How ethereum got its name
Inside founder Vitalik Buterin’s decision to name the world’s most active blockchain after a medieval scientific theory
- Vitalik Buterin used a medieval scientific theory as inspiration for the name of the ethereum network.
- The blockchain’s naming origins are detailed in Camilla Russo’s book, The Infinite Machine.
- Ether is the disproved concept that there’s a subtle material that fills space and carries all light waves.
Vitalik Buterin was inspired by a medieval scientific theory when he came up with the name for the ethereum network, according to Camilla Russo, former Bloomberg journalist and founder of DeFi news platform, The Defiant.
In her 2020 book The Infinite Machine, Russo said that Buterin looked to science fiction terms for inspiration when he wrote the ethereum white paper in 2013.
Buterin was scrolling through Wikipedia when he came across the word “ether,” and remembered this term from a science book he had read as a child.
Ether is the now disproved concept that there’s a subtle material that fills space and carries all light waves. In the 19th century, scientists assumed ether was weightless, transparent, frictionless, undetectable chemically or physically, and permeated all matter and space, according to Britannica. “Vitalik wanted his platform to be the underlying and imperceptible medium for every application, just what medieval scientists thought ether was,” Russo said. “Plus, it sounded nice.”
He landed on the word “ethereum,” to describe the decentralized protocol.
“Ether” refers to the cryptocurrency of the ethereum blockchain, a fuel that can be used for payments or to power decentralized apps built on the platform.
The theory of ether was abandoned by scientists after Albert Einstein formed the special theory of relativity in 1905, per Britannica. But the use cases for the ethereum protocol are just getting started, crypto experts say.