Grantham is notable for being the birthplace of the former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for having educated Isaac Newton at its King's School, for having the first female police officer in the United Kingdom (Edith Smith in 1914), and for producing the first running diesel engine in 1892 and the UK's first tractor in 1896.
The origin of "Grantham" is uncertain, although the name is said probably to be Old English "Granta+ham", meaning "Granta's homestead". It appeared as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book in its present form of Grantham, but was also recorded variously as Grandham, Granham and Graham. The place name element grand could possibly mean "gravel".
The name of the town is the origin of the Scottish surname, now often used as a given name, Graham.
Late neolithic vessels from a burial were found at Little Gonerby, in the north of the town, in 1875. A number of flint blades have been found, including from near Welham Street to the south-east of the town centre and from near Barrowby where a macehead has also been found. At Little Gonerby a neolithic settlement site was discovered with finds of pottery and flints.