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Tuesday 13 June 2017: Turning 14 and Encountering an Old Acquaintance

Friday was my 14th anniversary on Wikipedia. I gave myself the long-service award.[IMAGE = Barnstar]

It is a largely mythical and wholly virtual template for my user page, but I suppose mithril is always worth having.

More my kind of thing was the encounter. While documenting on Friday the WikiFactMine use of dictionaries, I stumbled upon Cyprian Kinner, about whom I was writing five years ago. This was a definite bonus, since there is something of a missing-link feeling about his role, and I was glad to learn more. Born in Silesia, he was an itinerant figure who died in 1649. He was a precursor in particular to John Wilkins, influential  around 1660 in founding the Royal Society. As assistant to Comenius, the educational reformer, Kinner can also be linked to the Hartlib Circle.

Kinner proposed a pioneering system of botanical classification. Its principles can be explained in a few sentences. Vowels and consonants are to have place value, and to be treated differently. If we want to use the seven colours of the rainbow, we could take the seven consonants b, c, d, f, g, h, j; if on the other hand we want to count, so three leaves for the clover leaf, we would use i as the third vowel. Then words starting bi- would all refer to red and three-leaved plants.

This system of Kinner’s came a century before that of Carl Linnaeus, which is more tree-like (and was a major advance in botany and other life sciences). Kinner, however, has his claim to be the founder of faceted classification, which is one part of his idea. The second and third postings in this series revealed some of the differences between Linnaeus (tree) and Kinner (several dimensions). The other part is systematic construction of words, a first step towards Esperanto which Wilkins took up, and then Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. We come full circle. (Quite incidentally, some local interest. Wilkins was head of Wadham College, Oxford and then Trinity College, Cambridge. He was not the first to collect the complete Oxbridge set, though this is often said. Look up Walter Haddon on Wikipedia, who moved the other way in 1552.)

And so how does this fit in with ContentMine? Searching text can be done with facets. I’m currently looking at triples connecting genes and proteins, these being in triples as mentioned last time. Property P688 on Wikidata makes up a triple when a gene encodes a protein. We hope that fact mining for these triples, using gene and protein dictionaries, will prove fruitful. 

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