The gender gap in names of prokaryotes honouring persons

Heike M. Freese, Lola Giner-Pérez, Aharon Oren, Markus Göker, David R. Arahal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The aim of this study is to analyse prokaryotic names which honour persons, eponyms, from a gender perspective. Data were retrieved from the List of Prokaryotic names with Standing in Nomenclature. Excluding new combinations, the etymologies of 23 315 unique names at the rank of genus, species and subspecies were analysed. A total of 2018 (8.7 %) names honour persons (eponyms), for which the development of the female share over time was further investigated. Women started to be honoured very recently (1947) compared to men (1823). Moreover, only 14.8 % of all prokaryotic eponyms refer to females. This ratio has hardly improved since 1947, although the number of women whose contributions to microbiology could have been recognized has increased over time. In contrast, about 50 % of prokaryotic names derived from mythological characters refer to females. To reduce this gender gap, we encourage authors proposing new taxon names to honour female scientists who can serve as role models for new generations.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number006115
JournalInternational Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors.


  • ICNP
  • ICSP
  • etymology
  • fairness
  • gender equality
  • taxonomy


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