In Andrew Hamilton (ed.), The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics. University of California Press. pp. 213-244 (2014)

Beckett Sterner
Arizona State University
What does it look like when a group of scientists set out to re-envision an entire field of biology in symbolic and formal terms? I analyze the founding and articulation of Numerical Taxonomy between 1950 and 1970, the period when it set out a radical new approach to classification and founded a tradition of mathematics in systematic biology. I argue that introducing mathematics in a comprehensive way also requires re-organizing the daily work of scientists in the field. Numerical taxonomists sought to establish a mathematical method for classification that was universal to every type of organism, and I argue this intrinsically implicated them in a qualitative re-organization of the work of all systematists. I also discuss how Numerical Taxonomy’s re-organization of practice became entrenched across systematic biology even as opposing schools produced their own competing mathematical methods. In this way, the structure of the work process became more fundamental than the methodological theories that motivated it.
Keywords History and Philosophy of Science  Philosophy of Biology  Statistics  Numerical Taxonomy  Classification  Problem Structures  Problem Solving  Systematics  Phenetics  Herbert Simon
Categories (categorize this paper)
Buy the book Find it on
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics.Peter Galison (ed.) - 1997 - University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

View all 14 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Moving Past the Systematics Wars.Beckett Sterner & Scott Lidgard - 2018 - Journal of the History of Biology 51 (1):31-67.
“I would sooner die than give up”: Huxley and Darwin's deep disagreement.Mary P. Winsor - 2021 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-36.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Systematics and the Darwinian Revolution.Kevin De Queiroz - 1988 - Philosophy of Science 55 (2):238-259.
The Role of Theories in Biological Systematics.L. D. - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (2):221-238.
Structure, Function, and Protein Taxonomy.William Goodwin - 2011 - Biology and Philosophy 26 (4):533-545.
A Truly Taxonomic Revolution? Numerical Taxonomy 1957-1970.K. Vernon - 2001 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 32 (2):315-341.
Rational Taxonomy and the Natural System.Mae-Wan Ho & Peter T. Saunders - 1993 - Acta Biotheoretica 41 (4):289-304.


Added to PP index

Total views
722 ( #10,351 of 2,505,154 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
43 ( #20,468 of 2,505,154 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes