Abstract Detail

Botanical History

Knapp, Sandra [1], Gardiner, Lauren [2], Leachman, Siobhan [3], Lindon, Heather Lynn [4], Vincent, Sarah [1], Ulloa Ulloa, Carmen [5], von Mering, Sabine [6], Vorontsova, Maria [7].

Gender disparity in plant naming: an analysis of women for whom plant genera were named.

In his Philosophia Botanica, Linnaeus said “If you do not know the names of things, all knowledge of them is lost too.” Names matter - they allow us to talk about plants, attach attributes to them, and are the universal language of science. Our binomial naming system began with Linnaeus, who had many rules for how to name both genera and species. Several of these were about naming genera for people - some, like botanists or kings, Linnaeus deemed acceptable, while others, such as family relations or people unrelated to botany, were not. Since then,  several thousand flowering plant genera are named for people - of all sorts, but mostly men. When we began this project, records on Wikidata for genera named for men outnumbered those named for women by more than 10 to 1. We have compiled a new data set of all flowering plant genera whose names honour women, verified these by examining original literature, and have categorised the honorees by profession, status or relationship to the describer. As part of the project we are creating (or updating) Wikidata items for each of these women, to amplify their contributions. We find distinct trends within the data, with genera named for mythical figures, even entirely fictitious ones not known from antiquity, outnumbering those named for women who had actually lived in some time periods. Many older generic names appear to have been named for female figures, but evidence in protologues is, in places, lacking. Female botanists are more prevalent in the modern naming of genera, and the trend to specify etymology of names makes the intention of the describing author much clearer. We will discuss several specific cases, such as that of Constantine Rafinesque and his “fake nymphs”, and show how although the visibility of women in botany through the dedication of genera has increased  over time,  womens’ contributions still need to be amplified as part of efforts to properly diversify botany.

1 - Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, UK
2 - Cambridge University Herbarium, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Sainsbury Laboratory, Bateman Street, Cambridge, CB2 1LR, UK
3 - Independent researcher, 67 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
4 - Honorary Research Associate, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AQ, UK
5 - Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO, 63110, USA
6 - Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science, Invalidenstraße 43, Berlin, 10115, Germany
7 - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AQ, UK

generic names
women in science.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Number: BH1006
Abstract ID:1046
Candidate for Awards:None

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