systematics V taxonomy

John McNeill johnm at ROM.ON.CA
Thu Sep 5 19:28:13 CDT 2002

Mary Barkworth's "take" is well-supported historically.  The definitions of systematics and taxonomy in Simpson's Principles of Animal Taxonomy (? title) (Columbia UP 195?) and in Davis & Heywood's "Principles of Angiosperm Taxonomy" (1963) are those from which this "take" derives.  In that understanding, taxonomy, the study of the principles and practice of classification is a subset of systematics, the study of populations of organisms and of any and all relationships between them -- if my late night -- actually early morning -- memory of those once definitive works serves me well.  John McNeill
John McNeill, Director Emeritus, Royal Ontario Museum;
    Honorary Associate ,Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
Mailing address:  Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR, Scotland, U.K.
Telephone:    +44-131-248-2912;  fax: +44-131-248-2901
Home office:  +44-162-088-0651;  fax: +44-162-088-0342
e-mail: jmcneill at (johnm at is also read)

>>> Mary Barkworth <Mary at BIOLOGY.USU.EDU> 09/05/02 19:01 PM >>>
My flippant response is that systematics was introduced because taxonomy
was viewed as ancient, archaic and dead and systematics was new,
experimental, more open-minded, and more scientific.  Name changes are
important, particularly in countries where PR dominates.

Having said that, my take is that taxonomy slants towards identifying
groups (taxa) - but in doing so should consider all relevant information
(which requires trying to understand information from many different
fields) whereas systemaics slants more to understanding relationships
and evolutionary processes, again employing and evaluating data from a
wide range of disciplines.  

In other words, I think that there is a difference in interpretation,
but I like to think of them as reflecting different emphases rather than
different disciplines. 

So now everyone has something to shoot at.  

-----Original Message-----
From: Susan B. Farmer [mailto:sfarmer at GOLDSWORD.COM]
Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2002 3:01 PM
Subject: systematics V taxonomy

Several grad students were sitting around discussing/debating the
differences between systematics and taxonomy.  Are there *really*
any differences, or is the distincting mostly semantic?

Susan, curious in Tennessee
Susan Farmer
sfarmer at
Botany Department, University of Tennessee

More information about the Taxacom mailing list