Gene Stratton-Porter referred to herself as a Nature Lover, and she called scientists who
studied nature, Naturalists. In her mind, in her day, a naturalist was a learned person who
studied and specialized in some aspect of nature. An ornithologist who studied birds would be
a naturalist. An entomologist who studied insects would also be a naturalist.
Nowadays, we refer to naturalists as someone who is knowledgeable about nature in general
and is usually more of an educator than a scientist. Using this modern definition, Gene could be considered a naturalist since she was knowledgeable about many aspects of nature and was an educator through her articles, books, and photographs. Gene corresponded with scientists in certain fields of biology. One such person she communicated with was Professor R. R. Rowley,a prominent paleontologist from Missouri who was her scientific advisor on her book "Moths of the Limberlost". He was of great assistance to her and apparently had respect and admiration for her. When he gave a scientific name to a trilobite (an extinct marine arthropod related to insects, spiders, and crabs), it was a tribute to Gene---Phillipsia stratton-porteri.
A scientific name is the unique name given by scientists to every known species of living
thing. It is composed of a two-part name, the genus and species. Often a third part, the
subspecies name, is included. Human beings are Homo sapiens. The wolf is Canis lupus. The
dandelion is Taraxacum officinale. The scientific name of an organism is its one true name.
Any scientist anywhere in the world would know exactly what the organism is. But a common
name can sometimes apply to different animals. In the United States, a robin is one species
(Turdus migratorius), while in England, a robin is a different species (Erithicus rubecula). Many animals have several common names. The black rat snake is also known as the cow snake or chicken snake, but it has only one scientific name---Elaphe obsoleta obsoleta.
When I ask non-scientist folks, especially children, if they know any scientific names, they
usually shake their heads no. They think scientific names are just for scientists. When I tell
them that they do know scientific names, they look at me as if I’m crazy. But almost everyone
knows the name of the most famous dinosaur of all---Tyrannosaurus rex. Tyrannosaurus rex is a scientific name, Tyrannosaurus is the genus, rex is the species. Dinosaurs are generally known only by their scientific names. Triceratops is a genus. Stegosaurus is a genus. And even some modern animals are known by their scientific names. Gorilla gorilla is the scientific name of the gorilla and Bison bison is the scientific name of the American bison.
Scientific names aren’t just for brainiacs. We all use them from time to time, whether we
realize it or not. However, becoming part of a scientific name is a rare privilege that only a few
individuals, such as Gene Stratton-Porter, ever experience.