Category Archives: Contextual data

Eponyms as link: Orbigny and Dupin

Alcide d’Orbigny (1802–1857) was not only a malacologist but devoted much of his time to the study of fossils. He is well-known by his travels to South America and his voluminous paleontological works.


During an inventory of eponyms given by d’Orbigny to other persons, one of the outstanding names was ‘Dupin’, to whom not less than 32 eponyms were dedicated. In d’Orbigny (1842: 377–378) we read under the description of Conoteuthis Dupinianus “La seule espèce connue (…) a été découverte par le docteur Dupin (…) des environs d’Ervy (Aube). La science doit à cet habile observateur un très grand nombre de faits nouveaux. (…) il a réuni (…) l’énorme chiffre de 474 échantillons de Gastéropodes, dont il a bien voulu enricher ma Paléontologie française”. Indeed, d’Orbigny described many new species named after Dupin in this work (1840-1849) and in his Prodrome de paléontologie (1849-1852).

Curious to know more about Dupin, it was possible to find some data in the official journal of Dept. Aube (Anonymous, 1863). Georges Auguste Dupin finished his study medicine in Paris in 1825, and settled in Ervy-le-Châtel. Unfortunately, nothing more is known. Dupin was one of the ‘field collectors’ who trusted his material to d’Orbigny for identification.


Anonymous. 1863. Liste des médecins et officiers de Santé, dans l’ordre de leur inscription à la Préfecture de l’Aube. Annuaire administratief, statistique et commercial du département de l’Aube (1863): 222–227.
d’Orbigny, A. 1842. Mémoire sur deux genres nouveaux de Céphalopodes fossiles (les Conoteuthis et Spirulirostra) offrant des passages, d’un côté entre la Spirule et la Sèche, de l’autre entre les Bélemnites et les Ommastrèphes.  Annales des sciences naturelles (2) 17: 362–367.

Use of eponyms in the Société malacologique de France

The principles of the Bourguignat’s « Nouvelle Ecole » are explained in the introduction of the first volume of the Bulletins (with s) de la Société malacologique de France (SMF), created in reaction of the Journal de Conchyliologie co-edited by Hippolyte Crosse & Paul-Henri Fischer. Nearly 700 species were described in the 7 volumes of Bulletins, during 1884 to 1890 (Bourguignat died in 1892). Of these 700 species, 65 % were described by the founders of the Bulletins (Ancey, Bourguignat, Caziot, Fagot, Letourneux, Hagenmüller, Locard, Mabille, Poirier, Rochebrune, Saint-Simon, and Servain) and 22 % by associated members (e.g., Bofill, Euthyme, Florence and Jousseaume). But effectively, many descriptions were published under the responsability of Bourguignat, Locard or Fagot. For example: with some associates (e.g., Pechaud) or foreign correspondants took La Rédaction the liberty to adapt the text with the criteria of the Nouvelle Ecole. The writing style of Bourguignat or Servain can be seen in many papers and we know that Bourguignat used pseudonyms* or added informations without notice the author (read for example : « Mélanges et Nouvelles » published in Magasin de Zoologie pure et appliquée (v. 18 – 1866) in which we learn that Bourguignat modified the original text of Paladilhe to insert personal attacks against Gassies). Many diagnoses or descriptive texts are manuscripts of Bourguignat or can be attributed to Bourguignat. The Excursions malacologiques are an opus of Bourguignat for 90 % (some parts in quotation marks, other parts without quotation marks but the text still can be attributed to Bourguignat). Returning to the Bulletins, it is obvious in particular with the foreign contributors that the role of the Rédaction is very important.

Compare for example, the text of Schröder (SMF, vol. 2 : 215): « Cette espèce, du groupe de l’intermedia, à laquelle M. Bourguignat a bien voulu attribuer mon prénom, se trouve… » with Silva e Castro (SMF, vol. 2 : 278): « Cette espèce, de la série des Ventricosiana, à laquelle M. Bourguignat a bien voulu attribuer mon prénom, a été recueillie … ». These two articles are presented exactly in the same way (e.g. compare p. 216 and 278)! Very often the papers included descriptions of Bourguignat & cie (in sched., in litteris, Bourg. mss, etc.) and very often one of the new species is an eponym.

Example: Jousseaume (SMF, vol. 7: 81): Ovatella jousseaumei Bourg. In litt (p. 93) and Coelestele Bourguignati (p. 95); or Bourguignat (SMF, vol. 2 : 141): Tiphobia jouberti Bourg. (p. 146) and Tiphobia bourguignati Joubert. In litt (p. 148). We may regards these as little gifts between friends…

We have even the case of a paper (Servain, SMF, vol. 7: 281) in which a new genus and a new species are described by Bourguignat: Chambardia letourneuxi (dedicaced to Chambard and Letourneux) included a Chambardia bourguignati described by Letourneux; hence Chambardia bourguignati Letourneux in Bourguignat in Servain would be the full citation! These multiple eponyms are frequent inside the same publication. One of most famous is the « Monographies des genres Pechaudia and Hagenmulleria découverts en Algérie » by Bourguignat in 1881 in which are described all combinations : Pechaudia letourneuxiana, Hagenmulleria pechaudi, Hagenmulleria letourneuxi, Lhotelleria pechaudi, Lhotelleria letourneuxi. In SMF, vol. 4, Hagenmüller has dedicated four « letourneuxi », one in each new genus (Chancelia, Delevieleusia, Faudelia, Tetraspis) of his publication with this comment:


In the SMF volumes, we can find more than 60 eponyms for founders of the SMF, of which one third for Bourguignat! Nearly 160 different people received at least one eponym; in total nearly 250 names are eponyms, this is 35 % of the new names introduced in these volumes.


In addition, we see that a part of these eponyms had been choosen from the first name and/or to thank a malacologist’s wife:
Anodonta reneana Pechaud (SMF, vol. 1) to Jules-René Bourguignat
Anodonta richardi Bourguignat (SMF, col. 2) to Richard Schröder
Anodonta josei Bourguignat (SMF, vol. 2) to José da Silva e Castro
Digyreideum renei Letourneux (SMF, vol. 4) to Jules-René Bourguignat
Limnaea mongazonae Servain (SMF, vol. 4) to Mme Alix Servain (borned Loir-Mongazon)
Physa alixiana Servain (SMF, vol. 4) id.
Unio mongazonae Servain (SMF, vol. 4) id.
Valvata mongazoniana Servain (SMF, vol. 4) id.
Pedipes leoniae Ancey (SMF, vol. 4) to Mme Léonie Deschamps (wife of Mr Deschamps)
Pedipes deschampsi Ancey (SMF, vol. 4) id
Bulimus arnouldi Sayn (SMF, vol. 5) to Arnould Locard
Helix biagioi Bourguignat (SMF, vol. 5) to Biagio Kléciak

Visualised as a network, the (co-)authors and the persons they awarded eponyms is shown below:



* e.g. Servain (1891): “Les travaux de notre Collègue sont nombreux : ils atteignent le chiffre de cent quinze. Eh bien ! ces ouvrages forment à peine la moitié ce qu’il a fait paraître ou en volumes séparés, ou des Revues, voire même dans des journaux, soit sous le nom de ses amis, soit sous des pseudonymes, soit sous des astérisques”.

Malacology and its social context (3)

Of most malacologists no archival data is preserved, and especially complete correspondence archives are rare. So if one tries to reconstruct the contact network one may use a few sources; e.g., in publications often several names turn up as suppliers of material (either as field or as cabinet collectors), in the collection (if preserved) labels may point to collectors or colleagues with whom material was exchanged, and (in some rare cases) correspondence may reveal some of the contacts.

In the case of Henri Drouët (1829–1900) all three sources could be used and revealed a quite extensive contact network of more than 100 persons. The following figure gives a picture of his network, distinguished according to the following roles: malacological authors (MA), authors from other disciplines (AO), field collectors (FC), and other contacts (OT). The persons in the first three categories all received one or more eponyms.



This picture also makes clear that  eponyms may be used as a proxy for contacts of an author.

Malacology and its social context (2)

Social network analysis (SNA) is currently mainly a theme within sociology, but the study of networks has received some attention from other disciplines as well (e.g, physics). Since it is possible to build social networks from empirical data and use software to visualise the results in graphics, it becomes interesting to see if historical data relating to malacologists may be usefully applied with these methods.

An important distinction in SNA is between ‘egocentric social networks’ (hereafter ‘egonets’) and ‘whole social networks’ (hereafter ‘networks’). In the historical context we are interested in, an egonet always takes always the perspective from one person and tries to study his/her relationships. In the case of malacologists thus the relationship between malacologist A (‘ego’) and malacologist B, C, D, etc. (the ‘alter(i)’).


But this figure makes also clear that there may relationships between the alter(i). So one has to define the network boundary, or alternatively one studies a large group (of which the egonet of malacologist A is only a part); this is a ‘whole social network’ (also with a defined boundary, e.g. the European malacologists, which does not mean that alter(i) from outside Europe may not be included; it all depends on the research question).


One example of a question that one could ask is: What flows through the network from one individual to another? In a malacological network e.g., one could make a distinction in the development of contacts between two persons of the following, nested categories: (a) the exchange of questions, ideas or informal knowledge (through correspondence or meetings); (b) the exchange of material (i.c. dry shells or preserved molluscs), and (c) the exchange of formal knowledge (i.c. in publications or through reprints).

[1] Herz et al., 2016: 4/38.

Herz A, Heidler R, Gamper M, Stark M, Düring M. 2016. Erhebung von Netzwerkdaten. Syllabus 10. Trier Summer School on Social Network Analysis.

Malacology and its social context (1)

Coan & Kabat (2016) have listed an enormous amount of people who were (are) involved with the study of shells. Even if we take a partial view and focus e.g., on the 19th and early 20th centuries, the number of persons involved is still large. From a viewpoint of malacology the emphasis is often on the species, their systematic position and their nomenclature. In other words, the emphasis is usually on taxonomy. But no taxonomy without people, and when speaking about people it is naturally to look at interactions between them. So here comes the social context in play.

Even when malacologists [1] are working in splendid isolation, there are always people in the background. Apart from family and friends, relations with other malacologists are needed to be productive. And some may have been friends indeed, as is sometimes testified in malacological literature (e.g., Morelet 1848: 352).

Schermafbeelding 2016-08-31 om 15.44.56

It is here that some concepts from the social sciences may be useful to introduce. At the individual level people are more likely to have an association, connection or friendship if they share the same interests. This is called homophily, and connected people tend to have an effect on one another (called influence). These are two of the major propositions used in the study of social networks (Kadushin 2012: 9). So perhaps it’s interesting to look to the history of malacology from the perspective of social networks. Once we adopt a network perspective, we may suppose that individuals are connected and individual outcomes are related (Robins 2015: 4). In the history of malacology this may not always have been true to its full extent in all cases, but certainly it helps to look and try to uncover hidden links and relations.

Let’s first look at the different roles that people can play if we take a network perspective. In order to avoid a too detailed approach, we will recognise the following three: 1) the field collector is the person who is out in the field and picks up shells; 2) the cabinet collector works at home, sorting the shells and trying to give them a proper name; 3) the malacological author goes one step further and write up his findings in order to publish them. For the sake of simplicity we will leave it with these three, but other roles might be useful to recognise in a later stage.

Kadushin C. 2012. Understanding social networks. Theories, concepts and findings. Oxford: Oxford University Press, i–xii, 1–252.
Morelet PAM. 1848. Testacea quaedam Africae occidentalis terrestria et fluviatilia. Revue zoologique par la Société Cuvierienne 11:351–355.
Robins G. 2015. Doing social network research. Network-based research design for social scientists. Los Angeles: Sage, i–xiv, 1–261.

[1] Malacologists is used throughout this text in its broadest sense, i.e. amateurs and professionals, field collectors and cabinet collectors, and people producing scientific works or those merely interested in the beauty of shells. Several of these categories may overlap in practice.