When thinking about organizing, you likely don’t consider it to be world changing or revolutionary. However, the history books would suggest differently. For example, there are two scientists who reorganized information and created organizational systems that allowed humans to make significant advancements in the fields of science and technology.
Carl von Linnaeus (1707-1778) was not the first scientist to recognize that different species could be grouped together based on some common characteristics. However, until Linnaeus’s time, scientists arbitrarily gave the species they classified complicated Latin names that they changed whenever they wished, depending on what other species they were classifying at the time. This meant that two different scientists could be using different names for the exact same species.
In 1735, Linnaeus published the revolutionary book Systema Naturae. It outlined his scheme for classifying all known and yet-to-be-discovered life forms. His system was simple to understand and apply, and it could be easily modified to accommodate changes and new developments. Linnaeus’s method of organization was accepted as the scientific standard by the early 1800s.
In the early 1800s, scientists attempted to organize chemical elements by listing them in order of atomic mass, but that method didn’t adequately explain the relationships between the elements. And, scientists like Dmitri Mendeleev (1834-1907) realized that there was a recurring pattern relating the physical and chemical properties of elements to their atomic number — it wasn’t chaotic.
In 1869, Mendeleev re-arranged the elements. He moved them from a list into a table. He placed the elements into horizontal rows in order of their atomic number and placed those with similar properties into vertical columns. By organizing the elements in this way, Mendeleev allowed scientists to classify, systematize, and compare all the many different forms of chemical behaviour.
In science classrooms all over the world, posters of his Periodic Table of the Elements hang on the wall.
Organizing can change the world. And, although organizing your wardrobe or kitchen cupboards may not win you a Nobel Prize, it just may make your life a little easier.