Skip to content

Moving Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Cities

A popular new study claims to lump cities into four types. But the real science of cities is heading toward a more complex understanding of how urban spaces evolve.
relates to Moving Toward an Evolutionary Theory of Cities
Mark Byrnes/CityLab

Before Darwin, science tried to make sense of the natural world through a slew of systems of classification. Linnaeus' taxonomy, for example, grouped living things together based on their appearance, or "morphology," in kingdoms, classes, orders, genera, and species.

"All taxa show relationships on all sides like the countries on a map of the world," Linnaeus wrote, grasping threads of evolutionary theory—which is to say, that everything on earth descends from a common relative, and that the divergence of life, driven by natural selection, can be traced through physical traits (and later, genetics).