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Society for the History of Natural History


Anchoring Biodiversity Information: From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond

Anchoring Biodiversity Information: From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond

October 28, 2011 10:00am - 06:00pm

2011 is also the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Davies Sherborn (1861-1942), first President of SHNH. Sherborn compiled the Index Animalium single-handedly over 43 years (1758-1850). This 11 volume, 9,000 page work became the basis for zoological nomenclature. In the 43 years he spent working on this extraordinary resource, he anchored our understanding of animal diversity through the published scientific record. No work has equalled it since and it is still in current, and critical, use.

Sherborn’s contribution has been recognised by professional taxonomists worldwide but he has escaped the celebration of his accomplishment that is his due. A one-day symposium is being held in his honour at the Natural History Museum, London, with an international panel of experts on bibliography and biodiversity bioinformatics, linking a view of the past with an active debate on the future of the related fields.

An article in the Telegraph and the NHM house journal evolve celebrates Sherborn in this anniversary year: Charles Davies Sherborn the Natural History Museums magpie with a card index mind.

Additional outputs include a reprinting of Sherborn’s biography (Squire), collaborative grant applications for bibliographic work on his papers in the NHM (CAH NHM), and the initiation of a blue historic plaque for his residence in South Kensington.

The SHNH’s Publishers Edinburgh University Press have made articles published in Archives of natural history on Sherborn freely available online as well as two biographical articles.

Anchoring Biodiversity Information: From Sherborn to the 21st century and beyond

Friday October 28th 2011

Poster contributions are welcome.


  • Linnean Society of London
  • BHL – Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Pensoft Publishers (ZooKeys)
  • ICZN – Int’l Commission on Zoological Nomenclature
  • SHNH – Society for the History of Natural History
  • NHM – Natural History Museum, Science Directorate

Supportive organisations

Geological Association, ZSL – Zoological Society of London, NMNH Smithsonian Institution Libraries, NHM Libraries, NHM Centre for Arts and Humanities (CAH), The Ray Society, Aves Press (Zoological Bibliography), Zoological Record, The Natural History Book Store, IAPT (Int’l Assoc Plant Taxonomy)

VENUE: Flett Theatre, Natural History Museum, London, UK (entrance on Exhibition Road).

DATE: Friday 28th October 2011 (start time 10.00am)

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10:00-13:30 Session 1:
10:00 Welcome and Logistics / Introduction to the Programme, Ellinor Michel (ICZN) & Graham Higley (BHL & NHM Libraries)
10:15 Opening Keynote: SHNH Annual Ramsbottom Lecture, Neal Evenhuis (Bishop Museum) Sherborn: Work history and impact of bibliography, dating and zoological informatics
10:55 Gordon McOuat (Univ of King’s College, Halifax) Sherborn’s context: Cataloguing nature in the late 19th century
11:15 – 11:35 Coffee Break – posters & stands
11:35 -12:40 Session 1: History of Taxonomic Literature, Indexing and Traditional Taxonomic Nomenclature
11:35 Edward Dickinson (Aves Press) Reinforcing the foundations: Filling in the bibliographic gaps in the historical legacy
11:55 F. Chris Thompson (Smithsonian) Systema Dipterorum: Sherborn’s critical influence in getting information control over a megadiverse group
12:15 Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Suzanne Pilsk, Martin Kalfatovic, Joel Richard) Unlocking the Index Animalium: From paper slips to bytes and bits
12:35 Nigel Robinson (Zoological Record) Sherborn’s Index Animalium integration into ION: access to all
12:55-13:30 Lunch – Pre-paid sandwich lunch in Flett foyer, posters & stands

13:30 Session 2: Current Taxonomic Practices
13:30 Chris Lyal (NHM) Digitising legacy taxonomic literature: processes, products and using the output
13:50 BHL Europe (Boris Jacob & Henning Scholz) BHL-Europe: Tools and Services for Legacy Taxonomic Literature
14:10 David Remsen (GBIF) Biodiversity Informatics: GBIF’s role in linking information through scientific names
14:30 Daphne Fautin (Univ. Kansas/ICZN) & Miguel Alonso-Zarazaga (MNCN-CSIC/ICZN) LANs: Lists of Available Names – a new generation for stable taxonomic names in zoology?
14:50-15:10 Coffee Break – posters & stands

15:10-16:20 Session 3: Future of Biological Nomenclature
15:10 Chris Freeland (Missouri Botanical Garden) Approaches to preserving digitized taxonomic data: print, manuscript, specimen
15:30 Sandy Knapp (NHM/IAPT/ITZN) New workflows for describing and naming organisms
15:50 Lubyo Penev (Pensoft Publishers) ZooKeys: Streamlining the registration – to – publication pipeline
16:10 Rod Page (Univ. Glasgow) Towards an open taxonomy
16:30-16:50 Break – posters & stands
16:50 Closing Keynote and wrap-up plenary discussion, Richard Pyle (Bishop Museum, HI, USA) Towards a Global Names Architecture: The future of indexing scientific names
17:30 –18:00 Panel and audience discussion on the history and future of animal names 18:00-19:30 Reception – wine and nibbles