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Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. Originally designed by Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th Century for the classification of living things, taxonomy is now applied in a much wider sense, to include things and ideas, even.

The word “taxonomy” is from the Greek “taxis”, meaning arrangement or division and “nomos”, meaning law.

The resulting catalog is used to provide a conceptual framework for discussion, analysis, or information retrieval. In theory, the development of a good taxonomy takes into account the importance of separating elements of a group (taxon) into subgroups (taxa) that are mutually exclusive, unambiguous, and taken together, include all possibilities. In practice, a good taxonomy should be simple, easy to remember, and easy to use.

Alpha taxonomy is defined by classifying living organisms according to their evolutionary relationships (phylogeny). This usually includes describing, identification, naming (nomenclature), and classification (a hierarchy of group relationships). Taxonomy may also be called “systematics” or “pylogenetics”.

Put simply, Carolus Linnaeus’ taxonomy is the study of biological diversity.

Of the 1.5 million species named, most of these are insects (750,000) other invertebrates (250,000), plants (260,000), and algae, bacteria, fungi, protozoa (220,000). In comparison there are known 40,000 species of fish, 9,600 birds, and only 4,500 mammals. Estimates of actual species diversity range from 4 million to 100 million species – almost all of the yet-to-be-discovered species are microscopic (many are bacteria).

It has been argued that evolution is the core of modern taxonomy. A taxonomy might also be a simple organization of kinds of things into groups, or even an alphabetical list. However, the term “vocabulary” is more appropriate for such a list. In current usage within "Knowledge Management", taxonomies are seen as less broad than ontologies, as ontologies apply a larger variety of relation types (ideas).




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