Linnaeus appears to have occasionally abused his absolute appellative power. The New York Botanical Garden, which hosted a rare public display of Linnaeus’s own annotated copy of the Systema Naturae last November, notes on its Web site that “he got revenge on his critics by naming unpleasant plants and animals after them. For example, he named Siegesbeckia, an unattractive Asian weed that exudes foul-smelling liquid, for German botanist Johan Siegesbeck.” So Linnaeus was probably a pain in the Equus asinus. But without him, biology could not have become big-name science.
This article was originally published with the title What's in a (Latin) Name?.