Linnaean classification

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (2015)
English science historian Susannah Gibson’s 2015 Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?, goes onto the inside look at the implications of dividing nature into three partitions; which conflicts, e.g. with Jacob Berzelius’s 1808 two-natures view of chemistry (organic/inorganic), or Goethe’s one nature view (1809) of all, via he metamorphology theory of form development. [2]
In classifications, Linnaean classification refers to the tripartite divide of nature, devised by Carl Linnaeus, into: mineral (see: mineral life), plant (see: plant life; vegetable life), and animal (see: animal life).

In 1735, Carl Linnaeus, in his System of Nature: Through the Three Kingdoms of Nature, divided nature into the following three kingdom conceptualizations:

“Stones grow; plants grow and live; animals grow, live, and feel.”

This quote seems to have been passed on over the next century, verbatim, with little reflection, until about the mid-19th century, when people started questioning the “stones grow” assertion; or for example, to what extent plants can "feel". The following is a rendition of a Linnaean-like animal, vegetable, mineral divide, each of them alive and intelligent, in some sense: (Ѻ)

Animal vegetable mineral (labeled)

In 1758, Linnaeus, in the 10th edition (Ѻ) of his System of Nature, introduced the binomial nomenclature for animals, something he had already done for plants in his 1753 Species Plantarum.

In 1808, this tri-division nature model, via Swiss chemist Jacob Berzelius, was reformulated into a two-division model of the organic and inorganic divide, in chemistry.

In 2015, Susannah Gibson, in her Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? How Eighteenth Century Science Disrupted the Natural Order, gives a history of the inside controversies of the three kingdom divide model; the abstract of which is as follows: [2]

“Since the time of Aristotle, there had been a clear divide between the three kingdoms of animal, vegetable, and mineral. But by the eighteenth century, biological experiments, and the wide range of new creatures coming to Europe from across the world, challenged these neat divisions. Abraham Trembley found that freshwater polyps grew into complete individuals when cut. This shocking discovery raised deep questions: was it a plant or an animal? And this was not the only conundrum. What of coral? Was it a rock or a living form? Did plants have sexes, like animals? The boundaries appeared to blur. And what did all this say about the nature of life itself? Were animals and plants soul-less, mechanical forms, as Descartes suggested? The debates raging across science played into some of the biggest and most controversial issues of Enlightenment Europe. In this book, Susannah Gibson explains how a study of pond slime could cause people to question the existence of the soul; observation of eggs could make a man doubt that god had created the world; how the discovery of the Venus fly-trap was linked to the French Revolution; and how interpretations of fossils could change our understanding of the earth's history. Using rigorous historical research, and a lively and readable style, this book vividly captures the big concerns of eighteenth-century science. And the debates concerning the divisions of life did not end there; they continue to have resonances in modern biology.”


1. (a) Linnaeus, Carolus. (1751). Philosophia Botanica (translator: Frans A. Statleu) (§:Introduction, 1-4). Publisher.
(b) Anderson, Margaret J. (2009). Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification (pgs. 52-53). Enslow Publishers.
2. Gibson, Susannah. (2015). Animal, Vegetable, Mineral? How Eighteenth Century Science Disrupted the Natural Order (abs). OUP Oxford.

External links
Linnaean taxonomy – Wikipedia.

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