Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

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An engaging history of the surprising, poignant, and occasionally scandalous stories behind scientific names and their cultural significance.

Ever since Carl Linnaeus's binomial system of scientific names was adopted in the eighteenth century, scientists have been eponymously naming organisms in ways that both honor and vilify their namesakes. This charming, informative, and accessible history examines the fascinating stories behind taxonomic nomenclature, from Linnaeus himself naming a small and unpleasant weed after a rival botanist to the recent influx of scientific names based on pop-culture icons—including David Bowie's spider, Frank Zappa's jellyfish, and Beyoncé's fly.

Exploring the naming process as an opportunity for scientists to express themselves in creative ways, Stephen B. Heard's fresh approach shows how scientific names function as a window into both the passions and foibles of the scientific community and as a more general indicator of the ways in which humans relate to, and impose order on, the natural world.


  • Opening Credits

    Duration: 25s
  • Preface

    Duration: 06min
  • Introduction: A Lemur and Its Name

    Duration: 07min
  • Chapter 1 The Need for Names

    Duration: 20min
  • Chapter 2 How Scientific Naming Works

    Duration: 21min
  • Chapter 3 Forsythia, Magnolia, and Names Within Names

    Duration: 13min
  • Chapter 4 Gary Larson's Louse

    Duration: 16min
  • Chapter 5 Maria Sibylla Merian and the Metamorphosis of Natural History

    Duration: 20min
  • Chapter 6 David Bowie's Spider, Beyonce's Fly, and Frank Zappa's Jellyfish

    Duration: 16min
  • Chapter 7 Spurlingia: A Snail for the Otherwise Forgotten

    Duration: 15min
  • Chapter 8 The Name of Evil

    Duration: 18min
  • Chapter 9 Richard Spruce and the Love of Liverworts

    Duration: 27min
  • Chapter 10 Names from the Ego

    Duration: 21min
  • Chapter 11 Eponymy Gone Wrong? Robert von Beringe's Gorilla and Dian Fossey's Tarsier

    Duration: 19min
  • Chapter 12 Less Than a Tribute: The Temptation of Insult Naming

    Duration: 23min
  • Chapter 13 Charles Darwin's Tangled Bank

    Duration: 30min
  • Chapter 14 Love in a Latin Name

    Duration: 22min
  • Chapter 15 The Indigenous Blind Spot

    Duration: 25min
  • Chapter 16 Harry Potter and the Name of the Species

    Duration: 21min
  • Chapter 17 Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and the Fish from the Depths of Time

    Duration: 21min
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