Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was a brilliant Swedish naturalist and educator who considered all of nature his classroom. Like a botanical prophet, he would lead students on long excursions through woods and fields, reeling off colorful anecdotes and observations on plants, insects and vertebrates. He eventually collected over 14,000 sheets of pressed plants and thousands of insect specimens.
More than two centuries after his death, Linnaeus is most honored for his revolutionary plant and animal naming system of binary Latin nomenclature; one name indicating the genus and the other the species.
It is little wonder that Linnaeus is internationally recognized as the “Father of Botany”.
Carl’s life and times
1707 Born May 23rd, in Rashult, in the province of Smaland in Southern Sweden.
1727 Studies medicine for a year in Lund.
1728 Continues his studies in medicine and botany in Uppsala.
1732 Goes alone to Lappland (Northern Sweden) on scientific expedition for five months. This portrait shows Linnaeus after his return in the traditional Lappland peasant-wear.
Note: He is holding the Linnaea borealis or twinflower that would later be the focus of his noble family’s coat of arms.
1734 Next, leads a scientific expedition to Dalarna.
1735 Attains a Doctor of Medicine degree at Harderwijk, Holland.
1735 – 1738 Lives and works in Holland, publishing several important works. Visits Denmark, Germany, England and France.
1735 Publishes the first edition of Systema Naturae which described a new system for classifying plants.
1736 Publishes Fundamenta Botanica.
1737 Publishes Flora Lapponica.
1739-1741 Returns to Stockholm as a medical doctor.
1739 Helps found the Royal Academy of Science in Stockholm.
1739 Marries Sara Lisa Moraea at Sveden, near Falun, Dalarna.
1741 Becomes professor of medicine at Uppsala University.
1741 Undertakes a scientific expedition to the islands of Oland and Gotland.
1745 Publishes Flora Svecica in Stockholm. The work describes 1,296 plants.
1746 Carries out a scientific expedition to Vastergotland.
1751 Publishes Philosophia Botanica. Carl Linnaeus completed this book elaborating principles of botany that he had published 15 years before in Systema Naturae. This new Philosophia Botanica, became one of the most important books in the history of systematic botany.
1753 Publishes Species Plantarum. Binomial nomenclature for plants begins to be used.
1753 The king of Sweden dubs Linnaeus knight of the Order of the Polar Star. He was the first civilian in Sweden to receive this honor.
1757 The king grants Linnaeus nobility, but he is not ennobled until 1761 whereupon he takes the name Carl von Linné.
Linné drew a proposal on a coat of arms for the noble family von Linné (left). His proposal was composed of three fields with the colors of nature; black, green and red. Above these fields was an anatomic egg “to denote Nature, which is continued and perpetuated in ovo,” and in the helmet a Linnaea borealis (twinflower). This proposal was rejected and the counter proposed coat of arms was accepted by Linné (right).
1758 Publishes the 10th edition of Systema Naturae where the binomial (two names) system for animals is consistently used for the first time.
1778 January 10th, Carl Linnaeus dies in Uppsala and is buried in the Cathedral there.