The Naming Of The Shrew

A Curious History Of Latin Names
John Wright
Bloomsbury £14.99
ebook £6.69

Dorset naturalist, John Wright, is keen to share his delight in taxonomy, the system governing the official names of all Earth’s organisms.

He’s blessed with an erudite, but whimsical, tone that recalls gentleman eccentrics of an earlier age.

Whether detailing the life of Carl Linnaeus (the key figure behind the naming system still used today), or recent advances in molecular biology, material which could easily have been dry is enlivened by wry asides and a fine eye for a pun.

The section on rude and ridiculous names is a particular delight: the common stinkhorn fungus, scientifically named Phallus impudicus, is not even the star of the show.

But there is also the more subtle comedy of taxonomical feuds and historical mis-steps.

And, all along, the reader is gently learning the uses of taxonomy, via examples and surprising facts. A book as charming as it is wise.


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