Carl von Linné

1707 – 1778

Carl von Linne‚ (or Linné; Carolus Linneaus in Latin) was born on 23 May 1707 in Sweden. He died at the age of 71, on 10 January 1778. He was the natural scientist, who developed the basis for today’s taxonomy.

His family had already planned young Linné’s future: A life in the service of the church, just like his father and his grandfather on his mother’s side. However, he showed very little interest in this career, his interests lay in botany. This impressed the local doctor and so Carl was sent to study at the university of Uppsala.

During this time, Carl von Linne became convinced that the pistils and stamen of the flower were the basis for classification of plants. He wrote a small dissertation, which earned him the position of extraordinary professor. In 1732, the Academy of Science in Uppsala financed an expedition to Lappland, which before then was almost completely unknown. The result of this expedition was a book published in 1737 on plant life in Lapland, Flora Laponica.

After that, Von Linne moved to the mainland. During his stay in Holland, he met Jan Frederic Gronovius and showed him a draft of his work on taxonomy, the Systema Naturae. In this draft, he had replaced the compilation definitions, such as physalis emno ramosissme ramis angulosis glabis foliis dentoserrtis with systematic double- barrel names that are still in use today, e.g. Physalis angulata. That first name is the name of the species, the second name of the variety. Higher groups were created in a simple and orderly manner.

In naming, Linne trusted in common sense. In this way, he named the human being, Homo sapiens, the knowing human being. He also described a second human species, Homo tryglodytes, respectively Homo nocturnus, caveman, by which he probably meant the previously described chimpanzee. Mammals were named after the mammary gland, Mammelia, as he wished to encourage women to breast-feed their children.

In 1739, Carl von Linne‚ married Sahra Morea, the daughter of a doctor. Two years later, he was given the chair of medicine at Uppsala, which he, however, soon changed for the chair of botany. He continued with his classifications and extended it to animals as well as minerals. Even though this method of classifying of minerals sounds strange to us today, 100 years before Darwin’s theory of evolution, it was an easy way to catagorize the whole of nature.

1775 Carl von Linne‚ was knighted for his services. His botanical garden can still be visited today in Uppsala.

As Linnaeus was born in May 1707, the ever great National Geographic published an article on him and his taxonomy:
National Geographic – Carl von Linne

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