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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index C > Emanuel Mendes da Costa Quotes

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Emanuel Mendes da Costa
(5 Jun 1717 - 31 May 1791)

English naturalist, conchologist and collector who as clerk to the Royal Society embezzled membership funds to indulge his penchant for collecting. He wrote books on fossils and conchology.

Science Quotes by Emanuel Mendes da Costa (2 quotes)

It is necessary to avoid the affected conciseness and quaint terms so much in fashion, and only to use the proper language and established terms. Linnæus, otherwise the great ornament of natural historians, is very blameable in this respect…I am the more desirous of fixing technical names, as the unjustifiable and very indecent terms used by Linnaeus in his Bivalves may meet their deserved fate, by being exploded with indignation; for
    Immodest words admit of defense,
    And want of decency is want of sense.

These my terms being adopted, will render descriptions proper, intelligible, and decent; by which the science may become useful, easy, and adapted to all capacities, and to both sexes.
— Emanuel Mendes da Costa
From Preface to Elements of Conchology or, An introduction to the Knowledge of Shells (1776), 108-109. [Note: the quotation comes from the fourth Earl of Roscommon. Benjamin Franklin also used this quote, but he was only repeating it, not originating it.]
Science quotes on:  |  Blame (31)  |  Decency (5)  |  Decent (12)  |  Description (89)  |  Indignation (5)  |  Carolus Linnaeus (36)  |  Name (359)  |  Nomenclature (159)  |  Proper (150)  |  Term (357)

One subject, however I shall insist upon; that is, to explode the Linnæan obscenity in his characters of the Bivalves; not only for their licentiousness, but also that they are in no ways the parts expressed. Science should be chaste and delicate. Ribaldry at times has been passed for wit; but Linnæus alone passes it for terms of science. His merit in this part of natural history is, in my opinion, much debased thereby; and I can compare these his terms only to Spintriæ [Roman erotic bronze tokens], in a valuable collection of Roman coins. I therefore with due submission recommend to that otherwise great naturalist, to change them, and expunge this reproachable obscenity from his works.
— Emanuel Mendes da Costa
From Preface to Elements of Conchology or, An introduction to the Knowledge of Shells (1776), iv-v. [Costa is offended by nomenclature adopted by Linnaeus for features of the opening of certain bivalve shells. Based on corresponding parts of surface appearance, Linnaeus used terms distinctive to human female anatomy. Costa was determined to eliminate the indelicate terms. —Webmaster]
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomy (75)  |  Bivalve (2)  |  Change (639)  |  Carolus Linnaeus (36)  |  Obscenity (4)  |  Roman (39)  |  Shell (69)  |  Token (10)

Quotes by others about Emanuel Mendes da Costa (1)

I am particularly fond of his [Emmanuel Mendes da Costa’s] Natural History of Fossils because this treatise, more than any other work written in English, records a short episode expressing one of the grand false starts in the history of natural science–and nothing can be quite so informative and instructive as a juicy mistake.
In Leonardo's Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms: Essays on Natural History (1998, 2011), 93. [Gould uses the spelling “Emmanuel”, but it is usually seen as “Emanuel”. —Webmaster]
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