Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types

Himalayan Orchid Exports (U.C.Pradhan) hoe@sify.com
Mon, 27 Aug 2007 19:03:31 PDT
Dear Lee,

Many thanks for the posting. The review is enticing. It is an expensive book
for us in India and I really wish there was a cheaper edition for Afro-Asian
countries. I must keep looking for a secondhand copy in the future.Do let me
knoe if you smell one.

Warm regards from the Himalayas.


Udai C. Pradhan
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lee Poulsen" <wpoulsen@pacbell.net>
To: "PBS Society" <pbs@lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Monday, August 27, 2007 10:27 PM
Subject: [pbs] Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types

Since we discuss the scientific names of species a lot, I thought some
here might be interested in this review of a new book just published in
this 300th birth year of Linnaeus.

--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USDA Zone 10a

Nature 448, 868-869 (23 August 2007) | doi:///10.1038/448868b;  Published
online 22 August 2007

Linnaeus lives on

Pamela S. Soltis

Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types
by C. Jarvis
The Linnean Society of London: 2007. 1,016 pp. £80

The relevance of taxonomy in our genomic era is greater than ever.
Correct naming is crucial for developing new foods and medicines, and
for understanding our changing environment. Amazingly, we do not even
know how many species of flowering plant currently exist. Estimates
range from about 250,000 to more than 400,000, and every day species
are lost to human activities. Conservation, in natural habitats or
botanical gardens, relies on scientific names, as does the rest of

Before Carl Linnaeus, species names ranged from cumbersome to unwieldy.
For example, Arbutus caule erecto, foliis glabris serratis, baccis
polyspermis was as good as it got for 'Arbutus with upright stems,
hairless, saw-toothed leaves, and many-seeded berries'. Linnaeus's
binomial system of nomenclature changed all that. Species could now
have a genus name plus a specific epithet. 'The father of taxonomy'
applied his revolutionary system to plants in Species Plantarum,
published in 1753, and to animals in the tenth edition of Systema
Naturae in 1758. More than 250 years later, the name of a species
remains the key that unlocks all that is known about it.

In honour of Linnaeus's 300th birthday, Charlie Jarvis's handsome new
book, Order out of Chaos, gives us a glimpse into pre-linnaean botany,
Linnaeus's life and work, and the reception and impact of his ideas in
eighteenth-century Europe.

Linnaeus was an avid collector and classifier of 'animals, vegetables
and minerals'. He named and described his collections and the many
specimens that were returned to Europe from exploration of other parts
of the globe. His plant names are the starting point for valid names
that follow botanical nomenclature. To be valid, a species name must be
attached to one reference or 'type' specimen. This concept was
implemented 150 years after Species Plantarum, so — ironically — most
of the names assigned by Linnaeus himself do not have clearly
associated specimens.

Enter the Linnaean Plant Name Typification Project, launched in 1981 at
the London Natural History Museum to match Linnaeus's thousands of
designations with the specimens and illustrations in his work. Jarvis's
book chronicles this project and presents nearly 700 pages of names and
their types — from Abrus precatorius L. to Zygophyllum spinosum L.
Jarvis and his colleagues scoured museums and private collections to
create this wonderful reference for all those involved in taxonomy.

The book is a work of art. Even non-botanists will be seduced by this
inviting package. The text is peppered with photographs and
illustrations of spectacular examples of plant diversity and linnaean
memorabilia. Figures range from a photograph of Linnaeus's signature
and seal from 1734, to an illustration of the wild woodland twinflower
(Linnaea borealis), to Georg Dionysius Ehret's (1736) illustration of
Linnaeus's 'Sexual System' of plant classification.

The appreciation for history in plant systematics is evident in this
book and in the attention being paid to Linnaeus during 2007. Even the
controversy between those who favour the continued use of linnaean
classification and advocates of the PhyloCode (the system that relies
on evolutionary history) does not diminish Linnaeus's contribution.
This book is a timely homage to linnaean names and the efforts of
Jarvis's team, as systematists look for new ways to provide the richest
classification systems.

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