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article imageGoodbye Latin, hello English for science papers

By Tim Sandle     Sep 6, 2014 in Science
The International Botanical Congress has decided that for its publications newly discovered species will be named using English rather than the conventional use of Latin words.
The International Botanical Congress, which meets on an annual basis. has been discussing, among other important topics, the future of plant nomenclature. The group has now decided that new species of plants, fungi, and algae will be named using English.
Christina Flann from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Nicholas Turland of the Botanic Garden and Botanic Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Germany, and Anna Monro of the Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research in Canberra have described the week-long deliberations that went into this decision in the journal PhytoKeys.
According to The Scientist, Peter Wilson of Australia told the group he “believed that English now occupied a place in scientific communication that Latin occupied in Linnaeus’s day."
This was a reference to Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus as a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which traditionally use Latin grammatical forms. The first part of the name identifies the genus to which the species belongs; the second part identifies the species within the genus. For example, with the bacterium Escherichia coli, Escherichia is the genus and coli the species within that genus. This naming system is referred to as Linnaean taxonomy.
Expanding on the change further, Nicholas Turland said in a research statement: "Permitting electronic-only publication has arguably been the most important decision made in Melbourne, bringing taxonomy into the 21st century and the electronic age. As for Latin, it has become increasingly difficult to use and is often regarded as an irrelevant anachronism by modern scientists. The meeting clearly wanted an alternative."
It is not known how many (if any) other science societies will follow this lead.
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