My new book, “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider”, is out today!

It’s today!  It’s real!  It’s here!  My new book, I mean.

If that sounds like I’m a bit excited, it’s because I am.  I’ve been working on Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider for about four years, and finally I can share it with all of you.  It’s a book about the names of organisms – the scientific, or Latin names – and some people thing those are dull; but believe me, they’re anything but!

The sorting-hat spider, Eriovixia gryffindori

In particular, Charles Darwin’s Barnacle is a book about species that are named after people.  Such “eponymous” naming has a long and curious history, from Linnaeus naming a small and unpleasant weed to insult a rival botanist to the recent spate of scientific names based on pop-culture icons—such as David Bowie’s spider, Frank Zappa’s jellyfish, and Beyoncé’s horsefly.  Charles Darwin’s Barnacle explores the naming process as a way that scientists express themselves creatively, and it shows how scientific names open a window onto the passions and foibles of the scientific community. Scientists have named species for their heroes, for their wives and husbands and (sometimes) their not-so-secret lovers.  They’ve even, occasionally, named species for themselves – at least once, doing so by accident.  There are wonderful stories wrapped up in eponymous names.  I hope you’ll enjoy reading some of them.

Would you like to get your hands on a copy?  Here’s a US link; here’s a Canadian one; here’s one for Germany and one for the UK (the UK, mysteriously, has a later release date).  But you can also ask at your local independent bookstore or public library.

I hope you’ll find Charles Darwin’s Barnacle fun to read.  It was certainly fun to write!  One thing I learned from working on The Scientist’s Guide to Writing is just how enjoyable it is to write less technical prose than I usually do.  For Charles Darwin’s Barnacle, I spent hours going down amazingly entertaining rabbit-holes to trace the etymologies of names, the histories of pioneer naturalists both famous and obscure, and so much more.  I read Linnaeus’s handwritten draft manuscripts. I read 19th-century Australian newspapers. I read (with the help of Google Translate and some very kind colleagues) papers and theses in French and German and Latin and Russian and Swedish and Italian.  I read books by historians, by anthropologists, by sociologists, and by mathematicians.  I thoroughly mystified my university library’s Interlibrary Loan staff.  And finally, I got to work with my wonderful and talented illustrator, Emily Damstra, who found the beauty and personality even in a tiny land snail.

And now I can’t wait to write my next book. All I need to do is find the time.

© Stephen Heard  March 17, 2020

There’s a lot going on this week.  Go for a walk; read a good book; and wash your hands.

Images: The first actual copy I got to hold; the sorting-hat spider Eriovixia gryffindori, © Emily S. Damstra; and a Christmas card from my son making it clear that I no longer have the family’s monopoly on Dad jokes.



11 thoughts on “My new book, “Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider”, is out today!

      1. Donald ZEPP

        Thanks–I ordered it from our local, privately owned bookstore. I hope that generates a bit more money for you, too!


  1. Marlene Zuk

    Congratulations! It looks amazing. I am working on a book now, and am trying to see the enforced time at home as an opportunity to get more done on it than I usually can while classes are in session. We’ll see how that goes. Meanwhile, thanks for continuing to blog — it’s a truly welcome and thought-provoking diversion!


  2. Emily

    Congratulations! Working on the illustrations was really enjoyable; thanks for your kind words. I finished reading the book—LOVED it—and am now awaiting its sequel. 😉 So many great stories! Also, I chuckled out loud when I saw the word “liceberg.” 🙂


  3. Pingback: Friday links: a cat tale (of possible scientific misconduct), COVID-19 vs. everything, and more | Dynamic Ecology

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