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Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider

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Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider

How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

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Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider

“What's in a name? I mean, does a "rosa minutifolia" smell any sweeter than a "rosa stellata?" Heard's history of the naming of species through Linnaeus' system certainly doesn't cover all species, but provides a fun and cultural look at what goes into the process. Species bear the names they are given whether they come from celebrities, scientists, lovers, enemies, or even an auction to the highest bidder in the hope to raise money for scientific endeavors. "Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider" not only delves into the origins of names, some more scandalous than others, but it also points out the importance of this research and what it means for planet Earth and all its inhabitants.”

The Country Bookseller image Autumn, The Country Bookseller


An engaging history of the surprising, poignant, and occasionally scandalous stories behind scientific names and their cultural significance. Ever since Carl Linnaeus's binomial system of scientific names was adopted in the eighteenth century, scientists have been eponymously naming organisms in ways that both honor and vilify their namesakes. This charming, informative, and accessible history examines the fascinating stories behind taxonomic nomenclature, from Linnaeus himself naming a small and unpleasant weed after a rival botanist to the recent influx of scientific names based on pop-culture icons—including David Bowie's spider, Frank Zappa's jellyfish, and Beyoncé's fly.

Exploring the naming process as an opportunity for scientists to express themselves in creative ways, Stephen B. Heard's fresh approach shows how scientific names function as a window into both the passions and foibles of the scientific community and as a more general indicator of the ways in which humans relate to, and impose order on, the natural world.

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