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What is binomial nomenclature?

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Quick Answer

Binomial nomenclature is the system by which scientists who study living things classify these living things and give them universally recognized, scientific names. These names are used by scientists all around the world, regardless of what the living thing is called in the scientist's local language.

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This allows scientists to write about an organism even if the organism has no common name in their language (as with many microbes), and discuss it with others who speak an entirely different language.

Binomial nomenclature was created by the famous scientist Carl Linnaeus, according to the University of California Museum of Paleontology. Linnaeus set out to name and classify every living thing known to the world at the time because he believed that by setting order to nature, he could discover the natural order intended by God. His system is also called "binary nomenclature," because he gave every organism he studied two names: a genus name and a species name. The genus name denoted which group an organism belonged to, but the species name was unique to each individual organism in the group. Both names were typically in Latin, a Latinized modern language, or in Greek. At the time, Latin and Greek were studied throughout Europe regardless of what the local people spoke, so knowing those languages allowed scholars to communicate across language barriers.

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