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A reevaluation of the history of biological systematics that discusses the formative years of the so-called natural system of classification in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Shows how classifications came to be treated as conventions; systematic practice was not linked to clearly articulated theory; there was general confusion over the "shape" of nature; botany, elements of natural history, and systematics were conflated; and systematics took a position near the bottom of the hierarchy of sciences.
"Stevens has done the history of [biological systematics] much service by providing both a new commentary on this neglected scientist and the translations of Jussieu's early works."