According to Genesis in the Old Testament Adam was created from the earth by God (there is a word play on Hebrew אֲדָמָה ('adamah) meaning "earth"). He and Eve were supposedly the first humans, living happily in the Garden of Eden until they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result they were expelled from Eden to the lands to the east, where they gave birth the second generation, including Cain, Abel and Seth.
As an English Christian name, Adam has been common since the Middle Ages, and it received a boost after the Protestant Reformation. A famous bearer was Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723-1790).
A famous bearer was the Italian Renaissance painter Antonio Pisanello (c. 1395-1455). It is also the name of the main character in The Merchant of Venice (1596) by William Shakespeare.
After the Protestant Reformation it was occasionally used as a given name in the English-speaking world, and it became somewhat common in America due to the fame of the revolutionary Ethan Allen (1738-1789). It only became popular towards the end of the 20th century. It is the name of the main character in Edith Wharton's novel Ethan Frome (1911), about a man in love with his wife's cousin.
In the Celtic legend of Tristan and Isolde this was the name of a king of Cornwall. It was also borne by the American author Mark Twain (1835-1910), real name Samuel Clemens, the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He took his pen name from a call used by riverboat workers on the Mississippi River to indicate a depth of two fathoms. This is also the usual English spelling of the name of the 1st-century BC Roman triumvir Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony).
This name has been borne by two early kings of France, two Dukes of Normandy, and three kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce who restored the independence of Scotland from England in the 14th century. The author Robert Browning (1812-1889) and poets Robert Burns (1759-1796) and Robert Frost (1874-1963) are famous literary bearers of this name. Other bearers include Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), the commander of the Confederate army during the American Civil War, and American actors Robert Redford (1936-), Robert De Niro (1943-) and Robert Downey Jr. (1965-).