It's a simple way to provide characterization: if you're highly educated and/or sophisticated you give a likewise name to your pet. A popular scientist to name cats after is Erwin Schrödinger, best known for his Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment. Popular enough to be a Stock Animal Name.
It doesn't have to be a scientist naming the cat for another scientist. If you're an expert in a given field, you give an appropriate name to the pet. A musician may name the dog after a famous composer, a literature professor named the cat for an ancient king, a physicist who named the ferret "Proton", etc. You're just too damn intelligent to own a dog named Rover or a parrot named Polly.
See also We Named the Monkey "Jack", when the homage is to a personal friend/relative/acquaintance.
Not to be confused with Tribute to Fido, which is when a name is a homage to a pet.
- In Lori Lovecraft, struggling actress Lori's cat is named Keaton in honour of Buster Keaton.
- The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: Baron Munchausen's horse is named Bucephalus, thus making this trope Older Than Radio.
- Doc Brown in the Back to the Future film trilogy names his dogs after famous scientists. In 1985, his dog is called Einstein, and in 1955, his dog is called Copernicus. In 1885, his horse is called Copernicus.
- The titular dog in Beethoven. His family decided on the name when he seemed to react positively as the youngest girl, Emily, began playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony on the piano. In the sequel, one of his puppies is named Tchaikovsky.
- In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, inventor Caratacus Potts has a dog named Edison.
- Crazy Rich Asians: Peik Lin's Nouveau Riche mother named her Mister Muffykin dogs Astor, Vanderbilt and Rockefeller, after rich American families.
- In Elvira, Mistress of the Dark this trope is used as one of many small gauges of the lead's average smarts. Elvira has an Unexpected Inheritance of a mansion, "cookbook", and a poodle. Her great aunt, a powerful, savvy witch, named him Algonquin after the American Indian tribe. Elvira is much more Earthy and neither dumb or brainy, so she shortens his name to Gonk.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, bumbling inventor Wayne Szalinski has a dog named Quark.
- In Call Me Sunflower, the Applebaums' cats are named Aristotle, Copernicus, and Einstein.
- Crazy Rich Asians: The Nouveau Riche Gohs named their dogs Astor, Vanderbilt and Trump, after rich Americans.
- The Door into Summer: Dan, the brilliant engineer on the cutting edge of domestic robotics, named his cat Petronius the Arbiter.
- In The Golden Hamster Saga, Mr. John named his whistling guinea pigs Enrico and Caruso.
- Played With in Harry Potter. Harry names his owl Hedwig, "a name he had found in A History of Magic." The author took the name from Saint Hedwig, patron saint of orphans.
- As per the movie props, Hermione might have named her cat Crookshanks after the in-universe figure from the 16th century, Poderick Crookshank.
- Discouraged in How NOT to Write a Novel, noting that if your novel's protagonist must have a cat, do not name it after a composer (such as Bartok), after a writer (Hemingway), after an ancient Greek (Socrates) or after a person that reflects the character's political leanings (Trotsky), among several other examples.
- In Mr. Popper's Penguins the first penguin the Poppers receive ends up being named Captain Cook after British explorer, James Cook.
- In A Murder Is Announced, Rev. Julian Harmon, an Oxford alumnus, named his cat after an Assyrian king.
- In The Murder Of Bindy Mackenzie, Bindy actually suggests this as a study tip.
BINDY MACKENZIE'S STUDY TIPS #6Rename your pets.Say you have a dog and a goldfish?Rename your dog Nicholas II.Every time you see him, say, "Hello there, Tsar Nicholas! Thinking about the 1825 Decembrists' Revolt and the 1861 Emancipation of the Serfs and how they affected your reign? How about Alexander II, eh? Swimming around in the aquarium there? What do you think of him?
- The Once and Future King is the novel that the Sword and the Stone was adapted from. Like the Disney film, Merlin's Familiar is an owl named Archimedes.
- In the Repairman Jack series, Abe is a gun-dealer and technical expert on firearms; gun design, mechanical specifications, upkeep, customization, and repair. He'd probably have found a great job in the industry if he wasn't so determined to remain independent. He calls his pet parakeet Parabellum, the name of a specific type of cartridge.
- In The Salmon of Doubt, one of Dirk Gently's current cases is working out the name of a dog. He eventually realises that, since the late owner was writing a biography of Søren Kierkegaard , he would therefore probably have named the dog Kierkegaard, because it's a huge stress reliever to turn to it and say "Oh, shut up, Kierkegaard!"
- Charlie from The Someday Birds names his dog Tiberius, after the ornithologist Tiberius Shaw, PhD.
- Young Sherlock Holmes: Duke Balthasar, the Big Bad of Red Leech, is the leader of 'the Government in Exile of the Confederacy'. He has two semi-tamed cougars he calls Grant and Sherman, in what he admits is a kind of sick joke.
- When Liz Lemon of 30 Rock is threatening to give up looking for love and succumb to being a Crazy Cat Lady:
- In The Big Bang Theory, after a breakup with not-his-girlfriend Amy Farrah Fowler, theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper gets a cat that he names Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and takes him everywhere. Soon Sheldon becomes a Crazy Cat Gentleman and gets an entire Manhattan Project of cats — Fermi, Feynman, Teller, Frisch, and Odd Name Out Zazzles, because that cat is so zazzy.
- On Blackish, Dre's sister Rhonda and her wife Sharon have a cat called 'Kitty Lang'.
- Clarissa Explains It All has an episode where Ferguson, her Insufferable Genius brother, finds a lost cat that he names William F. Buckley.
- Likewise, Clarissa herself has a pet alligator named "Elvis".
- An episode of Columbo, the victim was a talented musician who had named her bird Chopin.
- Downton Abbey: All three dogs—Pharaoh, Isis & Tiaa—belonging to the Crawley family have names that are references to Ancient Egypt, and were likely chosen in tribute to the Earl of Carnarvon (real life owner of Highclere Castle AKA the Abbey) who financed Howard Carter's expedition.
- Due South: Canadian Mountie Benton Fraser named his wolf Deifenbecker, after former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbecker.
- In Hardball, tween-Alpha Bitch Tiffany owns a pair of cavoodles named Ricky and Martin.
- Jonathan Creek: A minor character whose fascination with Classical Greek mythology plays a minor role in solving the mystery of the week owns a goldfish called Tiresias.
- In My Place, Mohammed is into cricket and describes himself as 'a mad keen bowler'; he named his goldfish after Shane Warne and talks to it as if it were the actual cricket player.
- Sliders: In the first episode, Quinn- the inventor/discoverer of Sliding- mentions his cat named Schrödinger.
- Stargate SG-1 had Samantha Carter, the team The Smart Guy, owning a cat named Schrödinger, which she gave to Narim early on.
- In Starsky & Hutch, Huggy Bear names one of his racing mice Cheesebiscuit.
- The Twilight Zone (1959): In "I Dream of Genie", George P. Hanley's dog Attila is named after Attila the Hun.
- The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Little Boy Lost", the photojournalist Carol Shelton's cat is named Ansel after Ansel Adams.
- The West Wing: Mathematics professor Talmidge Cregg has a cat named Nicodemus.
- The X-Files had Scully, whose background is in hard science like medicine and physics, owning a dog named Queequeg, a reference to one of the Characters in Moby-Dick. (Her family has Navy connections, and she and her father shared a fondness for that novel.)
- Zoey 101: In "Defending Dustin", Chase and Michael adopt a dog that they name "Elvis".
- Maplelea Girls: The Maplelea Girls are series of 18" dolls meant to teach about Canadian geography, history, and culture; the story goes that a group of seven girls who met on holidays now share their everyday experiences and the differences between their provinces and their lives. In a suitably patriotic fashion, some of the pets available have names like Laurier and Diefenbaker, named for important Canadian prime ministers.
- In Half-Life 2, Dr. Kleiner has a "de-beaked" headcrab named after Hedy Lamarr. It's both a bad Stealth Pun and a Shout-Out to a classic actress- one who helped pioneer early wi-fi and cordless technologies.
- Skullgirls' Peacock is a huge fan of cartoons, so it's natural that her little bird sidekick, Avery, takes his name from one of the most famous animators of the medium (and also a pun on Aviary).
- In Team Fortress 2, The Medic owns a pet dove named Archimedes, but he runs more in the Mad Scientist direction, gleefully describing how he once stole a live patient's skeleton.
- Sam, a time traveler in The Bright Sessions, has a cat named Darwin which she obtained after a trip to the Galapagos where she saw the real deal.
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids are a pop band. Their Team Pet is a dog named Elvis.
- Fillmore!: Fillmore has a goldfish named Thelonius (after jazz musician Thelonius Monk). After Thelonious dies, he is replaced by a goldfish named Miles (after Miles Davis).
- Jimmy Neutron the boy genius designed and built his robot dog and named him Goddard in honor of rocket science physicist and inventor Robert Goddard. Especially apt when, in his first animated feature film, Jimmy is able to ride upon Goddard like a space bike.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012), the Rat King is a Mad Scientist with the power over rats, and names all of his rats after famous Greeks and Romans; such as Caligula for his giant rat steed and Aristotle for his seeing eye rat.
- On Total Drama, Sierra and Topher are both huge fans of Chris McLean. Even before they met him, Sierra has multiple fish all named "Chris" while Topher's cat, Chef, is named after Chris' sidekick.