|Themes > Science > Zoological Sciences > About Zoology, Generalities > Carl Linnaeus|
The father of modern plant and animal classifcation (1707-1778)
The Linnaean Society of London, founded in 1788, takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, whose botanical and zoological collections and library have been in the Society's keeping since 1829, having been purchased for the executor of the Society's first President, Sir James Edward Smith.
Linnaeus was born in 1707, the son of a Lutheran clergyman, at Rashult in Sweden. He began to study medicine at the University of Lund in 1727, transferring to the university of Uppsala the following year. Linnaeus headed an expedition to Lapland in 1732, travelling 4,600 miles and crossing the Scandinavian Peninsula by foot to the Arctic Ocean. On the journey he discovered a hundred botanical species. In 1734, he mounted another expedition to central Sweden. He finished his medical degree at the University of Hardewijk in Holland in 1735, then going to the University of Leiden for further studies. That year, he published Systema Naturae, his classification of plants based on their sexual parts. His method of binomial nomenclature using genus and species names was further expounded when he published Fundmenta Botanica and Classes plantarum. This system used the flower and the number and arrangements of its sexual organs of stamens and pistils to group plants into twenty-four classes which in turn are divided into orders, genera and species.
In his publications, Linnaeus provided a concise, usable survey of all the world's plants and animals as then known, about 7,700 species of plants and 4,400 species of animals. These works helped to establish and standardize the consistent binomial nomenclature for species which he introduced on a world scale for plants in 1753, and for animals in 1758, and which is used today. His Species Plantarum 10th edition, volume 1(1758), have accordingly been accepted by international agreement as the official starting points for botanical and zoological nomenclature. Scientific names published before then have no validity unless adopted by Linnaeus or by later authors. This confers a high scientific importance on the specimens used by Linnaeus for their preparation, many of which are in his personal collections now treasured by the Linnean Society.
In 1753, he went to Stockholm to practice medicine and lecture, and became a professor at Uppsala in 1741, attracting students from many countries to his often crowded lectures. Twenty-three of Linnaeus' students themselves became professors and this spread his methods widely, as did his extensive correspondence with leading naturalists all over Europe. He was granted nobility in 1761, becoming Carl von Linné. He continued his work of classification and as a physician, and remained Rector of the University until 1772. In that decade, he suffered from strokes, ill health, and memory loss until his death in 1778.
The Linnaean binomial system consists essentially of giving a one-word name such as Rhododendron or Equus to a genus and a two-word name such as Rhododendron ponticum or Equus caballus to an individual species within the genus. Linnaeus did not invent binomial nomenclature. The use of such two-word names for species or for kinds within a group occurs in many languages and goes back to remote times. It is indeed the common practice in vernacular nomenclature. Linnaeus gave classification consistency and precision. He linked each of the specific names for everyday use with a descriptive name, which helped to identify the species concerned and limited the application of its two-word name to that one species. The general adoption by botanists and zoologists of this consistent two-word nomenclature for species during the second-half of the 18th century came about because Linnaeus introduced it in comprehensive works which naturalists soon found indispensable.
Origins of the name Linnaeus
The name of Linnaeus: origins and various forms Carl Linnaeus's paternal grandfather, like most Swedish peasants and farmers of his time, had no surname and was known, in accordance with the old Scandinavian name system, as Ingemar Bengtsson, being the son of Bengt Ingermarsson. When his son, Carl's father, Nils Ingemarsson (1674-1733), went to the university of Lund, he had to provide himself with a surname for registration purposes. He invented the name Linnaeus in allusion to a large and ancient tree of the small-leaved linden (Tilia cordata Miller, T.europaea L. in part), known in the Småland dialect as "linn", which grew on the family property known in the 17th century as Linnegard.
Other branches of the family took the names Lindelius and Tiliander from the same famous tree. The name Linnaeus was thus of Latin form from the beginning. Linnaeus, having been ennobled in 1761, first took the name of Carl von Linné in 1762, by which time he had published all of his most important works.
From page 5 of William T. Stearn & Gavin Bridson, Carl Linnaeus 1707-1778, a bicentenary guide to the Career and achievements of Linnaeus and the collections of the Linnean Society, 32 pp., London, Linnean Society, 1978, ISBN 0 9506207 0 X
Linnaeus's Floral clock
The great Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) observed over a number of years that certain plants constantly opened and closed their flowers at particular times of the day, these times varying from species to species. Hence one could deduce the approximate time of day according to which species had opened or closed their flowers. Arranged in sequence of flowering over the day they constituted a kind of floral clock or horologium florae, as Linnaeus called it in his Philosophia botanica (1751, pages 274-276). A detailed and extended account of this in English will be found in F.W.Oliver's translation of Anton Kerner's The Natural History of Plants, 1895, vol.2, pages 215-218. As many of the indicator plants are wildflowers and the opening/closing times depend on latitude the complexities of planting a floral clock make it an impractical proposition.
The idea was taken up by the French composer by Jean Français in his composition L'horologue de flore and the following list gives the hour of the day, the French names, the botanical and English names of the plants he chose to represent in music:
Various attempts have been made to illustrate the concept, mostly in the form of a clock-face decorated with an image of the flower for the time of day.
The Society coat of arms
The Society received its Grant of Arms in December 1802 and the design was based on that chosen by Linnaeus. The three fields in the shield represent the three kingdoms of nature: black for the minerals (the earth), green for plant life and red for animal life with a bisected egg in a blue circle within central band of white. These represent the germ cell of life, surrounded by water and the atmosphere.
The shield is supported by a lion and an eagle (with small shields carrying the plant symbols for England and Scotland on the lion and the shamrock of Ireland on the eagle). The whole is surmounted by a helmet bearing the plant Linnaea borealis and the rising sun. The motto, Naturae Discere Mores stands for "to learn the ways of nature".