The Swede Carl Linnaeus, a father of modern taxonomy, “spent much of his leisure time penning long and flattering portraits of himself, declaring that there had never “been a greater botanist or zoologist…””
Today the world has about 10,000 active taxonomists. It takes eight to ten years to train a good taxonomist. It is commonly believed that the world has a severe shortage of taxonomists, although economists might challenge the use of the word “shortage” in this context.
Logging a new species costs about $2000 per species.
Each year about fifteen thousand new species are recorded. Insects alone offer possibly as many as 100 million undiscovered species.
As of 2002, there were no full-time taxonomists in Africa.
I don’t think it follows, as scientist Koen Maes suggests, that “It’s not a biodiversity crisis, it’s a taxonomist crisis!” Still, we know less about species and their numbers than I had thought.
All this is taken from Bill Bryson’s recent and entertaining A Short History of Nearly Everything, chapter 23. Thanks to Yesim Yilmaz for the pointer.