Journal of the History of Biology 49 (1):135-189 (2016)

Joeri Witteveen
University of Copenhagen
‘Type’ in biology is a polysemous term. In a landmark article, Paul Farber (Journal of the History of Biology 9(1): 93–119, 1976) argued that this deceptively plain term had acquired three different meanings in early nineteenth century natural history alone. ‘Type’ was used in relation to three distinct type concepts, each of them associated with a different set of practices. Important as Farber’s analysis has been for the historiography of natural history, his account conceals an important dimension of early nineteenth century ‘type talk.’ Farber’s taxonomy of type concepts passes over the fact that certain uses of ‘type’ began to take on a new meaning in this period. At the closing of the eighteenth century, terms like ‘type specimen,’ ‘type species,’ and ‘type genus’ were universally recognized as referring to typical, model members of their encompassing taxa. But in the course of the nineteenth century, the same terms were co-opted for a different purpose. As part of an effort to drive out nomenclatural synonymy – the confusing state of a taxon being known to different people by different names – these terms started to signify the fixed and potentially atypical name-bearing elements of taxa. A new type concept was born: the nomenclatural type. In this article, I retrace this perplexing nineteenth century shift in meaning of ‘type.’ I uncover the nomenclatural disorder that the new nomenclatural type concept dissolved, and expose the conceptual confusion it left in its tracks. What emerges is an account of how synonymy was suppressed through the coinage of a homonym.
Keywords history of taxonomic nomenclature  type concept  Method of Type  type method  type specimen  codes of nomenclature  Carolus Linnaeus  William Whewell  John Obadiah Westwood  Hugh Edwin Strickland
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Reprint years 2016
DOI 10.1007/s10739-015-9410-y
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Objectivity.Lorraine Daston - 2007 - The MIT Press.

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The History and Philosophy of Taxonomy as an Information Science.Catherine Kendig & Joeri Witteveen - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (3):1-9.
Objectivity, Historicity, Taxonomy.Joeri Witteveen - 2018 - Erkenntnis 83 (3):445-463.
Biological Taxon Names Are Descriptive Names.Jerzy A. Brzozowski - 2020 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 42 (3):1-25.

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