History of Classification

Timeline of Classification

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350 BC Aristotle

  • The first to classify organisms on the basis of their structural similarities.
  • knowledge can be collected and ordered
  • characteristics are inherited


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John Ray (1627-1705)

  • Widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists.
  • The man with whom "the adventure of modern science begins".
  • His classification of plants in his Historia Plantarum, was an important step towards modern taxonomy.


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Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778)

  • Classification of things based on reproduction and relationships
  • Who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature.
  • He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology.
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James Hutton 1726-1797

  • Geological processes occuring today are similar to thoes that have always occurred
  • Small changes over great amounts of time produce significant transformation
  • Earth is much older than perviously thought


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Willi Hennig (1913-1976)

  • was a German Biologist who is considered the founder of phylogenetic systematics
  • With his works on evolution and systematics he revolutionised the view of the natural order of beings.
  • As a taxonomist, he specialised in dipterans
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R.H. Whittaker 1969

  • He was the first to propose the five-kingdom taxonomic classification of the world's biota into the Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista, and Monera in 1959.
  • He also proposed the Whittaker Biome Classification, which categorized biome-types upon two abiotic factors: temperature and precipitation.
  • Whittaker was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1974
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Woese 1990

  • famous for defining the Archaea
  • He was also the originator of the RNA world hypothesis in 1977
  • Woese and Fox discovered a kind of microbial life which they called the “archaebacteria”
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James Watson 1928

  • structure of genetic material (DNA) is univeral and can be read

Modern Day Classification

Over the years, many models for classifying organisms have been touted as the next best one. Linnaeus's scheme of classifying everything into two kingdoms was the first real attempt, and it lasted for more than 200 years. More advanced thinking created first a five-, then a six-, then a three-kingdom classification system to include all the recent discoveries related to kinship. As the years go on more and more scientist come out with new things that involve classification.