Biography of Carl von Linneo (1707-1778)

Botanist, naturalist and Swedish Explorer born 23 May 1707 in the village of Stenbrohult (Småland), in the South of Sweden, and died 10 January 1778 in Uppsala. He/She was the first to create a uniform system for naming, sorting and classifying living organisms, and their ideas have formed the basis of study for many generations of biologists. He/She is considered the father of taxonomy. Physician and scholar of the natural sciences, is also considered the father of modern Botany.

Carl von Linné.

He organized and transformed the old methods of classification of a simple and consistent way, assigning a binomial designation for each species. His theory has been taken internationally as the scientific system of classification of living beings, valid until the present.

Nils Ingemarsson, father of Carl Linneo, was a Lutheran pastor who developed a special passion for plants, to approach them as a gardener; Christina Brodersonia, mother of Linnaeus, was the daughter of a Protestant pastor. The time of his birth was, according to his parents, reported "a beautiful day in which the song of the cuckoo announced the proximity of summer." When he/she was barely two years old, Linnaeus went to live with his parents in Stenbrohhult, a region particularly green and beautiful, located in the South of Sweden; There, his father structured and took care of the garden of the Church and enriched with plants from other regions. Carl learned from his childhood love that professed his father by plants and continued the father to pursue passion of life to the study of Botany and animals.

In 1716, Carl began the study of latin in the Cathedral of Vasjo. His penchant for the natural sciences and knowledge of species woke up from that period, which began collecting plants and insects. Latin was the universal language in which scientific knowledge is disseminated.

At this time had a crucial contact for his subsequent vocation: he/she met Johan Rothman, scholar of Botany, who initiated the young student of latin in the classification system of Tournefort, whose system was based on the structure of the corolla of flowers. Also since then met French Vaillant on plant reproduction work, as well as the Institutiones medicae Boerhaave.

Since his childhood, the knowledge of the structure and reproduction of plants and their denominations was fascinated by Carl Linnaeus. It did not possess the religious vocation which his parents expected of him; in return, young leaned by the study of medicine, career that began in 1727 in Lund University, when he/she was twenty years old. The academic level of this University should seem insufficient for the young student who, for this reason, lost interest in their instruction; However, he/she devoted himself with zeal to the study of plants that were in the vicinity of his residence.

The scientific interest of Linnaeus caught the attention of Kilian Strobaeus, multi-talented man who lived in Lund. Strobaeus put their knowledge at the disposal of the young student in natural sciences and allowed the young access to his extensive library. It seems that this meeting was definitive for harnessing the natural vocation of Linnaeus.

From the first year of study of medicine was transferred (autumn of 1728) to the prestigious University of Uppsala, already considered then the most important educational centre of Sweden. His interest in Botany led him, at the beginning of your stay at the University, to relegate again his medical studies; interest that incline then in Holland. Throughout his life, Linnaeus would be accepted as a prestigious physician as well as botanist and scientist. In Uppsala he/she meet Olaf Celsius, with whom he/she made excursions and studies of the flora and fauna of the region.

His entry into the University of Uppsala was in the year 1728; two years later, to 1730, Linnaeus unpublished manuscripts are found in which delineate is the ideas of his revolutionary theories, in which the sexual structure of plants would be the basis of your new taxonomic classification. Part of these manuscripts were later published under the name of Hortus Uplandicus.

Linnaeus started the recognition and classification of plants and animals, according to Latin and vernacular of the plants and animal designations considered in its time. Your growing knowledge of the plants did in the study of medicine, since at the time prescriptions were based on requirements of herbs or drugs made from plants.

To be able to pursue his studies, the young student was forced to hold economically teaching his knowledge of Botany. Despite their precarious economic condition, Linnaeus organized on their own his first botanical and ethnological expedition to Lapland, in the year 1731.

Linnaeus crossed the Scandinavian peninsula on horseback, on a grueling trip that lasted five months. It began its journey only, on horse, with a few coins, notebook and pen, and interned by forests unknown until reaching the region of the Lapps and found by the Arctic Ocean, in the North of Scandinavia. This was his journey of initiation with the unknown as a man and as a scholar of nature. Before it appeared hundreds of species that had never been studied before and still had no scientific name, so Linnaeus compulsive obsession, since his youth, appoint an organized bodies went out from that time.

In this long journey he/she could collect and study hundreds of plants and animals in an Alpine region, until then almost unknown. The description of the plants, animals and culture of the region of Lapland were subsequently published in Holland titled Laponica Flora. Studies and observations from this trip sparked the interest of the scientific community Swedish and European. From this period dates a portrait of Linnaeus dressed in the traditional costume of the Lapponia region, with its Bearskin gloves and carrying a magic drum capable of attracting the forces of nature. Linnaeus took during a time his clothing and a scroll with a manuscript in Sami.

The need to understand the nature he/she observed during his first great scientific expedition, led him to study mineralogy and became interested in the cultures of the people who inhabited the regions traversed.

Linnaeus was a profound scholar of culture since then. The names of the plants that he/she appointed always respected tradition, the historical past, legends and vernacular names that were, all things that Linnaeus had a deep meaning and that was the world that surrounded him since his childhood: nature and culture.

The success of his first trip to the land of the Lapps led him to make a second botanical expedition in 1734. Linnaeus brought together ten volunteers to visit and study the flora of Dalarna, a region in the Centre of Sweden, and so had the financial support of the Governor of that region. The expeditionary studied both nature as the Customs and culture of that region. Linnaeus did not obtain the successful of his first expedition to Lapland outcome, since it was found with wealth, exoticism, and the novelty of the Arctic flora. The findings and studies of this second expedition were published in Iter Dalecarlicum.

In 1735 he/she met the family of doctor Johan Moraeus, which sought to allow him marry his daughter Sara Lisa. The doctor asked him to finish his doctorate in medicine as a precondition for marriage. It was like he/she decided to travel to Holland to continue his medical studies there.

Linnaeus entered the University of Harderwijk in the de1735 spring, and in a few months got doctorate. His doctoral thesis was about the origins of the disease of malaria, known for its intermittent fevers. The Treaty was championed with brilliance by Linnaeus. The thesis name was Febrium inttermitentium cause. Then he/she went to Leiden and carried out studies in University; There Linnaeus would stop three years in which an activity developed febrile, writing and working on a series of works which would constitute the core of its theoretical conception.

In Leiden he/she published some works such as Flora Lapponica, a study of the plants of that distant region, searching for his first botanical expedition was. Leiden Senator obtained the funding needed to publish the most important theoretical Botany work so far: Systema naturae.

In the Netherlands, Linnaeus met Dutch botanists as Gronovius and a wealthy lover of plants called Clifford, who commissioned the reorganization and the care of particular botanical garden. These works his work Hortus Cliffortianus, in which studied and classified the plants that are born rich garden that was in charge.

The three years in the Netherlands were very fruitful. There he/she worked day and night to carry out the publication of a series of theoretical books. In 1735 he/she wrote Systema Naturae; in this publication were numerous drawings, schemes and studies of species. The following year he/she published based Botanica and Bibliotheca Botanica. In 1737 he/she published review Botany, generates Plantarum and Hortus Cliffortianus Flora Lapponica. In 1738, shortly before leaving Holland, published Classes Plantarum. From 1738, the path of Linnaeus was already firmly traced.

In the most important work of that era, Systema Naturae, Linnaeus unveiled his theory of classification, which is applied not only to plants, but human beings in general. It is the criterion of classification of plants and animals. In the case of vegetables, the criterion is based on characteristics of the reproductive organs. Linnaeus established the importance of sexual differentiation in plant species, and based on her draw the guidelines for his ordination.

In 1936 he/she travelled to Oxford and came into contact with prominent British naturists, as the great botanist J. J. Dillenius. I also travel to Paris in the same year. Shortly afterwards would be the eighth foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Paris. His contacts with the scientific world pull of these trips. Until the end of his days would maintain an extensive correspondence with the naturists who met at this time. It exchanged specimens, requested and obtained seeds to reproduce in the botanical gardens that had founded and enriched with new species.

In 1738 Linnaeus returned to Sweden, and as medical studies and specializes in the treatment of syphilis. At the University of Uppsala was awarded for his work in medicine, at the same time dealt with restore and reorganize the Botanical Garden of the University, based on the taxonomic system he/she started.

In 1739, he/she promoted the Foundation of the Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, where he/she was its first President. In 1741 he/she was appointed Professor of medical practice of the University of Uppsala. The following year, he/she was assigned the Chair of Botany, Dietetics and Materia Medica, put more commensurate with their knowledge. Already at this time, his work became this University and the scientific team that he/she formed in a center of activity and study of Botany, becoming in pioneer and promoter of the study of Botany in the scientific world of his time.

Linnaeus in Sweden had the support of a political group called the hattar (hatt is Hat), who encouraged and supported commercial and scientific expeditions around the world. The expansive interest of the Swedes and the necessity of establishing a trade independent from the rest of Europe led to the bourgeoisie of that country to support and organize those scientific expeditions that gave him fame, and that resulted in recognition and classification of the flora of the regions away from Europe.


Linnaeus came to have a decisive role and a powerful influence in the Royal Academy of the Sciences of Sweden. From its Steering since he/she made contacts with the Swedish company of Indies (Svenska Ostindiska Kompaniet), to achieve the necessary financial support for the Organization and realization of botanical expeditions to inner regions of Sweden, to several European countries and then to other regions of the world; for elloLinneo trained a group of young students who called Apostles.

Several followers or students of Linnaeus undertook expeditions to regions away from the planet. One of his most prominent disciples and probably one of the most famous was Daniel Solander, the naturalist who accompanied James Cook on his first expedition around the world. This trip was the first herborization and subsequent study of the flora of distant regions of Australia, with its exotic species unknown until now in Europe.

Another great naturalist follower of Linnaeus was Pehr Kalm, who accompanied as a botanist own J. Cook on his second voyage around the world. Thunberg was the first European naturalist who studied the flora and fauna of Japan, as well as Eastern medical practice. Olof Torén, Pehr Osbeck, C. F. Adler and Christopher Tärnström headed to China and the East Indies. Falk explored regions of Russia and Asia. Montin traveled as the young Linnaeus to Lapland. The own C. Peter Thumberg and Anders Sparman went to study the flora of southern Africa. Other "apostol" linneanos headed to North America and to the South of the continent with the same purpose.

Several of his disciples were in Spain: Pehr Osbeck was the first of the Apostles to arrive off the coast of Cadiz. The Linnaeus directed these encouraging words:

"...Upon his return, we'll do crowns with flowers you bring to adorn the heads of priests and the altars of the Temple of the goddess Flora..."

He also visited Cadiz Clas Astromer, again as a port of embarkation to America; However, the most important scientist of the time visited Spain, for the study of plants and animals, was Pehr Löfling.

Linnaeus came to the field with his disciplined Apostles to collect plants and study them, in order to swell the herbaria. The return of these excursions constituted a carefully prepared ritual, which culminated with a March of return singing, accompanied by drums and trumpets.

He also organized and prepared the method to follow on expeditions, in a rigid and dictatorial manner. This character trait was the product of the tenacity with which undertook its botanical studies, in a home virtually self-taught; However, this rigidity of his character brought her conflicts with his students and others that carried out studies and research.

Despite the success (or commercial) scientific expeditions promoted by Linnaeus, many young students paid with their lives the adventures undertaken in pursuit of knowledge of wild or forested regions. Thus, 20 expedition that went to various parts of the world, eight died and one had to abandon their purposes prisoner of madness, affected by the roughness of the travel. Among them was the great botanical and Expeditionary Pehr Löfling, who lost his life in 1756 on his expedition to the Orinoco, not without leaving a beautiful work descriptive of plants and animals from various parts of America and Europe, including Spain.

Löfling, during his three year stay in Spain, studied the flora and fauna, classified species of plants which gave name; some of them correspond to names of Spanish botanists who collaborated. Some of these designations were made by political expediency or recognition. Thus was born names dedicated to José Quer in wanted, or Ortegia genus in honor of Gómez Ortega, which Linnaeus published Species plantarum.

Denominations often provoked conflicts of Linnaeus with his disciples. Linnaeus left always for himself his own judgment, why some of his disciples renounced unconditionally hand over the result of his travels and research.

The system of Linnaeus

The first sketches of his theory appeared in 1730; Linnaeus met experiments of French Vaillant on the reproductive organs of plants, and go in the study of structure and reproduction mechanisms that generated the seeds. Twenty-four classes for Cryptogams (Cryptogamia) plants, it divided with rudimentary reproductive organs, and thirty-three kinds of Phanerogams (Phanerogamia) or provided with flower plants. Linnaeus realized very early that the sexual morphology was a perfect base for organizing botanical systems. At the beginning of his theory, he/she organized plants according to custom in schools, flowering plants, which had one two, three or more separate you stamens, and thus taxonomic method divided them into Moniandria, Diandria or Poliandra.El it was artificial and as such was recognized by the own Linnaeus. The system received much criticism, mainly in Germany and France, where the system of classification in vogue was Tournefort. One of the strongest criticisms came from part of the botanist Johann Siegesbeck, who castigated the explicit sexual Linnean classification criteria, and came to consider it as a "loathsome prostitution", to which Linnaeus responded by naming a bland and pointless European weed with the specific name of Siegesbeckia.

Linnaeus was modified his theory as more species are piling up and needed a more precise criteria. It strove to create a natural system (methodus naturalis) more consistent with reality. In his later works the criterion of classification, according to the sexual morphology, would extend gradually to other characteristics of the reproductive organs, until it ended its theoretical conception in his work Species plantarum and Systema naturae.

Linnaeus thought from the beginning that species that we watched had come down to us as they had been originated in the beginning of the creation; However, this approach also had to be modified with numerous evidences. Later, Linnaeus believed that new species may appear by hybridization from fixed species, by means of cross fertilization (pollination). This criterion emerged to study the species Linaria, and in particular a hybrid of Linaria vulgaris; This and other criteria of transformation of a new species would be discussed later by Darwin.

The work of Linnaeus had more significance is Species Plantarum, published in 1753. Its development took more than five years and was the summary of all the theoretical and practical work carried out previously. Species Plantarum was the result of an exhausting work: Linnaeus wrote in 1749, four years before the publication of his great work, the following: "to get out of my mind Species Plantarum is necessary to work to death? or I will have to give up to see and touch the world? "."

Species Plantarum establishes the binomial system to order plants theoretically and practically; This classification is based, as mentioned, on the sex of the species of the plant Kingdom characteristics. Linnaeus applies its criteria and classifies about eight thousand species of plants, thoroughly described according to a scheme that can be applied by any other botanical. The descriptions and name of each species are explained in detail in latin. Species Plantarum appeared in a two-volume edition, illustrated with drawings that totaled 1,200 pages.

Their approach caused numerous controversies and opposition in the naturalists of his time. His theory was modified under pressure from the experience of thousands of plants that he/she collected his collaborators sent or received numerous scientists that communicated. Linnaeus maintained a besought relationship and correspondence with natural scientists of their time across Europe; the binomial system of classification was imposed by her sinlessness, accuracy and practicality.

Based on the binomial form, Linnaean taxonomic system consists of the first designation corresponds to the genus and the second defines the specific species; both terms are Latino, since at that time the latin was the language in which the knowledge was disseminated. This binomial form was clearly explained and expressed in his works Fundmenta Botany and Classes Plantarum. This system clear and synthetic persists today as the scientific expression of the denomination, both animals and species of the plant world.

The identification system was imposed quickly and forcefully. Each plant or animal species would be a name set inside a pyramid; Thus, the Wolf is, according to the binomial system, Canis lupus, Canis is where common to other species like the Fox. The taxonomic pyramid in which the Wolf species is found is as follows:

Species: Wolf gender: Canis family: Canidae (Canidae) order: carnivores (Carnivora) class: mammals (Mammalia) Subphylum: vertebrates (Vertebrata) Phylum: Chordata (Cordata) Kingdom: Animal

Each species could be grouped subspecies. In the case of the plants, the structure of the reproductive organs would be the key to distinguish and place each species in its category. Linnaeus said that each species would fit with its name, as a clapper in a Bell, and thus could resonate as Canis lupus does. In Botany, it happens that the name of the rose - the rosa rosae of latinos - is Rosa canina; Here the beautiful flower is the sweet voice rose, and at the same time the thorns in the form of canine lupus are represented in one of their species. Paradoxically, the bite caused by wolves or dogs is cured with the stems of green thorns of the rose.

Latin names contain also the close relationships of the plants that are already sealed in the language and culture-linked. As well, a common plant in the Mediterranean sand dunes, Euphorbia paralias, named Euphorbos, who was cured by a plant of this genus and which came from the African deserts, according to Pliny in his Historia Naturalis.

In 1745, Linnaeus published in Sweden (Flora suecica) and in 1746 Flora Fauna suecica, result of numerous trips and expeditions to the interior of the country. 1.140 species of those regions are classified in the first book. These works were the conclusion of the study of thousands of specimens of plants, your thorough description and classification system based on the morphology of the sexual organs of plants. All this constituted the theoretical and practical basis of the monumental work Species plantarum.

Linnaeus extended the binomial system to the animal Kingdom and tried a full classification of living beings in his work Systema Naturae, published between 1758 and 1759. All denominations, both the plant Kingdom and the animal which were coined by Linnaeus, carry their initial to indicate that they were classified by it. Thus for example, in the botanical literature can be read Rosa Canina, L, SP. Pl. (1753), which means that the scientific name of this Rose was coined as Rosa canina by Linnaeus (l.) in Species Plantarum (SP. Pl.) first published in 1753.

In works subsequent to this great work, Linnaeus begins to synthesize the vast knowledge he/she acquired during his lifetime. In some academic reports to the society of Sciences of Stockholm and in a little-known work entitled Transactions, it addresses themes such as geographical distribution of species, ecology, among other general themes that unify the Sciences of nature. He/She also published treaties of medicine as Materia Medica, in 1749, or Clavis Medicinae of 1766.

Linnaeus inherited from their parents deep religiosity. He/She saw the works of a God in all created things. He/She was believed to be a chosen by God to penetrate the secrets of nature and life, but its religious sense was closely related to nature than revered as a true deity. The natural religious sense and harmony that brings the universe that Linnaeus conceived have a comparison in the sublime music of Haydn, in "The creation".

Linnaeus felt an attraction to the world of nature, whose initiation took place in the forests of Lapland. It had a blind faith in the Christian dogmas and legends, to the point that he/she always believed that swallows sleeping on the bottom of Lakes ice cream during the winter. At the same time he/she had a compulsion for order and classification. Its scientific sense, its logic, was Aristotelian, and its scholastic discursive form. However, scientific thinking, where theories are checked continually against reality to transform them, helped Linnaeus evolve and modify their thinking constantly. First of all, Linnaeus was a scientific observer and true to nature.

He organized plants in a system (Division) and created a denomination (denominatio) binomial, which is specific to each species. He/She researched the physiology experimenting on hybridization, pollination, seed dormancy. He/She studied the spread of seeds and fruits.

In some works as Œconomy naturae, published in 1749 and political naturae (1760), Linnaeus talks about the balance and harmony of nature. Predominantly insects advancing slows down the expansion of the plant world and birds stop over progress of the insects. This competitive balance would be retaken later by Darwin. This competitive fight that contains and balances is a reflection of the very life of Linnaeus, who with momentum imposed, against criticism, his impeccable system of classification, and the theory that defended with tenacity.

Linnaeus undertook perhaps the classification of the animal Kingdom with less wealth or more errors than those found with plants. He/She established six classes in the animal Kingdom, ordered from different organs or morphological characteristics. Thus, the mammals were classified according to the molars and teeth. Birds according to the peak. Fish fins and insects by their wings. These groups, he/she added the amphibians (Amphibia) and worms (Vermes). Linnaeus was the first to consider whales as mammals and be included in the same group men and monkeys (heretical idea in its time), although he/she made mistakes as classified to the rhinos in rodents.

Their concepts about the taxonomy were published in his Systema naturae, in which described and classified 549 species of animals. In the latest revision of this work became include 5,897 species. In his studies of the animal Kingdom highlighted Entomology, from his childhood he/she collected and studied numerous insects. The orders of insects that established editions of Systema-reviewed nature are valid until today day.

He studied the fossils in detail and had the success include the trilobites (entomolifhus) in the class of arthropods. Linnaeus imagined the world created in seven days, as he/she conceives the Christianity. It was paradise on an island in the middle of the Ocean near the coordinates of ecuador. He/She believed that water dwindled to leaving the discovered land which created species expanded. He/She noted how sediments of the Earth had been formed along geological eras. The shy meaning of evolution which came to conceive had thus a religious principle that not clashed directly or with their beliefs or with the of the rigid time lived. Nowadays, taxonomists continue perfecting the "natural system" of classification, but the current bases are focused on the evolutionary relationships of the various taxa.

Also rated the mineral world, in which the crystals and their structure constituted the basic criterion of classification, leaving aside the chemical composition of the minerals. Linnaeus was one of the pioneers of modern crystallography, as can be seen in crystallorum generatione, published in 1747.

Linnaeus lived in its final stage in Sweden as Professor of medicine and botany. His home was next to the Botanical Garden in Uppsala. In 1758 he/she moved to a nearby residence constructed in Hammarby. In 1762 he/she received the title that gave him a rank of nobility, due to their scientific merits and the global importance of his work. From that date it would be Carl von Linné.

At the beginning of 1770 Linnaeus forces began to waver; in the spring of 1774 was the victim of a stroke that apparently recovered. But over the years it declined and successive attacks left him partially paralyzed; at the end without memory unable to recognize the most common plants. This loss of his extraordinary powers must have been terrible for him and his associates. Linnaeus died January 10, 1778.

The magnificent collection of plants from around the world (herbarium) collected throughout his life, as well as the rights of his written work, passed as an inheritance to his son Carl Linneo young, who succeeded him as Professor of Botany. At the death of his son in 1783, collections of plants and almost all of his works were sold by 900 guineas to a young English doctor called James Edward Smith, who founded in 1788 the Linnean Society of London (Linnaean Society of London), society that preserves and disseminates the work of Linnaeus from this country and that is depository of almost all the works of Linnaeus. Only a few of them, like Conatuum sponsaliorum plantarum and divine Nemesis are in Sweden, in particular at the University of Uppsala.

Linnaeus left a large inheritance to the knowledge and the science of Botany. His enthusiasm, precision and order radiates in the minds of lovers of nature up to the present. Linnaeus sensitivity to the world of plants can be seen in this ruling, valid even until nowadays:

"Plants that adorn forest fields and roads, and herbs are medicinal jewels. Few eyes see it, few minds understand. Due to this lack of observation and knowledge, the world suffers a huge loss".


LINDROTH, Sten: Carl von Linné in Swedish men of science.

SOUSBY, B.H.: A Catalogue of the Works of Linnaeus. London, 1933.

FRIES, M. T.: Linnaeus The Story of His Life. London, 1923.

BLUNT, Wilfrid: The compleat Naturalist. A life of Linnaeus. London, 1971.