Proper Scientific name

David Webster david.h.webster at
Thu Oct 26 21:31:07 EDT 2000

Ron Gatrelle wrote:

> Ernest Willians wrote:
> As Ken Philip noted, the scientific name has been mispelled occasionally.
> Barnes (1897) described the species as as "Gillettii", and Gunder (1930)
> used with "gillettii" (lower-case "G"), which has been widely accepted.
> But Comstock (1940) erred with "gilletti" as did Miller & Brown (1981),
> and Ken listed Dyar (1902) as using "gillettei".
> ******************
> Ron's comments,
>     1) When Linnaeus founded the modern system of taxonomy, species names
> were usually capitalized.

    Ron, do you mean all species or species which were named after people ? In
my 1895 Systematic Botany book I can find no species names starting with upper
case but know that as recently as 1950 (Gray's Manual of Botany, Fernald) plant
species named after people [or a previous genus; e.g. Robinia Pseudo-Acacia]
started with a capital letter.

> This was considered the proper method for some
> time. Eventually this gave way to a systematic "style" where names below the
> genus level all begin with small case letters. Thus, Barnes' use of
> Gillettii simply manifests the style of his day -- which was transitional in
> the utilization of capitols.
>     2) The formation and implementation of the International Code of
> Zoological Nomenclature standardized taxonomy and mandated that these rules
> be followed. This code is retroactive and thus all the old taxonomic
> presentations were revised as necessary and brought into conformity with the
> code. Thus, gilletti can no longer be written with a capitol G as originally
> presented.
>     3) The use of a double i at the end of the name was also a contemporary
> "traditional" way of Latinizing a masculine name. Neither Comstock nor
> Miller/Brown erred in the usage of a single i. This is true for two reasons.
> First, according to the ICZN code, a single or double i ending is considered
> to be an identical spelling -- either are accepted so neither is wrong.
> However, the ICZN establishes the single i as preferable -- which is
> precisely why Miller/Brown rendered it as gilletti. Miller/Brown "changed"
> many names in that list to make them conform to the rules of the ICZN.
> Miller/Brown does not follow anyone. They followed the ICZN. Dyar's
> gillettei is wrong.
>     4) There is has been, in my opinion, a general dumbing-down of the
> scientific aspects of lepidoptery over the last 20 years. Since this will
> open up volumes, I will stop myself here.

    You have twice stopped short of fully opening this topic [dumbing down] and
I wish you would express your views. Perhaps you or other members can shed some
light on this development. It goes beyond Lepidoptery and seems to have infected
field oriented biology in general.
    I am baffled by it.
Yours truly, DW, Kentville, Nova Scotia

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