Gordon McOuat – Sherborn’s context: Cataloguing nature

Event Date: 28 October 2011
Flett Lecture Theatre
Natural History Museum

 

Anchoring Biodiversity Information:

From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond

Gordon McOuat
Naming and Necessity: Sherborn’s Context: Cataloguing Nature

History of Science and Technology Programme,
University of Kingís College, Halifax, NS, CANADA
Email: gmcouat@dal.ca

By the late 19th Century, storms plaguing early Victorian systematics and nomenclature seemed to have abated. Vociferous disputes over radical renaming, the world shaking clash of all-encompassing procrustean systems, struggles over centres of authority, and the issues of language and meaning had now been settled by the institution of a stable imperial museum and its catalogues, a set of rules for the naming of zoological objects, and a new professional class of zoologists.  Yet, for all that tranquillity, the disputes simmered below the surface, re-emerging as bitter struggles over synonyms, trinomials, the subspecies category, the looming issues of the philosophy of scientific language, and the aggressive new American style of field biology ñ all pressed in upon the received practice of naming and classifying organisms and the threat of anarchy. In the midst rose an index. This paper will explore the context of CD Sherbornís Index Animalium and those looming problems and issues which a laborious and comprehensive ìindex of natureî was meant to solve.

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