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Carl Linnaeus [1] (1707–1778), also known as Carl von Linné[2], was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern biological naming scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy. Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name is rendered in Latin as Carolus Linnæus (after 1761 Carolus a Linné).

Linnaeus was born in the countryside of Småland, in southern Sweden. He received most of his higher education at Uppsala University, and began giving lectures in botany there in 1730. He lived abroad between 1735 and 1738, where he studied and also published a first edition of his Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He then returned to Sweden, where he became professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the 1740s, he was sent on several journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants and animals. In the 1750s and '60s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, and published several volumes. At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.

In botany, the author abbreviation used to indicate Linnaeus as the authority for species' names is L.[3] In older publications, sometimes the abbreviation "Linn." is found.

Systema Naturae[]

The first edition of Systema Naturae was printed in the Netherlands in 1735. It was a twelve-page work.[4] By the time it reached its 10th edition in 1758, it classified 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants. In it, the unwieldy names mostly used at the time, such as "Physalis annua ramosissima, ramis angulosis glabris, foliis dentato-serratis", were supplemented with concise and now familiar "binomials", composed of the generic name, followed by a specific epithet – in the case given, Physalis angulata. These binomials could serve as a label to refer to the species. Higher taxa were constructed and arranged in a simple and orderly manner. Although the system, now known as binomial nomenclature, was partially developed by the Bauhin brothers (see Gaspard Bauhin and Johann Bauhin) almost 200 years earlier,[5] Linnaeus was the first to use it consistently throughout the work, including in monospecific genera, and may be said to have popularised it within the scientific community.

After the decline in Linnaeus' health in the early 1770s, publication of editions of Systema Naturae went in two different directions. Another Swedish scientist, Johan Andreas Murray issued the Regnum Vegetabile section separately in 1774 as the Systema Vegetabilium, rather confusingly labelled the 13th edition.Template:Sfn Meanwhile a 13th edition of the entire Systema appeared in parts between 1788-1793. It was as the Systema Vegetabilium, that Linnaeus' work became widely known in England following translation from the Latin by the Lichfield Botanical Society, as A System of Vegetables (1783–1785).Template:Sfn

Linnaean taxonomy[]

File:Linnaeus - Regnum Animale (1735).png

Table of the Animal Kingdom (Template:Lang) from the 1st edition of Template:Lang (1735)


The establishment of universally accepted conventions for the naming of organisms was Linnaeus' main contribution to taxonomy—his work marks the starting point of consistent use of binomial nomenclature.[6] During the 18th century expansion of natural history knowledge, Linnaeus also developed what became known as the Linnaean taxonomy; the system of scientific classification now widely used in the biological sciences.

The Linnaean system classified nature within a nested hierarchy, starting with three kingdoms. Kingdoms were divided into classes and they, in turn, into orders, and thence into genera (singular: genus), which were divided into Species (singular: species).[7] Below the rank of species he sometimes recognized taxa of a lower (unnamed) rank; these have since acquired standardised names such as variety in botany and subspecies in zoology. Modern taxonomy includes a rank of family between order and genus and a rank of phylum between kingdom and class that were not present in Linnaeus' original system.[8]

Linnaeus' groupings were based upon shared physical characteristics, and not simply upon differences.[8] Of his higher groupings, only those for animals are still in use, and the groupings themselves have been significantly changed since their conception, as have the principles behind them. Nevertheless, Linnaeus is credited with establishing the idea of a hierarchical structure of classification which is based upon observable characteristics and intended to reflect natural relationships.[6][9] While the underlying details concerning what are considered to be scientifically valid "observable characteristics" have changed with expanding knowledge (for example, DNA sequencing, unavailable in Linnaeus' time, has proven to be a tool of considerable utility for classifying living organisms and establishing their evolutionary relationships), the fundamental principle remains sound.

See also[]

  • Linnaean taxonomy (Linnaean system)


  1. "Linnaeus" entry in Collins English Dictionary, HarperCollins Publishers, 1998.
  2. Blunt (2004), p. 171.
  3. Linnaeus, Carl (1707–1778). Author Details. International Plant Names Index. Retrieved on 1 October 2011.
  4. Linnaeus (1735)
  5. Windelspecht (2002), p. 28.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Reveal & Pringle (1993), p. 160–161.
  7. Simpson (1961), p. 16–19.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Davis & Heywood (1973), p. 17.
  9. Simpson (1961), p. 56–57.




Works by Linnaeus[]

Further reading[]

External links[]

Template:Commons category Template:Wikiquote Template:Wikisource author

  • Biography at the Department of Systematic Botany, University of Uppsala
  • Biography at The Linnean Society of London
  • Biography from the University of California Museum of Paleontology
  • A four-minute biographical video from the London Natural History Museum on YouTube
  • Biography from Taxonomic Literature, 2nd Edition. 1976–2009.
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