Stability or stasis in the names of organisms: The evolving codes of nomenclature

Sandra Knapp, Gerardo Lamas, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Gianfranco Novarino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Nomenclature, far from being a dry dusty subject, is today more relevant than ever before. Researchers into genomics are discovering again the need for systems of nomenclature - names are what we use to communicate about organisms, and by extension the rest of their biology. Here, we briefly outline the history of the published international codes of nomenclature, tracing them from the time of Linnaeus in the eighteenth century to the present day. We then outline some of what we feel are the major challenges that face the codes in the twenty-first century; focusing primarily on publication, priority, typification and the role of science in the naming of organisms. We conclude that the codes are essential for taxonomists in the pursuance of their science, and that the democratic nature of decision-making in the regulation of the rules of nomenclature, though sometimes perceived as a potential weakness, is in fact one of its great strengths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-622
Number of pages12
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1444
StatePublished - 29 Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Botany
  • History of nomenclature
  • Microbiology
  • Naming
  • Taxonomy
  • Zoology


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