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Carolus Linnaeus
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Carolus Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus (later, Carl von Linné) (May 23, 1707 - January 10, 1778) was a Swedish scientist who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of taxonomy. He is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology (see History of ecology).

Table of contents
1 His life
2 Linnaean taxonomy
3 Other accomplishments
4 See also
5 Bibliography
6 External links

His life

Carolus Linnaeus was born at Stenbrohult, in the province of Smalandia in southern Sweden. As a boy Linnaeus was to be groomed for life as a churchman, as his father and maternal grandfather were, but he showed little enthusiasm for the profession. His interest in Botany, though, impressed a physician from his town and he was sent to study at Lund University, transferring to Uppsala University after one a year.

During this time Linnaeus became convinced that in the stamens and pistils of flowers lay the basis for the classification of plants, and he wrote a short work on the subject that earned him the position of adjunct professor. In 1732 the Academy of Sciences at Uppsala financed his expedition to explore Laplandia, then virtually unknown. The result of this was the Flora Laponica published in 1737.

Thereafter Linnaeus moved to the continent. While in the Netherlands he met Jan Frederik Gronovius and showed him a draft of his work on taxonomy, the Systema Naturae. In it, the unwieldy descriptions mostly used at the time —physalis amno ramosissime ramis angulosis glabris foliis dentoserratis—were replaced by the concise and now familiar genus-species names—Physalis angulata. Higher taxa were constructed and arranged in a simple and orderly manner. Although the system now known as binomial nomenclature was developed by the Bauhin brothers almost 200 years earlier, Linnaeus may be said to have popularized it within the scientific community.

Linnaeus named taxa in ways that personally struck him as common-sensical; for example, human beings are Homo sapiens (see sapience), but he also described a second human species, Homo troglodytes ("cave-dwelling man", by which he meant the chimpanzee currently most often placed in a different genus as Pan troglodytes). The group "mammalia" are named for their mammary glands because one of the defining characteristics of mammals is that they nurse their young. (Of all the features distinguishing the mammals from other animals, Linnaeus may have picked this one because of his views on the importance of natural motherhood. He campaigned against the practice of wet-nursing, declaring that even aristocratic women should be proud to nurse their own children.)

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In 1739 Linnaeus married Sara Morea, daughter of a physician. He ascended to the chair of medicine at Uppsala two years later, soon exchanging it for the chair of Botany. He continued to work on his classifications, extending them to the kingdom of animals and the kingdom of minerals. The last strikes us as somewhat odd, but the theory of evolution was still a long time away—and indeed, the Lutheran Linnaeus would have been horrified by it. Linnaeus was only attempting a convenient way of categorizing the elements of the natural world. He was knighted in 1755, taking the name, Carl von Linné.

Linnaean taxonomy

Although taxonomists, in almost any biological field, are familiar with the work of Carolus Linnaeus, his contribution to taxonomy goes far beyond contributing so-called scientific names to many of the world's plants and animals. Linnaeus developed, during the great 18th century expansion of natural history knowledge, what became known as the Linnaean taxonomy: the system of scientific classification now widely used in the biological sciences. The Linnaean system classified living things within a hierarchy, starting with domains or kingdoms. Kingdoms were divided into phyla (singular: phylum)—for animals; the term "divisions" is used for plants. Phyla were divided into classes, and they, in turn, into orders, families, genera (singular: genus), and species (singular: species). Groups of organisms at any of these ranks are now called taxa, or phyla, or taxonomic groups. His groupings were based upon shared physical characteristics. Although the groupings themselves have been significantly changed since Linnaeus' conception, he is credited with establishing the idea of a hierarchical structure of classification based upon observable characteristics.

Other accomplishments

See also


External links