The History of Modern Classification

Topics: Species, Biology, Biological classification Pages: 2 (417 words) Published: May 1, 2013
From 300 BC until now, there has always been interest in figuring out more about our fellow organisms, living in the same space as us. There are upwards of 8 million species of organisms in the world, and they all need to be organized and named. This calls for a system of classification that depends not only on visible physical traits, but also on environment and cell structure. What was there before?

The first ever recorded classification was around 350BC, when Aristotle began to sort organisms as plants or animals, by where they live, and their features. However, there were too many grey areas, it wasn’t specific enough. Several hundred years later, in the middle ages, people started using Latin, a universal language, to name organism. Sadly, these names were obscenely long and descriptive, and the specific name was lost as it was told, and there were discrepancies in names. Zoologist and botanists like Conrad Gesner wrote books, beginning to make more structured organizations of similar organisms.

Where did we get the system we have now?
Around the 1500s and 1600s, a group called the Methodists came about, concerned with creating a method to classify any organism. Philosophers, botanists, and zoologists like Andrea Caesalpino and John Ray began creating systems of “higher genera” to classify various organisms as well as developing numerous dichotomous keys to describe them. Carolus Linnaeus wanted to make a distinction between these Methodists and other collectors, and really started the idea of the Methodist group. It was the very same man who created the basis of modern taxonomy. He classified things as either minerals, vegetables or animals. Linnaeus used five further ranks: class, order, genus, species, and variety. This evolved into what we have today, a progression of ranks from domain to species, with sub levels in between. Why do we need classification?

As aforementioned, there are over 8 million unique species of organisms in the world, from...
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