Reply by Jim Croft

Jim Beach beach at HUH.HARVARD.EDU
Tue Feb 16 16:30:40 CST 1993

Response by Jim Croft (ANBG) to taxonomic date data request:

>  In response to the query below we are able to offer the following,
>  perhaps not particularly useful piece of information, packaged in a none
>  too transparent piece of gratuitous advertizing propaganda.  ('there is
>  no such thing as a free Network' - ancient proverb).
>  The Australian Plant Name Index (APNI) is maintained as a database of
>  some 60,000 entries, complete with, among other things, the date and
>  place of publication of names.  The index covers vascular plant names
>  that have been associated with Australia and its current territories.
>  Of the order of 17,000 of these names are currently accepted.
>  Through the marvels of modern science, entries in this database can now
>  be queried over the internet using the world famous gopher protocol.
>  (contrary the the Chinese Calendar, for biological collections and
>   systematics, 1993 is going to be the year of the Gopher - if your PC or
>   Mac or workstation is not running a gopher client, then it is missing
>   out on what is probably the most significant data communication and
>   exchange event this decade, ranking right up there with email, ftp and
>   the like.  This application is public domain, available on the Internet
>   and essentially 'free'.  If there are too many cries of 'what is gopher?'
>   I am sure taxacom management would agree to the posting of a few
>   introductory messages on the subject.)
>  Point your gopher client at port 70 and look under ANBG
>  information, IBIS database gateway, Aust. Plant Name Index.  Read the
>  README files ('what for?' do I hear you say?  Because if you don't, you
>  wont know how to drive it properly) and enter queries on part of
>  the plant name, etc. and see what it returns (scientific names only).
>  You can also get at the ANBG gopher through the Mother Gopher at the
>  Univerity of Minnesota (under Pacific gophers), the Harvard University
>  Biodiversity Gopher, and the ANU Biodiversity Gopher and maybe some
>  other sites we dont't know about.
>  APNI is updated on a regular basis and the records retrieved will reflect
>  the latest changes.  It is a real-time connection to the database and not
>  an archived export file.  (On the same gopher, the ANBG herbarium
>  specimen database (herbarium CBG) can be accessed in the same manner.)
>  APNI is a large dataset (c. 10 - 20 megabytes) representing a soporific
>  but essential 4-volume opus, originally compiled by Arthur Chapman, for
>  Australian Government Printing Office.  An ascii export of the data (a
>  snyapsot of the database c. January 1993) will be placed on the Taxacom
>  FTP server at Harvard in the near future for people who want to do
>  idiosyncratic things with it.  We do not propose to post out tapes or
>  diskettes of it at this stage because of the time involved.
>  As far as the project below goes, Arthur Chapman prepared a poster on
>  this topic for the 1987 Berlin International Botanical Congress, based
>  on plant names in the Australian flora.  As noted below, there were some
>  interesting patterns.  Arthur can be contacted by email at:
>  arthur at
>  Another source of useful data for this project is going to be a slice of
>  the Gray Card Index at Harvard.  This is in the process of being
>  prepared for the Harvard Gopher.  See the interim entries and some
>  background files there ( port 70).
>  Now some philosophical stuff:  What we are talking about here is a
>  research and management tool of unimaginable power, but it will only work
>  if there are reasonable amounts of reliable data available to it.  Who
>  out there are custodians of large amounts of biological data that is
>  sitting around, largely under-utilized not justifying the cost of
>  collecting it, the cost of maintaining it, nor its very existence?  If
>  you have lazy data lying around, a gopher server is a simple way of
>  making it widely available with minimal imposition on research and
>  curatorial staff.  Gopher servers are not difficult to manage and
>  populate with information, and it is now a relatively straight forward
>  task to dynamically link them to a relational database to answer a wide
>  range of questions, and to deliver data in a variety of formats.  Any
>  takers?
>  cheers
>  jim

Original posting by Dr. Petersen:

>  > Subject:      Request for Taxonomic date data.
>  > To: Multiple recipients of list TAXACOM <TAXACOM at HARVARDA.HARVARD.EDU>
>  >
>  > To: >INTERNET:taxacom at
>  >
>  >
>  >    I am investigating the temporal pattern of taxonomic activity.
>  >    This work started as the result of investigations of a database
>  >    I created from Sibley & Monroe's DISTRIBUTION AND TAXONOMY OF
>  >
>  >    I have investigated the data in many ways; a simple plot of
>  >    # of species described/year  vs. year produces interesting patterns.
>  >
>  >    I have investigated a few other data sets
>  >
>  >            (e.g. avian genera erection dates,
>  >            dates of arachnid type specimens in the MCZ,
>  >            new world dragonflies, ...)
>  >
>  >            and wish to study to other groups (including plants).
>  >
>  >
>  >    Data sets with a minimum of 1000 records (greater than 3000 preferred).
>  >    I am particularly interested in taxa whose description spans the period
>  >    1790-1815 (where there seems to be a relative GAP in the number of avian
>  >    citations), but would be interested in hearing of any available
>  >    datasets.
>  >
>  >
>  >    I am interested to know of taxonomic data sets containing citation dates
>  >    available by modem/email (compuserve or internet) or DOS floppies.
>  >
>  >    If you have or know of datasets that might be of interest please
>  >    contact me.
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  > Alan P. Peterson, M.D.                  internet1:      alanpp at
>  > POB 1999                                internet2: 71500.726 at
>  > Walla Walla, WA 99362, USA               fax:  509.525.1326
>  >                                     vox:  509.527.0274
>  >                                        or 509.529.1152
>  >

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