Do not miss this very funny NPR piece by Robert Krulwich on some of the liberties taken by scientists in naming species. (The audio is great — don’t stop at the text.) Preview:
The rule is that anytime someone finds an animal, vegetable or mineral new to science, the discoverer, like Adam, has the privilege of giving it a name.
Most of the time, this is done soberly, responsibly and carefully — but not always. Linnaeus, for example, punished a critic by naming an ugly, insignificant weed after him: Siegesbeckia.
Richard Fortey, senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum, tells of a colleague named Rousseau H. Flower who despised Communists and Communist Party chiefs, so he named a worm he discovered, Khruschevia Ridicula, after former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. On the other hand, Fortey had a friend who loved the ’70s punk band The Sex Pistols and named some ancient trilobite species after Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten: Sid viciousi and Johnny rotteni.