Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Scientist, philosopher, and tutor to Alexander the Great who financed a Great Zoological Expedition that provided many taxa for study. Aristotle provided the first systematic scheme of nature, with humans at the top of a crude 500species Scala Naturae, i.e. a teleological scheme constructed upon the phenetic principle of classification. His scheme was refined into a utilitarian medieval product that was developed by Leibniz into the Great Chain of Being in the seventeenth century. Aristotle distinguished between the individual, the species, and the genus (although he meant by genus what modern taxonomists mean by class, i.e. birds vs. fishes). He supported the idea of geocentricity. He described the barbary ape (Macaca sylvanus), not as a hominoid, but as a monkey. He commented on Aethiopian-white matings, noting that on continued mixing the descendents were no longer Aethiopian.

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