HES's arguments are of great weight, but CD cannot yet bring himself to reject well-known names for obscure ones. Sends four cases that he thinks will stagger HES. Cites his problems in classifying cirripedes. CD cannot bear to give new names, yet may do wrong to attach old ones. Not one species is correctly defined. The harm done by "species mongers".
Down. Farnborough Kent
My dear Strickland
I am in truth greatly obliged to you for your long, most interesting &
clear letter & the Report.— I will consider
your arguments, which are of greatest weight, but I confess I cannot yet bring myself to
reject very well-known names not in one country, but over world for
obscure ones; simply on the ground that I do not believe I
I put case of Otion &c to W. Thompson, who is fierce for law of priority, & he gave it up in such-well known names. I am in a perfect maze of doubt on nomenclature. In not one large genus of Cirripedia has any one species been correctly defined: it is pure guess work, (being guided by range & commonness & habits) to recognize any species: thus I cannot make out from Plates or descriptions hardly any of the British sessile cirripedes: I cannot bear to give new names to all the species, & yet I shall perhaps do wrong to attach old names by little better than guess: I cannot at present tell the least which of two species all writers have meant by the common Anatifera lævis; I have therefore given that name to the one which is rather the commonest.
Literally not one species is properly defined: not one naturalist has ever taken the
trouble to open the shell of any species to describe it scientifically, & yet
all the genera have
I hope you will occasionally turn in your mind my argument of evil done by the
“mihi” attached to specific names: I can, most clearly see the
excessive evil it has caused: in mineralogy I have myself found there is no
rage to merely name; a person does not take up the subject, without he intends to work
it out, as he knows that his only claim to merit rests on his work being ably
done & has no relation whatever to naming. I give up one point,
& grant that reference to first describer's name sh
I think a very wrong spirit runs through all natural History, as if some merit was due to a man for merely naming & defining a species; I think scarcely any or none is due: if he works out minutely & anatomically any one species, or systematically a whole group credit is due, but I must think the mere defining a species is nothing, & that no injustice is done him if it be overlooked, though a great inconvenience to natural History is thus caused. I do not think more credit is due to a man for defining a species than to a carpenter for making a box.— But I am foolish & rabid against species mongers or rather against their vanity; it is useful & necessary work which must be done; but they act as if they had actually made the species, & it was their own property.—
I use Agassiz's nomenclator; at least
I shall do what I can in fossil Cirripedia & sh
I sincerely apologise for the trouble which I have given you, but indeed I will give no more.
Yours most sincerely | C. Darwin
In conversation I found Owen & Andrew Smith much
inclined to throw over the practice of attaching author's names; I believe if I
agitated I c
Cases submitted by M
A. Lister in 1686, made genera
Anatifera & Balanus. Hill in 1748
Pentalasmis; a second Edit. of Hill was published in 1773. Linnæus
incorrectly united Antifera & Balanus under Lepas.
Bruguiere in 1782, called Antifera, Anatifa.
Leach in 1817, regave name of Pentalasmis: de
Blainville called genera in 1824 Pentalepas &c.— Now according to your Rule, as X Edit. of Linnæus was
published in 1758, Lister's name &
Hills must be rejected, but what are we to say about Hills
B. Lister published in 1685 Balanus; Bruguiere in 1792 proposed Balanites which not one human being has accepted, must I reject Balanus, which name is in every Book and in every Museum in the world. Would you here follow law of priority, & if you would can you honestly say that you think the name of Balanites could be followed Indeed the rule of strict priority must bend sometimes, I think, to “human infirmity” as in case of incorrect names: So Coronula is in every Museum & Book. How signally Loudon & others failed in calling the Dahlia Georgina! Again, I find that often Law of priority cannot practically be applied from names coming out in works which appeared during long course of years.—
C. Leach, called sessile cirripedes Acamptosomata and pedunculate ones Campylosomata; these names have never, & I believe never will be followed from egregious length; must one be burthened with such terms in place of pedunculate and sessile, which they certainly preceded?—
D. One other question. Is an excellent plate with first name but no description, to be superseded by a second name & bad description?
- f1 1221.f1See letter from H. E. Strickland, 31 January 1849.
- f2 1221.f2William Thompson, who was preparing a work on the natural history of Ireland. This correspondence has not been located.
- f3 1221.f3Jean Charles Chenu. The plates of Balanidae in Chenu 1842–54 are cited several times in Living Cirripedia (1854).
- f4 1221.f4Agassiz 1842–6. CD's copy of the second edition of this work, Agassiz 1848, is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
- f5 1221.f5Andrew Smith was an authority on the zoology of South Africa.
- f6 1221.f6The enclosure is a copy made by Strickland. The original has not been located.
- f7 1221.f7Lister 1685–92.
- f8 1221.f8J. Hill 1748–52.
- f9 1221.f9Bruguières 1789–92. A copy is in the Darwin Library–CUL.
- f10 1221.f10Leach 1817.
- f11 1221.f11Blainville ed. 1824.
- f12 1221.f12The tenth edition of Linnaeus's Systema naturae (Linnaeus 1758) was the first in which the binomial system of nomenclature was used. The ‘Rules of Nomenclature’, however, specified the twelfth edition (Linnaeus 1766–8) as the standard and excluded all names used before that edition. See letter to H. E. Strickland, [19 February 1849], n. 1.
- f13 1221.f13See letter to H. E. Strickland, 29 January , n. 5.
- f14 1221.f14John Claudius Loudon attempted to rename the genus Dahlia in Loudon ed. 1830, pp. 488, 520, 522. He wished it to be known as Georgina in honour of the Russian naturalist Johann GottliebGeorgi.