Answer: Not Lamarck(!)

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Answer: Not Lamarck(!)
Answer: Not Lamarck(!)

OK, that’s the answer, what was the question? Who invented the dichotomous key for identification? Well, as anybody who has taught students about keys and their use as tools for plant ID (or even for animals if you must!) will probably agree, the consensus is that the oft-derided French former botanist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck is credited with that honour, in 1778 (although curiously – presciently? – this factoid is not mentioned on Lamarck’s ‘official’ biography on Wikipedia). Well, Lawrence Griffing in his beautifully illustrated Special Paper makes a compelling case (this Englishman is convinced, anyway!) that the real credit belongs to Brit Richard Waller , in … 1689! I’m sure the French may not agree, but in that time-honoured British tradition of compromise (and trying to maintain some semblance of cordiale in the oft-strained trans-manche entente), how about this: Lamarck keeps credit for the first text-based dichot key, but Waller gets the kudos for the first image-based one?


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Phytophactor,

    Aha! Sorry, not imitation as you suggest (I was unaware of your post on this subject until your response to the post on the AoB Blog), but a case of great minds..? However, having now seen your post with its nice images, and in the spirit of maintaining that special relationship between our two countries – perhaps we can agree to compromise along the lines suggested in my post – you with your picture images and me with my ‘textual image’..?

    All the best!

    P Cuttings

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