1939: A fish is named after John Steinbeck, who behaves rather shabbily in response

Surely 2019 sees no other 80th Anniversary more significant than this one? From “The Naming of the Shrew” by John Wright:



Has any taxonomist ever lived to regret bestowing an eponym? Yes, of course. The ichthyologist Rolf Bolin was delighted to receive a signed first edition of one of John Steinbeck’s novels from the hands of the author himself. To repay this kindness, in 1939 he named a species of lanternfish Lampanyctus steinbecki. Soon after this, and for no known reason, Steinbeck asked for the book back. Bolin spent a great deal of effort trying to synonymise the species with another to rid the world and his slighted pride of L. steinbecki, but it remains an accepted species to this day.

I studied The Pearl in school, read Of Mice and Men later on, and have read bits and pieces of Steinbeck here and there, but must admit that he is in the category of “had I world enough and time” authors … and this anecdote does little to revitalise any keener interest.

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