From Seeds to Stars: The Art and Science of Classification
The seeds for classification lie in the works of the British naturalist John Ray (1628– 1705). Commencing in 1660 with his Catalogue of Cambridge Plants, and ending with the posthumous publication of Synopsis Methodica Avium et Piscium in 1713, John Ray published systematic works on plants, birds, mammals, fi sh and insects. In these works, Ray brought order to the chaotic mass of names in use by the naturalists of his time. Like Linnaeus, Ray searched for the “natural system,” a classifi cation of organisms that would refl ect the Divine Order of creation. Unlike Linnaeus, whose plant classifi cation was based entirely on fl oral reproductive organs, Ray classifi ed plants by overall morphology: the classifi cation in his 1682 book Methodus Plantarum Nova draws on fl owers, seeds, fruits, and roots. Ray's plant classifi cation system was the fi rst to divide fl owering plants into monocots and dicots. This method produced more “natural” results than “artifi-cial” systems based on one feature alone; it expressed the similarities between species more fully. Ray's system greatly infl uenced later botanists such as Jussieu and de Can-dolle, and systems based on total morphology came to replace systems based on only one feature or organ.