Has altered and added to HES's list [compiled for Bibliographia zoologiæ et geologiæ, edited by Louis Agassiz and enlarged by HES, (1848–54)].
On zoological nomenclature CD cites a case in which he believes more harm than good would be done by following the rule of priority. Thinks the rule of the first describer's name being attached in perpetuity to a species has been the greatest curse to natural history. Every genus of cirripedes has a half-dozen names and not one careful description.
Sends a paper he once wrote [missing] on the subject [of zoological nomenclature].
Down Farnborough Kent
My dear Strickland
I have altered & added to your list & an awfully long one it
is.— if anything is inserted which
What a labour you have undertaken; I do honour your devoted zeal in the good
cause of Natural Science.— Do you happen to have a
spare copy of the Nomenclature rules published in Brit. Assoc. Trans; if you have &
I have been led of late to reflect much on the subject of naming & I have come
to a fixed opinion that the plan of the first describer's name being appended
for perpetuity to species has been the greatest curse to natural History.—
Some months since I wrote out the enclosed badly drawn up paper, thinking that perhaps I w
Your's most sincerely, C. Darwin
- f1 1215.f1Possibly a list of CD's books and papers requested by Strickland for his edition of Louis Agassiz's Bibliographia zoologiæ et geologiæ. This work was based on lists of authors and their publications compiled by Agassiz in the preparation of his Nomenclator zoologicus (1842–6). Strickland corrected and greatly enlarged the lists, which were eventually published in four volumes (Agassiz 1848–54). CD's works (22 items) are listed in volume two, pp. 175–6.
- f2 1215.f2Strickland, in his preface, described the work as a ‘labour of love’ and stated that it had been compiled in his spare time with no financial incentives (Agassiz 1848–54, 1: xii).
- f3 1215.f3Both Strickland and CD had served on a British Association committee on zoological nomenclature (see Correspondence vol. 2) that had drawn up the rules published in Report of the 12th meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at Manchester in 1842 Transactions of the sections, pp. 105–21 (Strickland et al. 1842). Offprints were also distributed. There is a copy of the British Association Committee report in the Darwin Pamphlet Collection–CUL.
- f4 1215.f4Ignaz Franz Werner Maria von Olfers in Olfers 1818.
- f5 1215.f5See letter from H. E. Strickland, 31 January 1849, for his reply. CD eventually yielded to Strickland's arguments and adopted Olfers's name Conchoderma for the genus divided by William Elford Leach into Otion and Cineras, thus strictly adhering to the rule of priority. Although the quarterly journal in which Olfers's paper was published is dated 1818, CD believed the paper was printed in 1814, hence before Leach published in 1817 (Living Cirripedia (1851): 136–7 n.). Coronula, the name given by Jean Baptiste Lamarck to a genus of sessile cirripedes in 1802, was retained in Living Cirripedia (1854): 397.
- f6 1215.f6The original has not been found, but an abstract in Strickland's hand is preserved in the Strickland papers, University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge. It reads:
In the paper w h accompanied his letter of Jan 29 1849, M rDarwin argues that the practice of retaining for perpetuity the name of the person who first gives a specific denomination, however imperfect his description may be, is a direct premium to hasty work—and that it would be better to use the specific name by itself, without any such appendage— The only practical utility in the first describer's name being retained appear to be 1, to know at a glance from his reputation, whether his work is trustworthy; 2, as a guide where to search for a description; 3, to ascertain the priority of a plurality of names; 4, as a premium to exertion. 1. It may be urged that had it not been for the encouragement thus given to naming, instead of studying, species, specific names w dnot have been so rashly given. 2 As a guide to descriptions the plan is very deficient, for the first description is often a bad one— 3. For bibliographical purposes this practice is admitted to be useful. 4 As a premium to exertion it is worse than useless, as naturalists ought to require no such stimulus. When any fact regarding a species is stated, we want to know what the species is, and not, who first named it. Therefore when the simple binomial designation is insufficient for the former purpose, it is better to append, instead of the first denominator's name, a reference to a standard work, thus “A— b— (in Lamarck, An. Invert.)” &c. In the case of the commonest species even this appendage w dbe unnecessary In systematic works, of course many such references w dbe given to each species, including the original describer's, which might be placed first, but no preeminence sh dbe given it by attaching it to the specific heading. “But if the first description was originally imperfect, & had been superseded by any better description, it w dperhaps be better to omit all reference to it, for the sooner such an author's name was buried in oblivion the better” This plan does not interfere with the law of priority, but only rejects the appendage of the first describer's own name. We thus gain nearly the same advantages as at present, for 1, tho' we cannot judge at a glance of the 1 stdescriber's reputation yet we have the authority of a later author to the same effect. 2, we have a reference to a good description. 3, we are put on the track at least, to the priority of the name. 4, We absolutely destroy the empty ambition of name-coining, and offer some premium to good work. A naturalist sh dlet his reputation rest, not on the number of the species he describes, but on the general importance of his services to Nat. Hist.