Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?
April 27, 2016 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Rafinesque’s “absurd” botanical legacy, Gray wrote, amounted to little more than a “curious mass of nonsense.” Gray’s note wouldn’t be the last unkind obituary in the annals of taxonomy, nor would it be the worst. That’s because the rules dictating how taxonomists name and classify living things bind these scientists in a web of influence stretching far back into the 18th century. When an agent of chaos like Rafinesque enters the scene, that web can get sticky fast. In a field haunted by ghosts, someone has to reckon with the dead.
posted by sciatrix (4 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
"Rafinesque body of work" should be a thing that gets said at least as often as "Rubenesque figure."
posted by whimsicalnymph at 10:48 AM on April 27, 2016

Now is a fun time to be alive if you're an amateur fan of nature who enjoys aimlessly scrolling through Wikipedia links reading descriptions of various critters living and extinct. From this diversion I've learned that DNA analysis is shaking the tree these days.
posted by ovvl at 11:04 AM on April 27, 2016

I suppose it's too much to wish that such mean obituaries might occasionally venture to mock the style and presentation of one of the problematic deceased's particularly egregious taxonomic proposals ...
posted by jamjam at 11:35 AM on April 27, 2016

I enjoyed this cheers! I'm a little worried about the danger of publicising the fact that any crank who prints a taxonomic work in any form necessarily must be studied by taxonimists. Once the internet gets hold of that it won't take long for somebody to make a 10,000 page tome full of 'Nazificus Hitleria' and 'Ronus Paulum'.
posted by Cassettevetes at 8:56 PM on April 27, 2016

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