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History of Taxonomy.

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Tahir Yusufaly 3-15-03 Biology - 1 History of Taxonomy Taxonomy has a long history, spanning the course of over 2,000 years. It has grown and developed into one of the major branches of biology. Today, it is a universal methodology of grouping organisms according to their characteristics and their evolutionary history. (Source: Modern Biology 337) One of the oldest known systems of classification is that of Aristotle, who lived around 300 B.C. Dichotomies, or polar opposites, were what Aristotle based his division of the complexity of life upon. He divided organisms into two primary groups: animals and plants. Then, he applied his dichotomy-based classification to these two groups. For instance, Aristotle divided animals into ones whose bodies contained blood and those whose bodies did not (as an extra note of interest, the division between vertebrates and invertebrates roughly corresponds to this classification). Aristotle also did a lot of work on plants, but unfortunately, most of that work was lost. ...read more.


aquatic birds, wading birds, birds of prey, perching birds, and land birds, all categories still used informally today) was first started by Belon. In the 17th century, English naturalist John Ray followed in Andrea Cesalpino's footsteps and used character weighting when grouping organisms. Except, he grouped animals, while Cesalpino had grouped plants. (Microsoft Encarta 2003 Classification) This rapid increase in discovery of organisms led to two major problems in Aristotle's classification system. For one, using a common name to name an organism was not universal, as there were many places throughout the world, each with their own language. So, what would be "cat" in England would be "gato" in Spain, to name one example. Scientists decided upon using Latin, at the time the language of educated people, as the universal language of naming species. However, scientists who tried naming consistently made long, confusing names that were difficult to remember. Also, common names often did not properly describe the organism. As an instance, the jellyfish was not really a fish at all, but based on its name, one would think that it was. ...read more.


The two names are the genus, which comes first, and the species (as epithet) next. The genus is usually capitalized, but the species is not. However, both are typed in italics. For example, humans' genus is homo and their species is sapiens, thus Homo sapiens. This binomial nomenclature was the antidote to the two major flaws of Aristotle's naming system. All the genus and species names are in Latin, so the scientific name is a universal name, unlike the common name, which varies from place to place. Also, showing the genus and species of an organism in its name really got deep into the description of the organism. Thus, it was a fairer and more accurate name. (Source: "Binomial Nomenclature") In conclusion, Carolus Linnaeus's system of classification and binomial nomenclature naming is still the method used by scientists today. Of course, differences are inevitable. Modern taxnomists focus a lot on the molecular phylogeny, or evolutionary history, of an organism. Yet, Linnaeus's work is still helpful, because by classifying organisms based on features that largely influenced by genes, Linnaeus provided several clues of common ancestry (Source: Modern Biology 339). ...read more.

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