Sherborn Symposium (London, 28 October 2011)

On 28 October 2011, the aptly named Sherborn Symposium celebrated the life and legacy of English zoologist Charles Davies Sherborn (1861-1942). The symposium (organised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the Linnaen Society of London and the Society for the History of Natural History) focused on the future of zoological nomenclature, while simultaneously honouring its origins.

And those origins go back to Sherborn’s magnum opus Index Animalium – a catalogue of every living or extinct animal described between 1758 and 1850, along with the book or publication it was first named in. A massive achievement by any standard, Index Animalium covers about 9200 pages which appeared in eleven volumes between 1902 and 1933. Sherborn spent 43 years of his life working on it – and even today, many zoological disciplines continue relying on it as an important source for references.

ICZN secretary Ellinor Michel
Currently, the major part of the works indexed by Sherborn are easily accessible at BHL or are currently being digitised by partner institutions of the BHL or BHL-Europe consortium. This means researchers can easily verify the original sources directly, and see whether the information in Sherborn’s Index is still up to date.

The Index itself was digitised by Smithsonian Institution Libraries in 2004, and can be consulted online. Currently, SIL is working on new indexing facilities that will link the Index directly to Sherborn’s cited literature sources, which were given in cryptic abbreviations and acronyms. Accordingly, BHL could provide links from the digitised literature sources to the taxonomic names extracted from the early works by Sherborn’s Index and similar projects. This would definitely be useful for researchers who need to find the original descriptions of animal species and genera, making it a useful supplementary service to the “Taxon Finder”-tool.

In the wrap-up discussion of the Symposium, Richard Pyle  focused on the idea of a Global Names Architecture that interconnects all existing biodiversity related data initiatives, ranging from gathering specimens in the field to reviewing the published legacy and publication of new taxa.

The concept of a Global Names Architecture

Author: Francisco Welter-Schultes

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