The Problem with Biodiversity

Hugh Pennington

Carolus Linnaeus, who was born almost exactly three hundred years ago, on 23 May 1707, was the founder of modern systematics and taxonomy, the sciences of classifying and naming living things. Science has no holy books, but Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae comes close. Its tenth edition, published in Stockholm in 1758, was the starting point of zoological classification, and the binomial system for naming – one for the genus, e.g. Homo, and one for the species, e.g. sapiens – is still the norm. Linnaeus was also a talented taxonomist in his own right; many of the species he described without the aid of modern microscopes and molecular methods still stand. He was, you might say, a founding father of biodiversity studies.

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