Article ID: CBB001321054

“The Sceptre of Her Pow'r”: Nymphs, Nobility, and Nomenclature in Early Victorian Science (2014)


Only weeks following Queen Victoria's ascension to the throne on 20 June 1837, a controversy brewed over the naming of the 'vegetable wonder' known today as Victoria amazonica (Sowerby). This gargantuan lily was encountered by the Royal Geographical Society's explorer Robert Schomburgk in British Guyana on New Year's Day, 1837. Following Schomburgk's wishes, metropolitan naturalists sought Victoria's pleasure in naming the flower after her, but the involvement of multiple agents and obfuscation of their actions resulted in two royal names for the lily: Victoria regina (Gray) and Victoria regia (Lindley). To resolve the duplicity in names, the protagonists, John Edward Gray and John Lindley, made priority claims for their respective names, ultimately founding their authorities on conventions aligned with gentlemanly manners and deference to nobility. This article will analyse the controversy, hitherto unexamined by historians, and argue for its significance in repositioning Queen Victoria - and nobility generally - as central agents in the making of authority in early Victorian science. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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Authors & Contributors
Albuquerque, Sara
Benson, Etienne Samuel
Bullock, April
Choi, Tina Young
Clifford, David
Durbach, Nadja
Archives of Natural History
Food and History
Food, Culture and Society
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
Public Interest Report
Royal Historical Society. Transactions
University of Chicago Press
Anthem Press
Oxford University Press
Pickering & Chatto
Stanford University Press
Science and society
Science and culture
Terminology and nomenclature
Social class
Nobility; aristocracy (social class)
Durkheim, Émile
Hamilton, William
im Thurn, Everard Fedinand, Sir
Jackson, Julian
Schomburgk, Robert Hermann
Spencer, Herbert
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
15th century
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
Great Britain
Guyana; British Guiana
Maryland (U.S.)
Alabama (U.S.)
Pennsylvania (U.S.)
Royal Geographical Society
Linnean Society of London
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Zoological Society of London
Royal Meteorological Society (Great Britain)

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