The Royal Society of London was founded in 1662 by a royal charter from Charles II, and it has been the preeminent scientific think tank since the Enlightenment. Over its centuries of existence, the society has included such members as Sir Isaac Newton and Stephen Hawking, and it made its mark by funding and publishing studies that have shaped the modern world.
However, according to a recent study published by the Royal Society, it has failed in one major aspect: Naming more parasites after women.
I know it's shocking, but according to a peer-reviewed study authored by Robert Poulin et al, in the Biological Science Practices Journal of The Royal Society, when it comes to naming new parasites biologists do a poor job of
...honouring the scientific community's diversity and avoiding etymological nepotism and cronyism.
Look at the headline:
Nearly 3,000 new parasites have been discovered over the last 20 years. Most of these blood-sucking, skin-nibbling, mind-hijacking little beasties are given innocuous Latin names like Spirometra erinacea euopaei (tapeworms), but of the 5% named after human beings, only 18% honored women. Sad!
The writers of the study (all male) postulate that women are way more parasitic than that. Consider that there's an entire amateur website devoted to tracking the number of women working in Parasitology (it's over 900 if you're wondering).
Now if we can look past all the studies that did not get published to make space for this bombshell and really contemplate the importance of this field, I think the men out there will agree that we ought to give this one to the ladies. It's their time now.
So in that conciliatory spirit, if you happen to be in the business of parasitic nomenclature, I have a suggestion for where you might find a pool of potential names that would be perfect for your next big discovery.
Consider that there were a historic number of women that were elected to the 117th Congress in 2020, and honestly can you think of a bigger parasite than the U.S. federal government?
If you find yourself running short on parasitic names, Tinea ocasio-cortezii has a pretty good ring to it.
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