Ornithologist Obscura: Eponyms with Unknown Owners

One of the most common arguments raised against eliminating eponyms and other monument is that they are a way of preserving history. However, in this instance it should be noted that there are several eponyms for which it’s unclear exactly for whom these species are named. Given the fact that in this instance these people cannot be given biographies in any conventional sense, here is an overview of the species with nebulous naming.

Abbot, ?

The Birds:

Abbot’s Tanager (Thraupis abbas)

Abbot’s Tanager [link]

This one is simply a case that no detail was given as to whom the “Abbot” of the name referred to. The authors of The Eponym Dictionary of Birds speculate that it could have been Abbot Lawrence (1792-1855), an industrialist, statesman and philanthropist. The entry states “(Abbot) may have had some links with the Deppe brothers, one of whom, Wilhelm, first described the tanager”. The connections behind this do appear plausible, but are still ultimately conjecture.

Sources:

The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p.13

Longuemare, ?

The Birds:

Longuemare’s Sunangel (Heliangelus clarisse)

Longuemare’s Sunangel [link]

In this instance, the attributation is ambiguous; Lesson stated that he had seen the bird in the collection of “M. de Longuemare” which could be Alphonse Pierre François Le Touze de Longuemare (1803-1881) a French army officer. However, the original description states it was described by M. Gouye de Longuemare, which some have attributed to Mr. Henri Victor Goüye de Longuemare, although he would have been very young at the time. His father, François Gouÿe de Longuemare (1792–1866), a noted hummingbird enthusiast would seem a more plausible identity. Further confusing atters is that Longuemare’s Hermit – another name for the Little Hermit, may or may not be named for the same Longuemare.

Sources:

Birdforum: The Mysterious Longuemare in Longuemare’s Sunangel [link]

The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p.338

Pecquet, ?

The Birds:

Pesquet’s Parrot (Psittrichas fulgidus)

Pesquet’s Parrot photo by John Hume [link]

In contrast, Pecquet (not Pesquet as the name suggests) obtained the type specimen of this species from a quay in Le Havre, France, and presented it to Lesson who would go on to formally describe it. The fact that Lesson would go on to misattribute the continent from which it came (despite his own brother being on board the voyage on which is was collected!) suggests that Monsiour Pecquet was not apparently the best at relaying information. Who Pecquet was beyond this one brief jaunt as a zoological middleman is unclear.

Sources:

The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p.430

Richard, ?

The Birds:

Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi)

Richard’s Pipit [link]

“Monsieur Richard” of Lunéville was reportedly a naturalist and collector. However, unfortunately the details are once again ambigious, with the Eponym Dictionary of Birds proposing either Achilles Richard (1794-1852) – a botanist, or his father, Louis Claude marie Richard (1754-1821) who was a collector and Professor of Botany. Another article proposes a different identity entirely: Charles Richard (1745-1835) – the Postmaster of Lunéville.

Sources:

The Indentity of Richard of Richard’s Pipit (Anthus richardi Vieillot, 1818) [link]

The Eponym Dictionary of Birds, p.465