Carl von Linne, a Swedish botanist known as Carolus
Linnaeus (Latin was the common language for European
science, so writings and often names were Latinized) began work in
1735 on a system that would organize descriptive classification
from the smallest of related groups up to the very largest.
The system he developed, with revisions, is the basic system still
used today to systematically organize types of living things into
groupings with their relatives. The basic structure was similar to how
human organizations work, with groups-contained-within-groups, be
they feudal power structures or military organizations. Each
particular type of living thing would be designated a species
(from the same root word as "specific").
Closely-related species could be collected within a larger
grouping, a genus; related genera are grouped into a
family, families into an order, orders
into a class, classes into a phylum,
and phyla into a Kingdom, and Kingdoms into a Domain,
the biggest and most
general group. In Linnaeus time, there were just the Animal
Kingdom and the Plant Kingdom, but later discoveries convinced biologists
(then called naturalists) that some distinct types of organisms,
such as Fungi and some microscopic organisms,
should be given their own separate Kingdoms.
Some subdisciplines of biology use a basic
Linnaean type of taxonomy, but may change the names used for
a few of the groups. Commonly, for instance, plant and
fungus taxonomy uses the term Division instead of
Phylum. In some systems, additional levels have been added as well,
such as tribe or cohort. Recently, there has been a bit of a movement to revamp the
basic system to something called
A page about Linnaeus.
A brief summary of Linnaean taxonomic levels.
Taxonomic levels of humans (video).
introduction to phylocode.