Honoring Philip Barker Webb: the three intriguing stories of Webbia as a genus name: Nomenclature of Webbia
From Firenze University Press Journal: Journal of Plant Taxonomy and Geography (Webbia)
Javier Francisco-Ortega, Institute of Environment, Department of Biological Sciences, Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center, Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University, University Park,
Riccardo M. Baldini, Dipartimento di Biologia, Centro Studi Erbario Tropicale, Università di Firenze
John C. Manning, Compton Herbarium, South African National Biodiversity Institute
Kanchi Gandhi, Harvard University Herbaria
Founded in 1905 as a book by Italian professor (University of Pisa) Ugolino Martelli1 (1860–1934), the journal Webbia honors Philip Barker Webb (1793–1854, Figure 2A) for his botanical legacy and his contributions in the development of the collections of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze. Indeed, Webb’s herbarium, documents, library, and house in Paris were bequeathed in his will to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II of Lorraine (1797–1870).
The earnings from the sale of the house created an endowment for the curation of Webb’s collections and archives (Parlatore 1856; Stearn 1937).The plant specimens formed the Herbarium Webbianum, which is currently a central part of the FI herbarium of the Botanical section “F. Parlatore” of the Natural History Museum of the University of Florence. Its entire library and archives are kept in the Bibliotecadi Scienze — Botanical library at University of Florence. Many of Webb’s documents are posted online as part of the Humboldt Project (https://www.sba.unifi.it/p1790.html), which was sponsored by the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftgeschichte (Germany) and the Fundación Canaria Orotava de Historia de la Ciencia (Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain). Details concerning the content and scope of Webb’s materials held in the Her-barium Webbianum were reviewed by Parlatore (1874), Steinberg (1973, 1977), Moggi (1993), and Nepi (2009).Extensive accounts of Webb’s life and achievements were published by many authors, including Hooker (1854), Gay (1856), Parlatore (1856, 1992), Martelli (1904), Chiarugi (1956), and Stearn (1973), and it is not the main scope of our contribution to provide a full review of his biography.
Nevertheless, because of Webb’s connections with Italy, especially with Florence, in the introduction of our paper we provide a historical over-view pertinent to Webb’s associations with this country, and especially with Tuscany.Webb’s contributions to the Macaronesian island flo-ra are also relevant to our study. A few works, published mostly by Canarian Island scholars, provide details of Webb’s significant legacy to Macaronesian botany (Stearn 1937, 1973; García Pérez 1988; Rodríguez Delgado 1998; Relancio and Breen 2006; Suárez Martín 2016, 2018; Rico et al. 2017). Between 1828 and 1830, Webb and the French naturalist Sabin Berthelot (1794–1880) extensively explored this archipelago, visiting all of its islands with the exception of La Gomera and El Hierro. This exploration resulted in the single most important account ever produced on the natural history of the Canaries, the His-toire Naturelle des Îles Canaries, a multivolume work, authored mainly by these two naturalists, that was published between 1835 and 1850. Webb’s work pertinent to the islands was followed by his seminal publication on the flora of Cabo Verde (Webb 1849). The latter was a floristic treatment for which Webb was invited by the then Kew Garden director Sir William J. Hooker (1785–1865). Interestingly, Webb wrote this treatment without ever visiting Cabo Verde (Rico et al. 2017)