Golgi apparatus and the Southern blot: giving credit where credit is due

August 18, 2016

Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh, Filipodia Publishing


A question that many of our authors have asked is: why are some organelles, reagents or techniques capitalized when others are not?


The simple answer is that those with a name that is a pronoun — named for a person (such as an inventor or discoverer) or place (such as the location of discovery or to honor something historic or a zeitgeist of the time) — are capitalized and others are not.


Lets consider the following:

Golgi apparatus,

endoplasmic reticulum,

Southern blot,

and western blot.


In each case, the terms with capitalization represent pronouns. The Golgi apparatus is named for its discoverer, Camillo Golgi, whereas the endoplasmic reticulum is identified by a descriptive term (not named after a person or place). Similarly, the Southern blot (DNA binding technique) is named for its inventor, Edwin Southern, whereas the subsequently developed western blot (protein binding) and the northern blot (RNA binding) names represented clever wordplay on the directionality of the original technique’s name.