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Family spelling variants includes Wattson, Watts, Wat, Wattes, Wattessone, Watte, Walters, Watkin, Walter, Waters, Watkin
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WATSON Family History
This is an old surname that derives originally from the Anglo-Saxon personal name Wat or Watt which, in turn, was a diminutive of the name Walter.
Its roots go as far back as at least the 7th century, when it origially meant 'powerful warrior' or 'battle leader' ( from the Old Germanic 'wald' = rule, 'hari' = army). It grew in popularity after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, and by the 13th and 14th centuries it was a relatively common personal name, in the north of England especially and in the Scottish borders, and had acquired different spelling variations, including Waltier, Walt, Wat, and Watt.
It was from the shortened forms of the name that the hereditary surnames Watts and Watson later developed which literally meant 'son of Wat/Watt'.
Another diminutive of Walter was Watkin which itself later developed into a separate hereditary surname. Walter also developed into a surname, commonly as 'Walters' (son of Walter) but also as 'Waters'.
Early references to the surname appear in the Hundred Rolls of Oxfordshire in 1273 (William Wattes), and in the 1379 Poll Tax of Yorkshire in which a Johannes Watson, an Alicia Wat-wyf (literally, 'Wat's wife'), and a Johannes Watte were named.
Watson is the 43rd most popular surname in England and Wales, where around 118,000 individuals bearing this surname are recorded. There are a further 21,000 Watsons living in Scotland where it is the 17th most popular surname. Watson is most common in and around Edinburgh where an estimated one in around 195 families bears the name. Around the world Watsons are most common in Wellington, New Zealand (one in 562 families), Canberra, Australia (one in 605) and Auckland, New Zealand (one in 607). It is the 71st most popular surname in the United States where an estimated total of just over 252,000 Watsons live.
- The Scottish inventor James Watt (1736—1819) is credited with the invention of the steam engine; and the watt, an unit of power, is named after him.
- The Scottish physicist Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (1892—1973) was knighted in 1942 for his role in the development of RADAR (Radio Detection And Ranging), a device for locating aircraft which played a vital part in the defence of Britain against German bombing raids in World War II.
- James Dewey Watson (b. 1928), won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for his crucial role in the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, the vital constituent in the genetic process.
- English clergyman Isaac Watts (1674—1748) wrote hundreds of hymns, including ‘O God Our Help in Ages Past’ and ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’.
An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names (1857) by William Arthur
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