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CARL VON LINNÉ


 Carl Linnaeus was born on the 23rd of May, 1707 at Råshult, Älmhult, Småland, southern Sweden. His mother was Christina Brodersonia and his father Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus. Linné is the father of Taxonomy, as we know it today.

Portrait of Carl von Linné by Alexander Roslin 1775.

           The name Linnaeus was obtained by Carl's father during his studies to become a priest and was a Latinised form of the tree Lind (Latin: Tilia). The name Carl von Linné is his nobleman name, obtained when he was knighted in 1761. He used Carolus Linnæus as author on his Latin works.

 From an early age, his interest in plants dominated his life. His family moved to Stenbrohults when he was two years old and it was here that his passion grew further. At the age of five, he was given his own piece of the garden to take care of and this became one of the finest in Småland., Even though his father was a devoted amateur botanist and gardener, he was disappointed that Carl didn't want to follow him in priesthood: Carl had no plans of becoming a priest, but "at least" he enrolled at the university to study medicine at Lund in 1727.

 Here he studied study medicine under Kilian Stobæus. Besides being a professor in medicine, he was also professor in Philosophia naturalis et physica experimentalis (natural history and physics) and history. One year later, he continued his medical studies at Uppsala University under Olof Celsius d.ä. and Olof Rudbeck d.y. However, he did not find the studies that interesting, and they were  neglected. Most of his time at Uppsala was spent collecting and studying plants, his true love. At that time, training in botany was part of the medical curriculum, for every doctor had to prepare and prescribe drugs derived from medicinal plants - they were their only drugstore.

 Olof Celsius, himself an enthusiastic botanist saw the great potential in Carl, and helped him financially, and let him stay in his house. Later, he got a job at Olof Rudbeck's home, teaching his children. When Rudbeck needed to leave his job because of age he commissioned Carl to give lectures in botany in the botanical garden. As a botanical demonstrator Carl renewed the badly looked after botanical garden and introduced new, rare plants. He also began to teach botanical theory, which was something completely new.

 In 1731, he left the Rudbeck family and for a while he went back to his parents in Småland. In 1732, he managed to find funding for a scientific expedition to Lappland, northern Sweden - probably inspired by Rudbeck's stories from his Torne lappmark expedition in 1702. The specimens Rudbeck had collected were lost in a fire.

 Carl penetrated the hostile land no one else had seen, and even his Sami guide feared for his life. On this four month’s tour, he was amazed at the rich flora his country had, without any one knowing. Two years later, he went on another scientific expedition to Dalarna, central Sweden. Once again, he found a natural richness, he believed could be turned into economical richness for his country. But there was no one interested in his ideas.

 The expedition had been expensive, and Carl was broke. He gave lectures on e.g: ore and mineral analysis, and in 1733, he had saved enough to go to Falun in Dalarna, Sweden for further studies in mineralogy. From here he launched a 40 day expedition through Dalarna, consisting of volunteering students. They recorded all, from the disappointing botany over animals to culture. It was published in Iter Dalecarlicum.

 While being in Falun, Carl met Sara Elisabeth Moræa. It was a match made in heaven, but her father demanded Carl to finish his MD, to be able to support his daughter. His friend Claes Sohlberg's father gave Carl an annual compensation, if he accepted to be his son’s tutor and bring him on his journey abroad.

 In 1735, he joined the University of Harderwijk in the Nederland, where he finished his medicine studies within a week!  He defended a thesis about malaria where he connected the disease with the amount of clay in the water! Due to lack of funds, he continued studying at University of Leiden along with Claes Sohlberg, and his first important work was published: Systema Naturae, financed by Dr. Johan Fredrich Gronovius. It was a great help for all, studying botany, and Carl himself coined the phrase: "God created, Linnaeus classified." He corresponded with Europe's great botanists, and made tours to Denmark, France, England and Germany the next four years.

 He got an offer from Professor Herman Boerhaave, one of his time's biggest authorities in medicine, to travel to South Africa for two years to collect plants for the botanical garden in Leiden and thereafter continuing his journey to America. Carl declined the offer, as he wanted to return to his Sara back in Sweden as soon as possible.

 He left Leiden, and on the way home, he met Professor Johan Burman, the superintendent of the botanical garden in Amsterdam. Burman offered Carl food and accommodation if he helped him work through the plants from Ceylon that Burman was working with. Carl stayed over the winter and during his stay he also published Bibliotheca Botanica and Fundamenta Botanica.

 The reputation of Carl's competence and knowledge in botany was spread in the Netherlands. In the autumn 1735, the director of the Dutch East India Company; Georg Clifford, persuaded Carl to start working for him in his botanical garden. Carl accepted the offer and stayed with Clifford. Carl used the time efficiently and travelled to the botanical gardens in Holland to obtain plants for Clifford's garden. He also published Hortus Cliffortianus, Genera plantarum and Flora Lapponica.

 On Georg Clifford’s expense, he travelled to England to collect plants for the garden. At Sherard's Botanical Garden, he met Professor Johan Jacob Dillenius.

At  first, Dillenius disagreed with Carl about his newly published Genera plantarum. Dillenius thought that Carl had brought "the whole botany in disorder". Together they carefully examined flowers and after that, Carl succeeded to convince Dillenius about the advantages of his new plant genera. They separated as good friends and Carl returned to Holland.

 He didn't stay long, before he travelled via Leiden to Paris to visit his friends, Professor Adriaan van Royen and Professor Boerhaave.

        

 Van Royen succeeded in persuading Carl to stay for six months to arrange his garden. Carl wrote Hortus Leydenensis and published his Classes Plantarum.

 Then he continued to Paris, where he met Professor Anton de Jussieu who showed him the gardens and herbaria of Paris. The French Academy of Sciences accepted Carl as a correspondent. He also got another offer of employment but declined. He was eager to get back home to Sweden and Sara.

 He returned to Sweden in 1738, where he made a short visit to his father's house in Småland, and then continued to Falun and Sara. The couple now became formally engaged.

 He tried to start practising medicine, but it was hard for an unknown doctor to get patients. He got in touch with the field marshal Count Carl Gustav Tessin. He arranged employment for Carl at the "Bergs Collegio". During the summers he was supposed to hold lectures about botany and during the winters about minerals. Tessin also influenced Admiral Ankarkrona to offer Carl an employment as an appointed physician at the Admiralty.

 This helped him to start practising in Stockholm as well. Here, he was the only one who had a cure for syphilis, which also became a commercial success. In 1739, he was one of the founders and the first President of the Royal Academy of Science in Stockholm. Once again, he had created a name for himself, and at last a solid income and he was finally able to marry Sara. They had seven children: Carolus, Elisabeth Christina, Sara Magdalena (who died just 15 days old), Lovisa, Sara Christina, Johannes and Sophia.

 On May the fifth, 1741, he was awarded a professorship at Uppsala University. He started sorting out the university garden according to his system of classification, and undertook a scientific expedition to the islands of Öland and Gotland in Sweden. He did a bit of travelling around Sweden, but for the abroad expeditions, he used his students. A group of pupils had a special gift, which Carl encouraged. They were called Linnaeus' disciples or apostles. Some found  hell on earth and even died while other found Paradise and made a name for themselves like Daniel Solander; the naturalist on Captain James Cook's first round-the-world voyage. Another famous student was Carl Peter Thunberg.

 Carl was a devoted teacher and did not neglect his teaching duties. He did not only draw medical students to his lectures, but also students from other faculties. Students from all over Europe came to Uppsala to become Carl's pupils. He always had something to tell about every plant and animal species he found during his walks.

 In 1744, Carl become the secretary of Vetenskapssocieteten in Uppsala, and the following year, he published Flora Svecica. In 1746, he dared himself to undertake a scientific expedition to Västergötland, Sweden. He continued rewriting Systema Naturae, and it kept growing from a small pamphlet  to a multivolume work. It included not only plants, but also the animals that was sent to him from around the world. In his ninth edition of Systema Naturae, humanity occurs as Homo diurnis, or "man of the day". In1745 Carl published Flora Suecica and Fauna Suecica.

 In 1749, he undertook a scientific expedition to Skåne, southern Sweden. In 1751, he published Philosophia Botanica.

 In 1753 came his master achievement; Species Plantarum where the binomial nomenclature for plants was consistently used for the first time. Instead of the long, describing names all predecessors had used, Carl used only one name, which, as and other invasive future; could be honouring a person.

 An other innovative idea was the dividing of plants by their sexual organs. Using this method, he managed to describe and sort all plants, known at that time.

 The system contained 24 classes (Greek numbers). The first 13 was divided on their equal long and separated male parts, the next two by uneven length, five with male parts grown together with them selves or the female part, three classes with single sex plants and one class with plants without flowers.

 It tells little about the relationship between the plants, but made a brilliant tool for identifying plants in the field. The graphic layout it brilliant, and remains through time.

 One of his big dreams was to enrich Sweden with it's own crops of cacao, coffee, tea, bananas, rice, and mulberries. It failed due to the cold climate, but then he tried to find indigenous plants with the same abilities. Not a success, but it was only one of many interests. He still found time to practice medicine, eventually becoming personal physician to the Swedish royal family.

 In 1758 he bought the manor estate of Hammarby, and built a museum for his huge private collection. The same year, he published the tenth edition of Systema Naturae where the binomial system for animals was consistently used for the first time. His work might well be the inspiration for Erasmus Darwin to form the idea of evolution (Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life (1794-1796)), so magnificently promoted by his grandson; Charles Darwin.

 Carl was knighted in 1761 by king Adolph Fredrik to Knight of Nordstjärneordern , the first civilian in Sweden to be knighted. When he was raised to the nobility,he took the name: Carl von Linné.

 When Carl was released from his duties at the academy in 1763 his son, Carl fil., got the title of professor. Despite this, it was no big difference. The older Carl continued working as usual, but then he suffered what was probably a series of mild strokes in 1774, the effects of which lingered on for several years after.

 On the tenth of January,1778, Carl von Linné died in Uppsala and was buried in the Cathedral there.  

         
 

         
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