“Taxonomy” is an ancient scientific practice. It means to find names for things. In naming things, you try to figure out how sets of things are related to one another, so that each, unique item will not only have a unique name, but also a reference to the others to which it relates.
Taxonomy creates a hierarchy of inheritance, from general down to specific and back: A giant tree, on which there is a unique place for every item, like the leaves at the ends of twigs at the ends of branches connected to a trunk and running deep into the earth.
In order to build a taxonomy in the scientific sense, you have to create a framework that tells you how to name a thing. This is the “schema.” The most famous schema was created by Carl Linnaeus, an 18th Century Swedish botanist, to categorize and name life on Earth. It has eight, major taxonomic ranks:
Domain -> Kingdom -> Phylum (botany)/Division (zoology) ->Class -> Order -> Family -> Genus ->Species
If you’re REALLY geeky, you can lay it out in Latin:
Regio ->Regnum ->Phylum/Divisio -> Classis ->Ordo -> Familia->Genus -> Species
There are only certain terms you can put into those fields. Imagine drop-down boxes from which you MUST choose. Let’s try it on ourselves, humans:
When the terms don’t apply at a certain point, then you get to pick a new term, which at that point, creates a new branch. If you find a new item in nature, something that hasn’t been named before, you get to name it yourself, but you will use the same set of terms down the tree as far as you can to demonstrate your new species’s relationship to all other life.
- Taxonomy: The New Hip (digitalassetmanagement.org.uk)
- From Sumo to Samurai: getting your taxonomies fighting fit: Part 1 (digitalassetmanagement.org.uk)
- 8 Things You Need to Know About How Taxonomy Can Improve Search (digitalassetmanagement.org.uk)
- When it comes to conservation, common names count | George C McGavin (guardian.co.uk)
- Skills of a Classy Taxonomist (digitalassetmanagement.org.uk)