Artefact of the month - April 2007
Taxonomy, the description and naming of species, is fundamental to all biology. Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish physician and naturalist, introduced the method of binomial nomenclature using genus and species names on a world scale for animals in 1758 with the publication of Systema Naturae.
Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) : The ‘father of taxonomy’
Linnaeus was born in 1707, the son of a Lutheran clergyman, at Rashult in Sweden. He began to study medicine in 1727 and commenced his medical degree in 1735. A turning point in his career was undoubtedly his journey of exploration into Lapland, which he undertook in 1732. On the journey he travelled 4,600 miles, crossing the Scandinavian Peninsula on foot, and discovered a hundred botanical species. For Linnaeus this was quite as seminal in its own way as the voyage in the Beagle was for Darwin almost a hundred years later.
In his publications Linnaeus gave classification consistency and precision. In 1735, 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 Fundamenta Botanica (1736) and Classes Plantarum (1738).
The general adoption of consistent binomial nomenclature for species, which he introduced on a world scale for plants in 1753, and for animals in 1758, came about because Linnaeus introduced it in comprehensive works which soon became indispensable. His Systema Naturae 10th edition (1758) is accepted, by international agreement, as being the official starting point for zoological nomenclature. Scientific names published before then have no validity unless adopted by Linnaeus or by later authors.
A display celebrating the tercentenary of the birth of Linnaeus will be in Reception and the Library until the end of June.