February 5, 2009
Life in the Eighteenth Century: Natural History and Taxonomy
Natural History and Classification
Botany and Diversity
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
catalogued…. Increased even more once they started doing
expeditions to find new species of plants.
System of Nature
His taxonomy became standard in Europe before the middle of the
century and went on to form the basis for modern systems.
Published taxonomic work (first in 1735) in the Netherlands, 10
edition came out in 1758 (the edition that modern taxonomists still
use). Basic system still used now.
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
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 >