o The Frog Blog: Carl Linnaeus by Lorcan Maule

Friday, 9 October 2009

Carl Linnaeus by Lorcan Maule


Carl Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné, was a Swedish botanist and a zoologist and the founder of the binomial nomenclature system of classification. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology. Linnaeus was born in the countryside of Smaland, in southern Sweden. His father wanted him to be in the church, instead his interest in botany made an impression on a local physician, who realized there might be a future in the field for the young Linnaeus, and on his recommendation Linnaeus's father sent his son to study at the local university in Lund. He then moved from Lund because the botanical gardens were very neglected, and went to Uppsala University.

His time in Uppsala was rough and he was too poor to buy shoes, he repaired discarded shoes and wore them until he met with the scientist Olof Celsius. Celsius, impressed with Linnaeus' knowledge and botanical collections, offered him board and lodging. In 1735 Linnaeus moved to the Netherlands, where he was to spend the next three years. Here he earned his only academic degree, at the University of Harderwijk, in 6 days. This degree in Medicine consisted of a three day printing job of his botanical notes in Latin. He then went to Oxford for a few months, and he met many important scientists.

In 1737 Linnaeus spent a year studying and working on the Heemstede garden of George Clifford, a wealthy Amsterdam banker introduced to him by Herman Boerhaave. Clifford had many business connections with Dutch merchants and collected plants from around the world. His garden was famous. In 1738, the work was done, and he started his journey back home. On his way he stayed in Leiden for a year, during which he had his Classes Plantarum printed; then travelling to Paris, before setting sail for Stockholm. He then returned to Sweden in 1738, he practised medicine and lectured in Stockholm before being awarded a professorship at Uppsala in 1741. At Uppsala, in the University's botanical garden, he arranged the plants according to his system of classification.

In Stockholm, he settled as a physician. In September 1739 Linnaeus married Sara Elisabeth Morea. In 1739 he was one of the founders of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1741 he ascended to the chair of medicine at Uppsala and moved there. The position was soon exchanged for the chair of botany. In 1743-44, Linnaeus designed today's thermometer scale by reversing that invented by Anders Celsius originally 100 was the melting point of ice and 0 the boiling point of water.

Linnaeus's main contribution to taxonomy was to establish conventions for the naming of living organisms that became universally accepted in the scientific world—the work of Linnaeus represents the starting point of binomial nomenclature. In addition 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. His groupings were based upon shared physical characteristics. Only his groupings for animals remain to this day, and the groupings themselves have been significantly changed since Linnaeus' conception, as have the principles behind them.

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