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Linnaeus

Linnaeus, Carolus

Swedish naturalist (1707 - 1778)

The son of a gardener and Lutheran priest in Stenbrohult, Sweden, Linnaeus was interested in plants and their names from an early age. He studied medicine in Lund and later in Uppsala, where he devoted himself particularly to the study and collection of plants. In 1731 he went on a botanical and ethnographic expedition to Lapland; paintings of the young Linnaeus in Lapp costume have become famous.

In 1735 Linnaeus travelled to the Netherlands to complete his medical studies at the University of Harderwijk. In the same year he went to Leiden, where he published the first edition of his Systema Naturae, a work he continued to improve and refine throughout his life. After graduated in medicine in Harderwijk, he became personal physician to George Clifford in his country house, Hartecamp, near Haarlem. Here Linnaeus catalogued the botanical, mineralogical and zoological collections (1735-1737), and wrote his wonderful Hortus cliffortianus.

In 1738 he returned to Sweden. In 1741, after a practising as a doctor, he was appointed professor in Uppsala, where he reorganised the botanical garden according to his own system. In 1761 he was knighted, thus becoming entitled to call himself Carl von Linné. After his death, his collections and manuscripts were sold to Sir James Edward Smith, an English naturalist who founded the Linnaean Society of London to administer them.

Linnaeus' greatest achievements lie particularly in his classification and naming of various life forms. In order to avoid the need to repeat lengthy descriptions, he also introduced a short, fixed terminology (consisting of words such as ‘corolla' and ‘stamen') that is still used nowadays. He clearly and sharply demarcated the plant genera, cataloguing the plant world according to a simple system based on the organs of reproduction (especially the stamen and the ovary).

Teylers Museum library owns a large number of the famous botanist's works, including not only Hortus Cliffortianus (1737) and Flora Lapponica, but also the first edition of Systema natura (1735).

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