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Binomial Nomenclature
Stella M. Turk MBE


Before Linnaeus’ Systema Natura of 1758

The naming of species was in a chaotic state

A string of descriptive words was a ‘name’ **

With no laws to show which was the same

As another description with the same aim.

Linnaeus proposed a unique combination

Of only two words for a species citation

To use world-wide with no disputation.

A full-citation has author and date,

As Patella vulgata *** Linn. 1758

Words from any language can be utilised

- Chinese, English, Greek – when latinized.

The ICZN **** holds overall sway

To check laws are applied in the correct way.



Authors notes


** It was also in 1758 that that the great Cornish naturalist William Borlase published The Natural History of Cornwall Here is an example of a descriptive ‘name’ that he gave the large jellyfish that we know as Rhizostoma octopus (Linnaeus , 1758 ). "Urtica marina octopedalis octo faucibus et variis appendicibus ventralibus distincta"

*** Patella vulgata - Common Limpet

**** International Council for Zoological Nomenclature (Botanists have their own rules of citation).

NB If an author’s name is in brackets, it indicates that it has been reclassified, although the second (specific) name is the same. Also note that authors' names are often abbreviated e.g. Linn. or just L. for Linneaus.

Stella M Turk MBE

May 2005