What can we say of his life? Nothing
June 19, 2017 11:09 AM   Subscribe

Why Do Taxonomists Write the Meanest Obituaries?

Toward the end, Rafinesque’s “passion for establishing new genera and species,” Gray wrote, “appears to have become a complete monomania. This is the most charitable supposition we can entertain.” Now, in the months after his death, the scientific establishment had assessed his work and passed its judgment. 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 not_the_water (2 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Nothing in life is certain except doubles and taxonomies. -- cortex

Mostly harmless
posted by blue_beetle at 11:18 AM on June 19, 2017

The animal and plant codes operate independently, which means that an animal can share a scientific name with a plant, but not with another animal, and vice versa.
Are there any examples of this? Seems like it could be problematic.
posted by clawsoon at 11:40 AM on June 19, 2017

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