Taxonomy in the popular media

Thomas G. Lammers lammers at FMPPR.FMNH.ORG
Mon Jan 13 15:47:50 CST 1997

At 04:27 PM 01-13-97 EST, Andrew S. Jensen wrote:
>It occurs to me that there are at least a few, and probably many examples of
>taxonomy taking a central role in popular television and movies.  Do some of
>you have other good examples of taxonomy in movies and TV?

Perhaps the timeliest example is the new movie thriller "The Relic", which
premiered last Friday and which was filmed in part on location here at Field
Museum.  The heroine is an "evolutionary biologist" (that phrase is used a
couple times) who uses DNA sequencing in her research; when a couple boys
ask, "What's an evolutionary biologist?" she gives a reasonable definition
that ends tongue-in-cheek with, "I'm trying to figure out where our tails
went."  The novel by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, upon which the movie
was based, does a better job of explaining systematics and evolutionary
biology, but as film depictions of our science go, it was a step above many
recent examples.

Many of us here at Field Museum (I am NOT speaking ex cathedra, however) see
the movie as conveying the following positive message: cutting edge research
on evolutionary relationships goes on behind the scenes at major museums;
they are not dusty, musty, outdated repositories of old dead stuff.  The
fact that it was OUR museum that was depicted made us especially happy.

Beyond that, it was a typical gore-fest, with the monster decapitating an
awful lot of folks.  Those with weak stomachs are warned.

For more information, check out

Thomas G. Lammers
Department of Botany                     Classification, Nomenclature,
Field Museum of Natural History          Phylogeny and Biogeography
Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive       of the Campanulaceae
Chicago, Illinois 60605-2496 USA

e-mail:     lammers at
voice mail: 312-922-9410 ext. 317
fax:        312-427-2530

        "The naming of things by their right names is the beginning of wisdom."

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