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Ronald H. Petersen

[The second International Botanical Congress of Vienna, 1905, voted to consider no items dealing with nomenclature of nonvascular cryptogams. Instead, a commission was appointed to deal with these items between 1905 and 1910, the date set for the Brussels Congress. For various reasons, most items were not solved, and the Brussels Congress convened in the absence of any consensus. The following selective report of the Brussels proceedings reveals the process and product of discussions concerning mycological (and other nonvascular cryptogams) starting points, fungi with pleomorphic life cycles, and the introduction of the term forma speciales. It is offered with minimal commentary as background material, and was translated from: Wildemann, E. de., Ed. 1910. Actes du III Congres International de Botanique, Bruxelles 1910. Vol. 1. Compte Rendu des seances, excursions, etc. (page number are indicated where appropriate)].

Starting points for nomenclature of nonvascular cryptogams

Mr. President: We find ourselves facing two proposals: either, with motions A3 and B3, we will decide to adopt [p. 57] a unified starting point (1753) for all groups of nonvascular cryptogams; or with Art. C3, we will have to examine particular starting points for successive adoption for each principal groups. But it must be remarked that the second solution has obtained, in the preparatory work, a respectable number of votes.

The Rapporteur General says that analysis of votes sent by the Cryptogamic Commission has presented great difficulties because of the scattering of votes over a great many motions. It appears prudent, therefore, to examine successively the different groups and in fact the formal proposition. This method of procedure will have the advantage of permitting partisans of multiple starting points to develop their arguments in detail. Conversely, if the date 1753 is adopted successively for each group, it will have the effect of adoption of motions A3 or B3.

Prof. Giesenhagen and Mr. Groves are of the same opinions, whereas Mr. Dixon thinks that the general principle of unified starting points (1753) should be discussed first.

In voting, the proposition of the Rapporteur is adopted unanimously, less two votes. Scrutiny is not demanded.


The Rapporteur General  remarked that, in the absence of formal proposals relative to the Myxomycetes, there is a substitute account of information cited on page 43 of the Recueil, through which a new edition of the classic Monograph of Mycetozoa by Lister must consistently shine; this edition uses the date 1753 as starting point for nomenclature of Myxomycetes.

Dr. Rendle elogised the book expected from Miss Lister, and thought that there are all sorts of advantages in the consecration of 1753 as the starting point for nomenclature of Myxomycetes.

Prof. Giesenhagen thinks that it is not possible to make a decision of this type right now without requiring examination of Stockmayer’s motion relative to Cryptomorphs, because the Myxomycetes constitute a group situated at the limits of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, and because the zoologists may have them as their own to name.

[p. 58] Prof Schinz believes, on the contrary, that a decision should and must be reached. It is preferable that we do not adopt as starting point the date 1753, but better the date of the book by Miss. Lister, 1910.

Prof. Wettstein shares the opinion of Mr. Schinz, but when is the printing of Miss Lister’s book? When will it appear?

Dr. Rendle announced that the work would appear very probably in the middle of next July.

Prof. Giesenhagen pleads not to employ as the basis for nomenclature of Myxomycetes a book which has not yet been published, and, therefore, of which we have no knowledge of content. Such a procedure exposes a great many surprises.

Prof. Magnus defends the starting point of 1753. It could be that that the book of Miss Lister, in spite of the competence of the author, reinforces errors to which we cannot contribute our authority. But because the book of Lister is based on the date 1753, we should set the same basis as the monograph and adopt also this date of 1753.

Prof. Vuillemin thought that there should not be two distinct nomenclatures for Myxomycetes, one the usage of zoologists, the other the usage of botanists. The zoologists having priority over us; we are no longer free and should return to the ulterior date the fixed starting point of nomenclature of Myxomycetes, so that we will be in accord with the zoologists.

Prof. Magnus insisted anew on the criticism of Mr. Giesenhagen: we should not recommend a work of which we have no knowledge.

Mr. Groves remarked that the book by Lister is a classic work in which the principles of nomenclature are in accord with those of zoologists.

Prof. Engler sees with regret that one might return a decision at yet another congress. If one proceeds thus on all the questions to be solved in cryptogamic nomenclature, there is no reason for that conclusion. Personally, he supports the proposition to make 1753 the starting date, the date which is adopted in the book by Lister.

Prof. Magnus and R. Maire formally propose the date 1753.

The proposition of Messrs. Magnus and Maire fixing the year 1753 [p. 59] as starting point for nomenclature of Myxomycetes is subsequently adopted, 89 yes, 63 no.

Prof. Wettstein requests a moment for a point of order. The roll call vote takes too much time: it is necessary to apply the systems of signed ballots deposited in an urn as many times as voting voices (see above). This proposition is adopted unanimously.


The President introduced a discussion of starting points for nomenclature of Schizomycetes.

Prof. Vuillemin proposed to adopt 1753 as starting point for Bacteria.

Prof. De-Toni thinks the date 1753 too removed in order to be a practical starting date.

Dr. Lutz declared that bacteriology did not exist as a science prior to the work of Pasteur (objections from various seats). Now is actually a period of very active evolution of knowledge: each day one sees organisms emerging from one group to be transferred to another. It is impossible under these conditions to practically fix a starting date for nomenclature. The speaker proposes adjournment of all decisions relative to bacteria.

Prof. Kelbahn proposes for adoption as starting point for the bacteria the fundamental work of F. Cohn (Untersuchungen uber Bakterien, 1870-77). To him it seems impossible to return to 1753 for nomenclature of these organisms.

Prof. Engler supports Klebahn’s proposition. It is to Cohn that one owes the essential fundamentals of bacterial systematics.

Prof. Magnus is of an opposing view. Before Cohn there were eminent bacteriologists whose works and nomenclature, as for example Ehrenberg, who already in 1786 had given the characteristics of important genera and species of bacteria.

Prof. Giesenhagen criticizes the date 1753. According to him, it should not be the principle of uniformity which might be invoked in favor of such a removed date, and this principle is not sufficient in equal cases.

For Prof. Magnus, all publications after Linnaeus might be taken into consideration: the work by Ehrenberg [p. 60] equally to that by Cohn, so that the date 1753 applies well again for the bacteria as for other groups.

Prof. Vuillemin does not see how one can give a significant value to the date 1786 (Ehrenberg), proposed by the botanists of Moscow. If one does not accept all that follows after 1753, he should win approval of the date 1910.

Prof. De-Toni holds, meanwhile, that it is only fair to remark that Ehrenberg treated the bacteria as a zoologist, and did not sufficiently distinguish the microscopic animals. The work of Cohn, to him, would better serve as a solid basis for bacterial nomenclature.

Prof. Giesenhagen shares the ideas of De-Toni. He proposes formally the postponement of the whole question. We do not have among us a specialist in bacterial systematics, and this absence is even more grave because medicine is strongly interested in the solution given to the start of bacterial nomenclature.

The President resumes the debate by enumerating the propositions relative to the starting point of bacterial nomenclature:

First motion: adjournment (supported by Messrs. Lutz, Farlow, Atkinson, and Giesenhagen);

Second motion: 1753 , Vuillemin’s proposal, supported by Magnus;

Third motion: 1786, proposition of the Moscow botanists (Recueil, p. 24);

Fourth motion: 1870-76, proposition by Klebahn, Engler, De-Toni.

These propositions were submitted to vote in the above order. Motion no. 1 (adjournment) is adopted, 83 yes against 42 no.

The meeting is then adjourned at 11:45.


The session is convened at 2:00.

The President proposes to treat the Schizophyceae and the flagellates with the algae. He proposes to suspend the present session for 40 minutes. During that time, the mycologists and bryologists will reassemble in particular committees in order to reach consensus [p. 61] among themselves, and return to the general meeting with firm propositions.

The proposals are adopted.

The plenary session is adjourned until 3:00.

The President announces that because of unexpected last minute difficulties, the algological committee will not be able to report until the next day.


The committee of mycologists has passed by a large majority the following proposition, to which the President gives reading:

"Mycological nomenclature begins with Fries, Systema Mycologicum, yrs. 1821-32, with the exception of the Uredinales, Ustilaginales, and Gasteromycetes, for which the starting point falls to 1801 (Persoon, Synopsis Methodica Fungorum); below reserve a list of nomina generica conservanda for elaboration."

The Rapporteur General recommends the proposition of mycologists for approval by the assembly. It would have been more simple on the surface to see a unified starting point, but the apparent simplicity is not the only desire which one could envisage. There must be taken into account progressive development and very unequal knowledge of diverse areas of botany, which are opposed to rigid uniformity to the view of the Rules of Nomenclature. It is especially important to take into account practical needs. These make exigent the reduction to a minimum of changability brought to traditional nomenclature. The moment that a great majority of specialists now recommend the solution which should be enunciated, the other botanists are poorly situated for its fair opposition.

Prof. Magnus defends the majority opinion, which would conserve for the fungi, as for other groups, the date 1753.

The President puts the above proposition [committee report] to a vote. It is adopted by 130 yes against 4 no (applause).


In that which concerns bryophyte nomenclature, Dr. Roll explains that for the Sphagnaceae, it is best to follow the example of hepatologists and to adopt the date 1753 as starting point, in view of the necessity of conserving a very important name given by Ehrhart. It is important, moreover [p. 62] to follow exactly the rules of 1905 for this group of bryophytes, in taking into account decisions reached this year at Brussels.

The President read the following proposition recommended to the assembly by bryologists meeting in special committee:

"The starting point for nomenclature of hepatics and of Sphagnaceae is fixed as the year 1753; the other musci will have as a starting point Hedwig, Species Muscorum, 1801. A list of nomina generica utique conservanda will be elaborated to save the remainder.

This proposition is accepted, 126 yes versus 5 no.


Dr. Zahlbruckner speaks of difficulties which accompany the choice of a good starting point for lichen terminology. Logically, one ought to commence solely with Acharius. But as in the previous case, a list of nomina conservanda will be necessary. Specifically, the author recommends the date 1753, to which is also a list of nomina conservanda to be elaborated.

The President puts to a vote the proposition by Mr. Zahlbruckner. The proposition is accepted, 151 yes versus 2 no.


The Rapporteur General, after seeing exposed the scope of the Wille and Witrock motion* continued from Art. 4, thinks in accord with most cryptogamists, that this motion is excellent under a title of recommendation, but would be exaggerated if made into a rule.

* At the Vienna Congress of 1905, Wille and Witrock had put forward a motion that the description of every new cryptogam be accompanied by a figure. That motion, along with all others dealing with cryptogams, was postponed to the Brussels Congress.

Prof. R. Maire is in accord with this point of view; he would like to see as a completion to the recommendation an allusion to fleshy fungi, for which an exact knowledge implies examination of a figure.

The President put to a vote Art. 4, envisaged as a recommendation, with the addition by Dr. Maire.

The proposition is adopted with unanimity.


The Rapporteur General thinks it impractical to make special rules for fungi with non-pleomorphic life cycles (Recueil, p. 26, Art. 5) [p. 63], because this group falls purely and simply under the application of the general rules of 1905. It is proposed, therefore, to pass directly to Art. 5.

Mr. Dixon thinks, however, that it is not impractical to relate that a special article of the 1905 rules applies directly to fungi without contrary disposition.

The Rapporteur General responds that it will be very easy for the Editorial Committee to take into account this desire without insertion of a special article for them.

The proposition of the Rapporteur is adopted unanimously.


The Rapporteur General explains that it has been difficult for the assembly to adopt a decision on the complex questions treated by Art. 6 (Recueil, pp. 27-29, and pp. 56, 57), for the mycologists meeting as a special committee had not arrived at a complete consensus. He read the text from this consensus, constructed thusly:

"For the fungi with pleomorphic life cycle, the successive diverse states of the same species (anamorphoses, status) bear only a single generic and specific name (binomial): the older, which has been given since the time of Fries’ Systema or of Persoon’s Synopsis to the state containing the form which one is agreed to name perfect, in a condition which moreover conforms to the rules.

"One admits as the perfect state that which results in the ascus phase in the Ascomycetes, in the basidium for the Basidiomycetes, in the teleutospore for the Uredinales, in the [brand]spore for the Ustilaginales.

"The generic and specific names given to other states are only of temporary value. They cannot serve to replace a generic name already existent and applied to one or more species, namely the one given as containing the form named ‘perfect.’"

Prof Magnus thinks that one cannot justly mention in the proposed article the names of Fries and Persoon, because the article is applicable to all names that have been made, regardless of whether their authors are called Sowerby, Nees, Fries, Persoon, etc..

The Rapporteur General responds that there is an advantage here in mentioning the starting point for mycological nomenclature in order to eliminate with certainty the names anterior to the starting point which one will be able to prove as causing intervention in the application of the article.

[p. 64] Lieut.-Col. Prain and Mr. Atkinson again address various recommendations of detail to the Editorial Commission, then the above article is put to a vote by the President, and is adopted by a large majority (two votes representing nine voting ballots against).

On the subject of Art. 7 (Receuil, p. 29) on which Mr. Saccardo proposes a rule relating to Deuteromycetes, Mr. De-Toni thinks that there will be a practical advantage to that when one takes into account this recommendation.

The Rapporteur General and the President together make two remarks which, without contesting the interest of Saccardo’s proposition, show it to be without any doubt a recommendation of systematic order which emerges from the framework of the rules and recommendations of nomenclature.


The President announces that Arts. 8 and 9, criticized by the Rapporteur, have been the object of detailed discussions within a group of mycologists, and that the latter propose replacement by the following recommendation:

"For parasitic fungi, the authors of which do not give a species rank to characteristic forms from a biological viewpoint, but step by step to each from a morphological point of view, there may be distinguished within a species: special forms (forma speciales, f. sp.), characterized by their adaptation to different nutritive species and named preferentially by means of the names of hosts; in this event, if one wishes to employ a double name, one will be formed preferentially by means of nutritive species."

The Rapporteur General declares that this proposition avoids all the criticisms which were made before to Arts. 8 and 9, and recommends acceptance.

Prof. Vuillemin cannot, in that which is concerned, accept the terminology which the above proposition consecrates if it is accepted without modifications. It would be inadmissible for a "form" to be characterized precisely by the absence of morphological characters; it is a contradiction in terms.

Prof. Maire proposes, in order to give satisfaction to the terminological scruples of M. Vuillemin, to replace the term forma speciales with the special technical term "isoide" (from the Greek isos, equal, and eidos, appearance).

[p. 65] Prof Klebahn fights the introduction of a new term such as isoide. The expression forma speciales has been accepted by most mycologists and tends to be generalized from when it was utilized in a systematic fashion by Mr. Eriksson. The terminological objections which one has made to the employment of this expression appear to him to make all order secondary. If one wants to push pluralism ahead, there will be changes without number to introduce into the terminology of botanical nomenclature.

The Rapporteur General again makes a remark that the word forma modified by the adjective speciales is not used in its morphological sense, but in the sense of a systematic unity of inferior order to that which comprises Art. 12 of the rules of nomenclature. One allows in French, in an analogous fashion, the employment of different senses of words like "lame, mine, train, etc."

The President puts to a vote the proposition by mycologists just as has been enunciated. The proposition is adopted by a majority approaching unanimity.


The Rapporteur General explains that, of the six recommendations figuring on this paragraph, the Commission has retained three (Arts. 10, 11, 12; Receuil, p. 30). He proposes to the assembly that it accept these three recommendations, leaving to the Editorial Commission the trouble of combining with the special recommendations.

The proposition of the Rapporteur is accepted by unanimously raised hands.

Prof. Atkinson attracts attention to Art. 14, in which he proposes, under the title of recommendation, to designate a type every time a new group is described.

The Rapporteur supports the motion of Mr. Atkinson and, conforming to the idea which had been expressed in the margin of page 13 of the Recueil, proposes to give to this recommendation a general scope. The generality of botanists was opposed, in 1905, to a system which consists to create afterward and arbitrarily "types" for groups for which no "type" was originally designated, a system which in a great number of cases would bring great perturbation to nomenclature. But it is surely to be desired in the future, to design a regular type method for nomenclature of groups which one describes. The Rapporteur thinks that in acceptance of Atkinson’s motion, and in giving to it [p. 66] general scope, the assembly will make utilitarian work, all in reaching a legitimate satisfaction for American botanists whose ideas in this matter have not met with general assent (stamp of approval). The Editorial Commission will give the Atkinson motion the required place in the Rules for that which is of general scope.

The proposition for Mr. Atkinson, enlarged in the sense indicated by the Rapporteur, is adopted unanimously by raised hands.



Prof. Atkinson proposes a special article which obliges attribution to their true authors the fatherhood of fungus species described by authors anterior [prior]to Persoon and Fries.

The President explains that this new motion will not be able, under the terms of the meeting rules (Art. 5), to be taken into consideration until the meeting of tomorrow, unless two-thirds of the members present admit it to consideration.

The Atkinson motion is held for consideration and postponed until tomorrow.

Prof. A. Maire wishes that one hold in consideration a recommendation destined to insist about authors who describe new species of fleshy fungi, that they conserve dried examples.

The Rapporteur General responds that this is a point which the Editorial Commission will be able to deal with, if the assembly decides so. The proposition is accepted.

[The motion by Atkinson was raised as part of the prospective agenda after convening the meeting of May 18. One item, examination of lists of nomina generica conservanda, was exhaustively discussed, but Atkinson’s motion was not dealt with, perhaps in the rush to end the nomenclature sessions with proper amenities.]

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