Scientific names are often Latinized forms of the name of a person connected with the discovery of the taxon, or describe some characteristic quality such as color, size or habitat. This column focuses on the Egyptian tortoise.
The Egyptian tortoise was first described to science in 1869 by the German scientist and famed curator at the British Museum, Albert Günther. He named it Testudo leithii, in honor of Dr. A. H. Leith who had collected (along with numerous other species) the specimen that Günther had based his description on. In 1883 the French naturalist Louis-Charles Lortet also described the tortoise. He named it T. kleinmanni after Kleinmann, a bank director at the Crédit Lyonnais in Egypt, who had found it in abundance in the vicinity of Alexandria. By 1887, Lortet realized that his and Günther's tortoises were probably one and the same species. Consequently, the scientific community generally adopted Günther's earlier name for the Egyptian tortoise.