Classifying Sciences: Systematics and Status in mid-Victorian Natural History

Jim Endersby

in The Organisation of Knowledge in Victorian Britain

Published by British Academy

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780197263266
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734854 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Centenary Monographs

Classifying Sciences: Systematics and Status in mid-Victorian Natural History

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter discusses mid-Victorian natural history sciences, focusing on the disputes over the classification within both the zoological and botanical communities. Zoologists argued over the merits of William Macleay’s quinary system, claiming that all organisms could be classified in groups of five. Botanists attacking the Linnaean or sexual system were divided over what should replace it; the most widely used of its rivals was known as the natural system. Several metropolitan naturalists felt the need to bring stability by settling these arguments. Hugh Strickland was the most prominent zoological stabiliser, an opponent of quinarianism and other forms of classificatory radicalism. Strickland established the world’s first formal rules of zoological nomenclature and attempted to use the authority of the British Association to impose them on naturalists.

Keywords: natural history; William Macleay; quinary system; Linnaean system; sexual system; natural system; Hugh Strickland; British Association

Chapter.  10989 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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