Michelle Nijhuis discusses “Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours,” a reference book that Charles Darwin took with him aboard H.M.S. Beagle.
Kelley told me that the discernment of Syme and his contemporaries has helped draw her own gaze to less dramatic shades, and to distinctions that she might not otherwise perceive. “We think of dogwoods as just ‘green,’ but really their leaves are gray underneath, and poplar leaves are silver,” she said. “And there are so many things you’d never think are the same color—like a mushroom and a mallard’s wing—but when you look closely you can see that, yes, they really are.” As Werner’s nomenclature reminds us, sometimes a word is worth a thousand pictures.