validity of taxonomic publication

John McNeill johnm at ROM.ON.CA
Mon Feb 24 09:29:33 CST 1997

On Sunday, 23 February 1997, Robin Leach wrote:

>A newspaper is a "publication" but placing the name and description of
>a new taxon, even with acceptable diagnostic
>drawings/photos/micrographs, does not constitute publication.

Yes, this is true, but only because of the specific provisions of Art.
30.3 ("Publication on or after 1 January 1953 in trade catalogues or
non-scientific newspapers, .... does not constitute effective

>Yes, a printed thesis is a "document", but by the nature of such a
>document as a thesis, and its distribution and knowledge of its
>availability to one and all, preclude its being accepted as
>"constituting or effecting publication".

I think Robin Leach has missed my point.  A traditiional thesis, like
mine, that was typewritten with three carbon copies, the original
ending up in the University Library, and the copies in the
Departmental Library, on my shelf, and on that of my supervisor (major
professor), is certainly NOT effectively published.  Even with modern
laser-printing, this distribution would NOT effect publication under
the botanical Code.  But, if I had distributed two copies of a
(laser-)printed thesis to the Libraries at the RBG, Edinburgh and the
RBG, Kew, as might well be the case were I completing my thesis
to-day, no matter my intent, this WOULD constitute effective
publication under Art. 29.1.  Theses, unlike "non-scientific
newspapers" and some other types of publication, are not excluded in
Art. 30 from the provisions of Art. 29.1.

>You can start your own journal, and as long as the terms of reference
>for distribution are met, and the names and descriptions and
>diagnoses and illustrations of the new taxon or taxa are adequate,
>you have "effected publication", the name or names you have proposed
>will be valid.  Some people have opted for this route - there was a
>hemipterist in California back during the 50s (and 60s), who
>published on mirids, who did this.  I will not go into details here,
>but few, if any, accepted his names.

Yes, indeed, and one can print one's own book, with whatever taxonomic
and nomenclatural novelties one wishes, and, with appropriate
distribution, the requirements of effective publication will be met.
I know that Australian zoologists, in particular, have been concerned
with what has been called "taxonomic terrorism", the publication of
enormous numbers of new names by idiosyncratic authors in unrefereed
media.  But it is hard to see how this can be controlled in Codes of
nomenclature, without a degree of scientific censorship that the
taxonomic community would consider unjustified.

John McNeill

From: John McNeill, Director Emeritus, Royal Ontario Museum,
      100 Queen's Park, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 2C6, Canada.
      Tel. and fax # 416-586-5744  e-mail: johnm at

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