Sherborn: McOuat - Naming and Necessity: Sherborn’s Context in the late 19th Century
By the late 19th Century, storms plaguing early Victorian systematics and nomenclature seemed to have abated. Vociferous disputes over radical renaming, the world shaking clash of all-encompassing procrustean systems, struggles over centres of authority, and the issues of language and meaning had now been settled by the institution of a stable imperial museum and its catalogues, a set of rules for the naming of zoological objects, and a new professional class of zoologists. Yet, for all that tranquillity, the disputes simmered below the surface, re-emerging as bitter struggles over synonyms, trinomials, the subspecies category, the looming issues of the philosophy of scientific language, and the aggressive new American style of field biology – all pressed in upon the received practice of naming and classifying organisms and the threat of anarchy. In the midst rose an index. This paper will explore the context of CD Sherborn’s Index Animalium and those looming problems and issues which a laborious and comprehensive “index of nature” was meant to solve.
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - Sherborn: McOuat - Naming and Necessity: Sherborn’s Context in the late 19th Century
Naming and Necessity: Sherborn’s Context
Nomina si pereunt, perit et cognitio rerum “ Names are the foundation of knowledge: and unless they have a ‘a name’ as well as a ‘local habitation’ with us, the zoological treasures that we so highly prize might almost as well have been left to perish in their native deserts or forests, as have grown mouldy in our drawers or repositories. But when once an animal subject is named and described, it becomes a possession for ever, and the value of every individual specimen of it, even in a mercantile view, is enhanced.” William Kirby, Foundational Address of the Zoological Club, 1823.
Language and Meaning in the 1842 Rules of Zoological Nomenclature , drafted by a committee headed by Hugh Edwin Strickland (1811-1853)
Early draft of the “Strickland Rules” with corrections (Courtesy of Zoological Museum, Cambridge University)
The overarching priority of priority
John Edward Gray (1800-1875) and the types of things at the British Museum. Opposing the Rules
A barnacle built for two (authorities). Charles Darwin’s A monograph on the sub-class Cirripedia (The first monograph to closely follow the 1842 Rules and make use of the catalogues and specimens of the BM)
The Landscape of American exceptionalism: Trinomalism and the resurgence of the trouble over meaning and language. Joel A. Allen 1838-1921 Elliot Coues 1842-1899
Confrontation at the British Museum (Natural History) -1884 -- language, meaning, reform and authority -- who rules?
1890 -- Sherborn announces in Nature the plans for Index Generum et Specierum Animalium -- binomials only -- alphabetised by species -- strict priority back to 12 th edition of Linnaeus