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Thread: Carolus Linnaeus

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    Exodus's Avatar
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    Default Carolus Linnaeus

    Father of the binomial naming system for organisms, still used today. Also devised the modern centigrade temperature scale.

    However everyone did not admire Linnaeus. The flower painter Georg Dionys Ehret remarked:" When he was a beginner, Linnaeus laid his hands on everything he heard about, to make himself famous".

    Linnaeus' Danish pupil, Johan Ch. Fabricius, wrote: "In the winter our rooms were just across the road from him and he came there almost everyday in his short red dressing gown, with a green furred cap and his pipe in his hand. He came for half an hour but often stayed for a full hour, or even two. His conversation was then very gay and pleasant. Sometimes he told anecdotes about learned men of his profession whom he had met at home or abroad and sometimes he illuminated our ignorant minds. He then laughed heartily and his face lit up with joy and gaiety demonstrating clearly how disposed his soul was for company and intimacy."

    Fabricius continues.

    "His heart was remarkably noble, though I am well aware that he was accused of many faults. His intellect was keen and penetrating: you could see it in his eyes. But his greatest characteristic was his ability to reason methodically: whatever he said or did was methodical and systematical. In his youth he had a wonderful memory, but all too soon it let him down... His passions were strong and violent...He could lose his temper abruptly or become very irritated; those feelings would disappear as quickly as they had appeared. You could rely on the constancy of his friendship; it was almost always founded on an interest in science, and all the world knows how much he did for his pupils and how devotedly, how ardently they returned his friendship and became his champions".

    Finally Fabricius has this to say about his time with Linnaeus.

    "I shall never forget those days, those hours and I feel happy whenever I think about them".

    Linnaeus went to England at Clifford's request to obtain plants for Hartecamp. Eventually he also went to France. During these trips he visited several well-known scientists. Some received him with great respect, others were more wary. Linnaeus' considerable self-confidence and egocentricity annoyed some people.

    His father Nils was a clergyman but gardening was his hobby so Carl became interested in Nature at an early age. Nevertheless, he was meant to follow in his father's footsteps and take holy orders. However young Linnaeus played truant in order to be out of doors. His teachers lost patience and summoned his father Nils.

    In 1732 Linnaeus was sent to Lappland by the Royal Society of Sciences at Uppsala. The Swedish balance of trade was very poor and it was in the country's interest to send a competent natural scientist to search for new commercially exploitable resources.

    A few years later Linnaeus came to explore the province of Dalarna and its natural resources, including its young ladies! He was particularly interested in a young beauty from Falun - Sara Lisa Moraea. Before he could marry her he had to take his doctor's degree and start earning money.

    In 1741 Linnaeus was appointed to one of the chairs of medicine at Uppsala University. The same year, commissioned by the Swedish parliament, he went on an expedition to look for commercially useful natural resources on the islands of Öland and Gotland. During the coming years Linnaeus worked hard to restore the Botanical Garden in Uppsala and make it into a "living textbook" for his students. In 1746 he travelled to Västergötland and in 1749 to Skåne with orders from the Riksdag to explore these provinces too.

    As a professor in Uppsala Linnaeus was very popular with his students, largely because of his great enthusiasm and different way of teaching. He also attracted a considerable number of foreign students. Several of his students had the opportunity to join important expeditions to discover nature in far-off lands. They sent home to Linnaeus many new species of plants and animals. Consequently when his binomial system of giving Latin names to plants (1753) and animals (1758) was published he was able to include many exotic species. This way of giving scientific names is still used all over the world.
    Linnaeus continued to work hard. During his lifetime he wrote more than 70 books and 300 scientific papers. He taught many students, several of them foreigners. Linnaeus became an honorary member of scientific societies and academies all over the world. He made many influential friends, among them Catherine the Great of Russia who sent him seeds and plants from her own country.

    Carolus imbued his students with his own thoroughness in an atmosphere of enthusiasm, trained them to close and accurate observation, and then sent them to various parts of the globe.

    He was born on May 23, 1707, at Stenbrohult, in the province of Småland in southern Sweden. His father, Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus, was both an avid gardener and a Lutheran pastor, and Carl showed a deep love of plants and a fascination with their names from a very early age.
    Linnaeus loved nature deeply, and always retained a sense of wonder at the world of living things. His religious beliefs led him to natural theology, a school of thought dating back to Biblical times but especially flourishing around 1700: since God has created the world, it is possible to understand God's wisdom by studying His creation. As he wrote in the preface to a late edition of Systema Naturae: Creationis telluris est gloria Dei ex opere Naturae per Hominem solum -- The Earth's creation is the glory of God, as seen from the works of Nature by Man alone. The study of nature would reveal the Divine Order of God's creation, and it was the naturalist's task to construct a "natural classification" that would reveal this Order in the universe.
    However, Linnaeus's plant taxonomy was based solely on the number and arrangement of the reproductive organs; a plant's class was determined by its stamens (male organs), and its order by its pistils (female organs). This resulted in many groupings that seemed unnatural. For instance, Linnaeus's Class Monoecia, Order Monadelphia included plants with separate male and female "flowers" on the same plant (Monoecia) and with multiple male organs joined onto one common base (Monadelphia). This order included conifers such as pines, firs, and cypresses (the distinction between true flowers and conifer cones was not clear), but also included a few true flowering plants, such as the castor bean. "Plants" without obvious sex organs were classified in the Class Cryptogamia, or "plants with a hidden marriage," which lumped together the algae, lichens, fungi, mosses and other bryophytes, and ferns. Linnaeus freely admitted that this produced an "artificial classification," not a natural one, which would take into account all the similarities and differences between organisms. But like many naturalists of the time, in particular Erasmus Darwin, Linnaeus attached great significance to plant sexual reproduction, which had only recently been rediscovered. Linnaeus drew some rather astonishing parallels between plant sexuality and human love: he wrote in 1729 how

    The flowers' leaves. . . serve as bridal beds which the Creator has so gloriously arranged, adorned with such noble bed curtains, and perfumed with so many soft scents that the bridegroom with his bride might there celebrate their nuptials with so much the greater solemnity. . .

    The sexual basis of Linnaeus's plant classification was controversial in its day; although easy to learn and use, it clearly did not give good results in many cases. Some critics also attacked it for its sexually explicit nature: one opponent, botanist Johann Siegesbeck, called it "loathsome harlotry". (Linnaeus had his revenge, however; he named a small, useless European weed Siegesbeckia.) Later systems of classification largely follow John Ray's practice of using morphological evidence from all parts of the organism in all stages of its development. What has survived of the Linnean system is its method of hierarchical classification and custom of binomial nomenclature.

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    :popcorn: Capitalist Pig's Avatar
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    Linnean taxonomy is the shiznit

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