taxonomy vs. systematics

Donna I. Ford-Werntz diford at WVNVM.WVNET.EDU
Fri Oct 30 16:00:51 EST 1998

I appreciated everyone's thoughts in response to Martha's question of
'Botany' vs. 'Plant Biology.'  An analogous issue that I wish to propose
concerns the course 'Plant taxonomy' vs. 'Plant systematics.'  At another
school, I taught the former, using a text (Jones & Luchsinger) of the
latter title.  At my current institution I inherited the course name to
match the book.  In both cases, I covered a combination of plant families
and topics relating to classification, nomenclature, identification, and
phylogeny (including theories of population biology and evolution).  I
consider the two terms to be essentially synonomous, although I believe
that 'taxonomy' would be identified as the "classic," older, and (by some)
more narrow discipline.  In that sense, 'systematics' is a better name for
the class, especially with a broad focus like my course has.  However, I
found (to my amazement) that some students (perhaps the same who are
ignorant of the meaning of 'botany') think that the subject of systematics
is growth, development, and/or physiology.  I am interested in hearing
other experiences and interpretations of this issue.  Thanks in advance!   

Donna I. Ford-Werntz     West Virginia Univ.                                    
Herbarium Curator (WVA)  Box 6057                                               
Asst. Prof. Biol.        Morgantown, WV 26506                                   
425 Brooks Hall          (304)293-5201 X2549                                    
email: diford at    fax: (304)293-6363                                     
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