Why do scientists use Latin when they name organisms? -Arielle, New York

Dear Arielle,

Scientists started using Latin back in the Middle Ages (around the 5th century to the 15th century AD). Though people all over the world were naming organisms in different languages, Latin was used by a group of scholars in Europe. They translated the commonly used names from some different languages into Latin. These names were often long and cumbersome, and included numerous descriptive terms.

This naming process was simplified into a two word, or binomial, naming system in the mid-16th century to mid-17th century by a group of naturalists known as herbalists. In 1735, the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus formalized the use of binomial nomenclature. He grouped closely related organisms and introduced the modern classification groups: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Other scientists liked this system, and so adopted it, and it has continued to present times.

Sincerely,

Dr. Universe

 “Felis catus” (that’s the scientific word for cat!).