Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

October 31, 2020
Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

An engaging history of the surprising, poignant, andoccasionally scandalous stories behind scientific names and theircultural significanceEver since Carl Linnaeus's binomial system of scientific nameswas adopted in the eighteenth century, scientists have beeneponymously naming organisms in ways that both honor and vilifytheir namesakes. This charming, informative, and accessible historyexamines the fascinating stories behind taxonomic nomenclature,from Linnaeus himself naming a small and unpleasant weed after arival botanist to the recent influx of scientific names based onpop-culture icons—including David Bowie's spider, Frank Zappa'sjellyfish, and Beyoncé's fly.Exploring the naming process as an opportunity for scientists toexpress themselves in creative ways, Stephen B. Heard's freshapproach shows how scientific names function as a window into boththe passions and foibles of the scientific community and as a moregeneral indicator of the ways in which humans relate to, and imposeorder on, the natural world.