What Linnaeus said

magarland magarland at NETZERO.NET
Mon Apr 2 18:17:41 CDT 2001

John Grehan wrote, quoting Christian Thompson:

"> It
>focuses attention on Linnaeus' original idea of SEPARATING SCIENCE
>(taxonomy, diagnoses, etc.) from Nomenclature, words acting as unique
>information keys for effective communication.

Is this an explicit statement by Linnaeus?"

Perhaps Christian Thompson was thinking about Linnaeus's introduction of
"trivial names," what we now call specific epithets, to avoid problems with
the "legitimate specific names," which were supposed to express the
essential characters of a species, but which changed when new species were
added to a genus.

>From Philosophia Botanica, aphorism 257:

NOMINA TRIVIALIA forte admitti possunt modo, quo in Pane suecico usus sum;
constarent haec
          Vocabulo unico;
          Vocabulo libere undequaque desumto.
Ratione hac praceipue evicti, quod differentia saepe longa evadit, ut non
ubique commode usurpetur, & dein mutationi obnoxia, novis detectis
speciebus, est...

English translation by F. A. Stafleu, Linnaeus and the Linnaeans, 1971, p.

"Trivial names may perhaps be admitted after the fashion which I have
followed in Pan suecicus; they should consist of a single word, a word
freely taken from any source.

The argument which we have found especially convincing is that a specific
differentia often turns out to be so long that it cannot be used easily on
every occasion, and furthermore is subject to change on the discovery of new

Stafleu goes on to say that "[the use of trivial names] was of little
importance to Linnaeus the theoretician, but it suited Linnaeus the
practical taxonomist."  Trivial names were an aid to the memory and had
nothing to do with the theoretical underpinnings (the "science") of
Linnaeus's taxonomy.

Perhaps the PhyloCode types should think of the practical side of things,


Mark Garland
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
2600 Blair Stone Road, Mail Station 2500
Tallahassee, Florida 32399-2400

Shop online without a credit card
RocketCash, a NetZero subsidiary

More information about the Taxacom mailing list