In an attempt to preserve and defend the good name of the salmon fished in his state, Senator Warren Magnuson (D-WA), introduced in 1967 a bill in the US Senate proposing to change the name of Salmonella to the more inoccuous sounding Sanella. In some circles it may seem comforting to think that taxonomic terms can be changed by an act of Congress. Who knows, that could come in handy someday.
The ASM responded to the Magnuson bill rather forcefully. Below is part of a letter written by the chair of the ASM Taxonomy Committee, William A. Clark.
I am reminded of a previous attempt at legislating science. In 1897, the Indiana State Legislature considered a bill to change the value of Pi to a more manageable number, 3.20 to be exact. The bill was entitled "A Bill for an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered as a contribution to education to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost by paying any royalties whatever on the same, provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature of 1897". The bill passed the state House but was rejected by the state Senate. Read its picturesque history here.
Plus ça change...
I thank Jeff Karr, the ASM archivist, for kindly calling my attention to the Magnuson bill. Note that in 1969, the ASM Taxonomic Committee considered Salmonella a "unicellular, non-photosynthetic plant" (last sentence).