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Aristotle was the first person to classify organisms.
Later, Carl Linnaeus introduced his system of binomial nomenclature for the classification of species.
To survive in most ecosystems, life must often adapt to a wide range of conditions.
Some microorganisms, called extremophiles, thrive in physically or geochemically extreme environments that are detrimental to most other life on Earth.
Though currently only known on Earth, life need not be restricted to it, and many scientists speculate in the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Throughout history, there have been many attempts to define what is meant by "life" and many theories on the properties and emergence of living things, such as materialism, the belief that everything is made out of matter and that life is merely a complex form of it; hylomorphism, the belief that all things are a combination of matter and form, and the form of a living thing is its soul; spontaneous generation, the belief that life repeatedly emerges from non-life; and vitalism, a now largely discredited hypothesis that living organisms possess a "life force" or "vital spark".Life is a characteristic that distinguishes physical entities that do have biological processes, such as signaling and self-sustaining processes, from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased, or because they never had such functions and are classified as inanimate.Various forms of life exist, such as plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria.Virus self-assembly within host cells has implications for the study of the origin of life, as it may support the hypothesis that life could have started as self-assembling organic molecules.
In more detail, according to physicists such as John Bernal, Erwin Schrödinger, Eugene Wigner, and John Avery, life is a member of the class of phenomena that are open or continuous systems able to decrease their internal entropy at the expense of substances or free energy taken in from the environment and subsequently rejected in a degraded form.
The criteria can at times be ambiguous and may or may not define viruses, viroids, or potential artificial life as "living".