Carl Linnaeus was the first scientist to create a theory of classification for living organisms. Scientific names for species had already existed, but they were often long and there was no orderly list of species that made sense. Between 1753 and the year of his death, Linneaus created a classification scheme still used today which groups organisms into eight ranks based on their physical characteristics. He also created the concept of binomial nomenclature, which gives a Latin name to an organism based on its two most specialized ranks, the genus and the species.
Brains must be able to classify, or they can’t work at all. Even a very simple organism must be able to recognize danger and food. So the basic answer is classification started when the first brains started, a half billion years ago.
Often when people think of modern classification, they think of the Linnaeus scheme, because it’s widely used, and it relates to evolution. But this scheme is being modified, and there are other schemes for animals that classify according to something else besides who an animal’s ancestor was. Also, there never has been a satisfactory scheme for plants, creating one that can be widely used has been an ongoing project with academics and scientists around the world in the last few years.
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