SUMMARY: Scientific classification is virtually a branch of mathematics which describes the overall similarities of organisms. Catalogues do not do this. Many schemes of bacterial taxonomy are not classifications but catalogues. Similarity is best measured by the number of features in common between two strains, while division into taxa is based on correlated features. Other criteria for these two basic ideas are unsatisfactory and cause confusion, and there seems to be no logical reason why any one feature should be given greater weight in classification than any other. Hierarchical systems are a practical necessity, and simple mathematical methods are useful in bacterial classification. It is not necessary to know the evolutionary history of organisms in order to classify them in a scientific manner.


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