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Lecture 6 - Natural History and Taxonomy

Lecture 6 - Natural History and Taxonomy - 1 February 5...

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February 5, 2009 Life in the Eighteenth Century: Natural History and Taxonomy 1. Natural History and Classification a. Botany and Diversity i. New species being brought back to Europe (both plants and animals). Have to make order and a catalogue of all these new unfamiliar species…. Numbers just kept on increasing. By beginning of 19 th century, roughly 20,000 new plants catalogued…. Increased even more once they started doing expeditions to find new species of plants. 2. Linnaeus a. System of Nature (1735, 1758) i. His taxonomy became standard in Europe before the middle of the 18 th century and went on to form the basis for modern systems. Published taxonomic work (first in 1735) in the Netherlands, 10 th edition came out in 1758 (the edition that modern taxonomists still use). Basic system still used now. b. Class-Order-(Family)-Genus-Species i. Pragmatic means of classifying diversity in organic nature. Made it easier to decide what category to put a new species into based on relation to other plants (type—tree, fern, flower, etc—gross structural features, class determined by number and position of stamens—male organs, order determined by pistols—female organs, genus determined afterwards). System was an artificial system. Generally didn’t use the term “family”…term introduced subsequently later in the 18 th century. ii. System applies to both Animals and Plants. iii. Same for zoological classification (but mainly a botanist). Uses convenient characters, feet and teeth, things that you could examine easily that showed regularity and still differences, and by using, could create distinct categories. Quick way of dealing with specimens, more or less unambiguous. Classes—mammalia, reptilia, etc. Order—carnivoria, etc. Genus—felis, linx, etc. Species—felis leo (lion), felis tigris (tiger), and felis domestica (house cat), etc. Artificial pragmatic decisions (handy results > overarching theories). 1
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iv. Really wanted a natural system of classification. Can’t justify his system philosophically (that’s why its artificial)…wants to subdivide natural world so that there would be no question as to what plants/animals are truly close in nature itself. Linnaeus’s system did classify, wanted to develop a natural system, but never did one to his satisfaction. Gave up on practical grounds and used his system instead (practical, pragmatic reasons). What could they
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Lecture 6 - Natural History and Taxonomy - 1 February 5...

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