bloodshed and ethno-religious tensions. The dispute is not actually about where Ruđer Bošković comes from but about his father Nikola, who was (supposedly) born in the neighboring village of Orahov Do. It overlooks Dubrovnik but is on the other side of the border with what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.
So the Bosnians claim Nikola as theirs?
No, and here’s where things get complicated: Serbian scholars claim that Nikola was in fact a Serb and therefore have only tenuous claims to Ruđer. So much so that the leaders of Republika Srpska – a Serb-majority entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina – want to build their own airport near Orahov Do and name it after Ruđer Bošković. Fortunately, the Italians I did not enter into conflict; they also claim (in part) the genius of Bošković, born to an Italian mother and studied in Rome.
Tricky question then, giving airports the names of people?
The Greeks will testify to this. Until recently, they were locked in a bitter conflict with their neighbors in North Macedonia, as authorities there renamed Skopje airport in honor of Alexander the Great. The ancient warrior-king wielded considerable influence in the region, but is at the heart of Greek heritage. Amid cries of cultural appropriation from Greece, the dispute lasted for years. In a “gesture of goodwill”, North Macedonia dropped the name in 2018.
No such controversy at Liverpool John Lennon Airport?
On the contrary. When LiverpoolThe lesser-known Speke Airport was renamed in honor of the city’s famous son. It was a public relations masterstroke. “Yoko Ono was honored by this gesture and was personally involved,” explains Robin Tudor, airport communications manager. “She pulled back the curtain on the new name.” The Queen also turned up for the big reveal, having presumably forgiven Lennon for handing in his MBE. “It’s become a global hot topic,” says Tudor. Our little Liverpool airport was the talk of the world.
Have other famous people named airports after them?
Charges. There are more than 350 eponymous airports and counting. In fact, the world’s busiest airport – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the US state of Georgia – is named after two local politicians: William Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson. Non-US citizens could be forgiven for not knowing who they are. But most will have heard of former President John F. Kennedy, who new York International airport named after his assassination in 1963. Charles de Gaulle in Paris is another famous eponymous hub. There is also Pope John Paul II Airport in PolandGalileo Galilei Airport Italyand George Best Belfast City Airport in Northern Ireland.
Wait, that’s a lot of guys mentioned so far
Female representation is a bit of an issue. Searching for travel company Netflights found that 95 percent of eponymous airports are named after men. “The fact that so few recognize the achievements of women – particularly those who have contributed to the field of aviation – must be corrected,” the organization lamented. He then launched a campaign to have Leeds Bradford Airport named after Yorkshire’s Amy Johnson, the first female pilot to fly solo from England to Australia. However, it failed to start.
Who are the lucky few women?
The oldest of the courageous Amelia Earhart, who was the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic, named her local airport in Atchison, Kansas, after her. As well as setting records in the sky, the aerobatics authored numerous books before disappearing in 1937. It is believed the 39-year-old’s plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean while she was was trying to become the first female aviator to fly around the world. . Other notable female eponyms include Mother Teresa, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Josefa Camejo, a heroine of the Venezuelan War of Independence.
How do I give my name to an airport?
Being a dead man helps. Most of the eponymous airports are named after deceased men. Notable exceptions include the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Arkansas, United States, and Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, named after the very much alive Portuguese footballer. Having a political career is also useful. According to Netflights research, a quarter of eponymous airports are named after politicians. Being a creative genius is the next best route, with artists making up a fifth of the eponymous airports. Failing that, do something extraordinary in the cockpit of an airplane. But as Amy Johnson will attest, that’s no guarantee.