Carolus Linnaeus: The Father of Modern Taxonomy

By Branden Holmes (Surroundx) on November 28, 2010

Carl Linnaeus (commonly called Carolus Linnaeus) was born on the 23rd of May, 1707, in Rashult, Smaland, Sweden. He was the first of five children born to Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus and Christina Linnaeus (nee Brodersonius). His interest in flowers was apparently innate; so much so that he would calm down when upset after being given a flower as a child. He attended a grammar school for seven years, not doing terribly well owing to his infatuation with plants. But his teacher in his final year, who also happened to be the headmaster of the grammar school, Daniel Lannerus, had already noticed the young Linnaeus’ passion for plants. He gave Linnaeus both control of his garden, and introduced him to the state doctor, Dr Johan Rothman, who was also a teacher at Vaxjo Gymnasium. He was transferred to Vaxjo Gymnasium in 1724. His father Nils visited the Gymnasium in Carolus’ last year there, where his father was told by nearly all of the professors that he would not fulfil his father’s hope and become a priest. But Dr Rothman offered to take the young man under his wing, give him a home, and teach him both botany and medicine, which Carolus’ father gratefully accepted.

After studying at both Lund and Uppsala universities, and transferring between benefactors, Linnaeus decided to try to replace French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort’s classification system of plants. In the process of doing so he wrote a number of books, and based his classification system on the number of pistils and stamens that each species of flowering plant possessed. When this task was completed he sought to journey to Lappland in northern Sweden, in order to discover new species of plants and animals. He started the trek on the 22nd of May 1732 and returned on the 10th of October of that same year after a six-month journey. (paragraph). Linnaeus moved to Holland in order to acquire his doctor’s degree in medicine from the University of Harderwiik, which he did in under a week. Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae was published in the latter half of 1735, funded by two wealthy benefactors: Jan Frederik Gronovius, a botanist, and Isaac Lawson, a Scottish lawyer. Shortly afterwards, on the 24th of September of that year, he became both the curator and physician of George Clifford III’s botanical gardens in Hartecamp. And in July 1736 George Clifford III paid for Linnaeus to travel to England both for personal benefit and with a view to bringing back new and rare plant specimens. While Linnaeus was there he conversed with many top gardeners and promoted his new botanical classification system. Upon returning to Hartecamp, Linnaeus stayed there until the autumn of 1737, after which time he returned to Sweden, arriving on the 28th of June, 1738. (paragraph). Upon arriving at home he wasted no time in becoming engaged to Sara Elisabeth Moraea, marrying her almost exactly a year later, on the 26th of June, 1739. They had 7 children together, two of whom sadly did not live even to three years old. In May of 1741 Linnaeus became the Professor of Medicine at Uppsala University, but he soon swapped positions with his colleague Nils Rosen, thus taking on the role of botany and natural history instead. He wrote Species Plantarum which was published in 1753, universally recognized as the start of botanical nomenclature. And in 1758 the tenth edition of Linnaeus’ great book Systema Naturae was published, thus officially starting faunal nomenclature. In 1757 Linnaeus was granted nobility, but was not given the powers that the title demanded until 1761. He then became known as Carl von Linne. He died in 1778.

Related articles:
Carl Linnaeus, Carl von Linne, Carolus Linnaeus, Taxonomy

About Branden Holmes
I am an amateur evolutionist interested in the theoretical side of the subject.

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