Formal Descriptions and a Different Reality

Frederick J. Peabody fpeabody at SUNFLOWR.USD.EDU
Wed Nov 22 16:56:03 CST 1995

On Wed, 22 Nov 1995, Dominique Collet wrote:

> The purpose of a binominal is to help us organize our thoughts and
> communicate them to others. When there are plethora of synonyms, this
> function is lost.
> Dominique M. Collet (Mr.)
> collet at
> Box 704
> Sterling Ak 99672
> Alaska USA
> Phone(907 262 4030)
The point you make is a valid one.  Unfortunately, if we are to allow
"general" access to the systematic process we must be prepared to deal
with this "plethora" of names, since everyone and their dog will,
undoubtedly, have their own opinion.  The alternative is to dub "experts"
in each taxon and hold their taxonomic decision inviolate, not allowing
any so-called interloper the privilege of systematic revision until the
"expert" dies or resigns.  Actually, this does occur in some groups.  One
person or another is commonly understood to be an "expert" in a group,
but, to my knowledge, no one would entertain a proposal to exclude any
additional input.  This was tried by none other than Asa Gray in the last
part of the 19th century.  He had built quite a botanical systematic
collection at Harvard through his many correspondents and was
acknowledged as the "expert" in North Americal floristics.  At one time
he proposed that no new species should be named without his "approval."
Understandably, other plant systematists bristled at this assertion -
especially those pioneer botanists west of the Missouri River.

The plethora of names is something that we will have to live with if we
all desire access to the process of systematics.

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