Tuesday, June 24, 2014

And the winner of Wikipedia's influence list is … an 18th century botanist. Hear hear

Article: And the winner of Wikipedia's influence list is … an 18th century botanist. Hear hear

I really admire Linnaeus; definitely a "personal hero." Binomial nomenclature isn't even obvious today as the answer to the question, "How do we name organisms in such a way that all scientists find useful?" And yet it was a simple, elegant, and powerful solution to the complicated naming schemes that pre-existed his.

His second, world-class accomplish was to invent the classification scheme, grouping like species together (Kingdom, phylum (or division for plants), class, etc.) The system was used successfully for over a century. Then Darwin came along and Linnaeus's groupings of "like species" became Darwin's "related species." "Like species" were alike because they were all related; that is, descended from a common ancestor. It was a powerful confirmation of Darwin's ideas. (And, yes, I am a Christian.)

As side notes: Google's algorithm has to be suspect. It misses both Jesus and Mohammed. Either one rates higher for "top influence." The previous version of the algorithm had Hitler, Madonna, and Michael Jackson on top. So it needs some work to reflect reality. Unless, of course, you define reality as a "21st century encyclopedia."

It is especially ironic because the word, "algorithm," is derived from an Arabic word, al-khuwarizmi, after an Islamic mathematician.

And the article gets his name wrong, calling him Carl Linnaeus. His original name was Karl von Linne. He gave himself a latinized, binomial name (just like he gave to plants), Carolus Linnaeus. I am not certain why Wikipedia gives his name as "Carl".

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