The History of TAXONOMY

  < 2650 BC-1542                      1583-1690                      1694-1789 >
 In the 16'th century, when the known world expanded, many new plants were brought to the botanists. There were published many publications on plants during those years, but most authors were far more interested in the medicinal properties of individual plants, than an overarching classification system. There were a few exceptions, and in the late 16'th century and in the 17'th century, the first true systems were published.


 Andrea Cesalpino (Andreas Caesalpinus) (1519–1603) based his system on the structure of the organs of fructification, using the Aristotelian technique of logical division, published in De plantis libri XVI, 1583 with 1520 plants. His main groups are herbal and woody, but he uses the flowers and fruits for lover classes. Make the concept of genera.

 He was one of the first botanists to make a herbarium. He made one for Bishop Alfonso Tornabono in 1550-60. It contains 768 varieties of plants, and it still exists!

 Andrea Cesalpino was born in the Italian town Arezzo, Tuscany. He was a physician, philosopher and botanist, and in 1555, he became the director of the botanic garden in Pisa.

 The family Caesalpinioideae is named in his honour.


 Divided plants by their fruit typos. Event the term Genera. Made a herbarium.

Main groups:

1644  Johannes Bodaeus van Stapel (Stapel) (1602-1632) took Theophrastus work a step further, with added  commentaries and drawings, and it was copied the following hundreds of years. Besides from that, there were no innovative ideas in his work.

 Honoured in the genus Stapelia.

 Johannes Bodaeus van Stapel was born in Amsterdam. He worked as a physician and botanist. His illustrated Historia Plantarum was based on Theophrastus work, with a lot of comments, and counted 1187 pages. It was published by his father, after his dead, in 1644.

Drawings and comments.

Frontispiece to the original 1644 version.

Main groups:




 Caspar Bauhin (Gaspard ) (1560–1624) described over 6000 plants in Pinax theatri botanici, 1623, which were 12 books with 72 sections based on a wide range of common characteristics. The classification system was not particularly innovative, using traditional groups such as "trees", "shrubs", and "herbs", and using other characteristics such utilization, for instance grouping spices into the Aromata. He did correctly group grasses, legumes, and several others.
 His most important contribution is in the description of genera and species. He introduced many names of genera that were later adopted by Carl Linnaeus, and remain in use.
 For species, he carefully pruned the descriptions down to as few words as possible; in many cases a single word sufficed as description, thus giving the appearance of a two-part name. However, the single-word description was still a description intended to be diagnostic, not an arbitrarily-chosen name. This might very well have been the inspiration for Carl Linnaeus to event the binomial nomenclature.

 Later cameTheatrum Botanicum in 1658, but only one out of twelve volumes were published. Two more were written, but newer made it to the printer.

 Caspar Bauhin was a Swiss botanist, who was born in Basel, and studied medicine at Padua, Montpellier, and in Germany. He was appointed to a Greek professorship, the chair of anatomy and botany, city physician, professor of the practice of medicine, rector of the university, and dean of his faculty.

 The Bauhinia is named after him and his brother; Johann Bauhin, an other botanist.

 Still: Tree, shrubs or herbs.
 Divided into genera and species. Many genera still in use. Correct groups on grasses, legumes, and several others.  Shorter names.

Main groups:

 In the late 16'th and the 17'th century, the most influential classification schemes were made by John Ray, Augustus Quirinus Rivinus  and Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.  The amount of plants available from herbariums explodes, and a simple but effective system was critical. Andrea Cesalpino idea of dividing by fruits open up for more detailed systems, than just "tree, shrub and herb".







 John Ray (1627-1705) (Wray) listed over 18,000 plant species in his works, the first: Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium from 1659. The 626 plants are listed alphabetically, but a system of classification differing little from Caspar Bauhin's is sketched at the end of the book. In 1670 came Catalogus plantarum Angliae et insularum adjacentium. In 1674, the paper A Discourse on the Seeds of Plants, distinguished between plants with a single seed leaf and those with two such leaves, and he has established the monocot/dicot division (probatly after having read Albertus Magnus (se above). Later same year, he laid down the definition of a species in terms of the structural qualities alone. This is followed up in Methodus plantarum nova 1682 and Historia generalis plantarum in 1686, 1688 and 1704, which described about 6,100 species.

 Some of his subgroups like mustards, mints, legumes and grasses stand today although their names have been changed (he probably also read Caspar Bauhin (se above)). He was the first to use species as the fundamental unit of classification.

John Ray was an English naturalist, born in Black Notley, near Braintree, in the county of Essex. 


 The first monocot and dicot division with that name. First to use species as the fundamental unit of classification.

Main groups:
The first systems:

After 1674:
Division Monocot
Division Dicot

1670  Robert Morison (1620-1683), the first professor of botany at Oxford, published a systematic arrangement of plants (largely on the lines previously suggested by Caesalpinus in 1583) in his Historia Plantarum Oxoniensis, 1670. He divided them into eighteen classes, distinguishing plants according as they were woody or herbaceous, and taking into account the nature of the flowers and fruit. In 1672 came Plantarum Umbelliferarum Distributio Nova, per tabulas cognationis et afflnitatis, ex libro Naturae observata et delecta, Oxon. He continued working till his suddenly death (run over by a carriage) and that left only nine of the fifteen classes of his own system finished.

 Robert Morison was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He took the the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in 1638 in Aberdeen. In 1648, he took a doctor’s degree in Physic at Angers, and in 1650, he became intendant of the ducal gardens at Blois. When he returned to England, he became the king’s physician, and was appointed royal professor of Botany. He was elected the first botanic professor at the university of Oxford.

Dividing into 18/15 classes.

From Historia Plantarum Oxoniensis.

1689  Pierre Magnol (1638-1715) grouped plants into 76 families in his publication Prodromus historiae generalis, in qua familiae pertabulas disponutur  from 1689. He is the first to use the concept of Family, and he used a combination of morphological characters.

 Pierre Magnol was born in  Montpellier, France. He became Professor of Botany and Director of the Royal Botanic Garden of Montpellier, and was the first to publish the concept of plant families as we know them, a natural classification, in which groups of plant with associated common features were described.

 He is honoured in the Magnolia genus and Division.


Concept of plant families.

Main groups:
Division Monocot
Division Dicot


 Augustus Quirinus Rivinus (1652–1723) (August Bachmann) classified plants based on the characters of the flower, and introduced the category of order in Introductio generalis in rem herbariam in 1690. Same year came Ordo Plantarum qvae sunt Flore Irregulari Monopetalo. He was the first to abolish the ancient division of plants into herbs and trees and insisted that the true method of division should be based on the parts of the fructification alone.

 His way of grouping into Genus summum, was later adopted partly by i.e. Tournefort and Linnaeus.

 Augustus Quirinus Rivinus was born in Leipzig, Germany. He studied in Leipzig and Helmstad, and got his M.D. in 1676. In 1691, he became the curator of the Leipzig University medical garden.


 Sorted plants by their flowers. Introduced the category of order.

University of Helmstedt in the 17th century

Main groups: Genus summum

  < 2650 BC-1542                1583-1690                      1694-1789 >