Video clip – The binomial system of classification


This video clip from the BBC TV series Botany: A Blooming History introduces the binomial system of classification, through the story of pioneering scientist Carl Linnaeus.

When Carl Linnaeus was established as a Professor of Botany in Uppsala, he became aware of the limitations of the plant naming system which was currently in use. The names were based on the physical characteristics of the plants and were long and unwieldy. Linnaeus developed a simple two-part naming system. The first part of the name indicates the group to which the particular plant belongs (now known as the genus), and the second part indicates the species. He published a book naming over 7,700 species using this binomial system. The names became the standard way by which all scientists can identify species, and communicate with each other about them.

An introduction to classification. Use as a starter for a lesson on the different levels of naming and classification of living organisms. It can also be used to consider the mechanisms by which science can move forward and the need for standardisation systems to enable effective communication of ideas. It is an interesting discussion point for students to consider why all of the names are based on the latin form, and to look at the names for some newly discovered species which have been given names based on who found them etc.

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