Quote: Dobzhansky on the taxonomic abuse of hominin systematists

This is a footnote in Theodosius Dobzhansky’s notable 1944 paper, “On species and races of living and fossil man”:

In his 1940 paper, Weidenreich denotes Java man and Peking man as Homo erectus javanensis and Homo erectus pekinensis respectively (the name Homo erectus erectus would be the correct one for the former). But in 1943 this author relapses into the use of the misleading names Pithecanthropus erectus and Sinanthropus pekinensis, continuing to admit that they represent only races and not separate species or genera, and arguing that these are “just names without any ‘generic’ or ‘specific’ meaning.” Unfortunately, these names do connote a generic and a specific, rather than a racial, difference to anyone familiar with the biological nomenclature. The abuse of generic and specific names by students of the hominid evolution is notorious; it is making this fascinating field rather bewildering to other biologists.


Dobzhansky, T. (1944). On species and races of living and fossil man. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 2(3), 251-265.