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Happy Earth Day! Flora de Filipinas

Stephen Jay Gould writes in Crossing Over: Where Art and Science Meet (2000)

The much maligned practice of taxonomy, the ordering and classification of organisms, takes a culturally imposed backseat to the more interventionist and generalizing style of experimentation and quantification in science. But taxonomy should be viewed as one of the most fundamental, and most noble, of scientific pursuits – for what can be more basic than the parsing of nature’s rich and confusing complexity? Our categories, moreover, record our modes of thought, and taxonomy therefore teaches us as much about our mental functioning as about nature’s variety.

We must taxonomize to make sense of anything diverse and complex. We therefore classify our activities and professions in various ways, just as we order other organisms in Linnaean standards.

Flora de Filipinas by Fr. Francisco Manuel Blanco

The “grand” (monumental) edition of Father Manuel Blanco’s Flora de Filipinas (1877; 1880) is one of the Lopez Library’s highlights. During the 1883 World’s Fair in Amsterdam, his drawings won the prize of honor for science. Fr. Blanco’s floral encyclopedia, “the Spanish Linneo,” consisted of four volumes of colored plates printed in Manila and two volumes of color plates printed in Barcelona.


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