The New Systematics

The New Systematics

The New Systematics

The New Systematics

Excerpt

TO hope for the new systematics is to imply no disrespect for the old. It has been largely the rapid progress made by classical taxonomy itself that has necessitated the introduction of new methods of analysis, new approaches to synthesis. The very success of taxonomists in collecting material from all parts of an organism's range, in separating and naming groups, and of drawing ever finer distinctions has thrown up a number of general questions which must be answered if taxonomy is to find principles which will enable it to cope with the vast burden of its own data, and to advance to the status of a fully fledged sub-science in which observation and theory, deduction and experiment, all contribute to progress.

Meanwhile the rise of other branches of biology has been exerting a profound effect on the outlook of taxonomists. Genetics, cytology, ecology, selection theory, field natural history, palaeontology, even developmental physiology--they all are proving to be relevant to this or that aspect of taxonomy. In addition the intensive pursuit of practical aims by such branches of science as mycology and medical and agricultural entomology has revealed taxonomic facts which inevitably were hidden from the museum workers by whom classical taxonomy was built up.

The result has been that the outlook for taxonomy has altogether changed. Even a quarter of a century ago it was possible to think of systematics as a specialized, rather narrow branch of biology, on the whole empirical and lacking in unifying principles, indispensable as a basis for all biological workers, but without much general interest or application to other branches of their science. To-day, on the other hand, systematics has become one of the focal points of biology. Here we can check . . .

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