Carl Linnaeus

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Carl Linnaeus : biography

23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778

Commentary on Linnaeus

Andrew Dickson White wrote in A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896):

Linnaeus… was the most eminent naturalist of his time, a wide observer, a close thinker; but the atmosphere in which he lived and moved and had his being was saturated with biblical theology, and this permeated all his thinking. …Toward the end of his life he timidly advanced the hypothesis that all the species of one genus constituted at the creation one species; and from the last edition of his Systema Naturæ he quietly left out the strongly orthodox statement of the fixity of each species, which he had insisted upon in his earlier works. …warnings came speedily both from the Catholic and Protestant sides.Andrew Dickson White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1922) pp.59-61

Commemoration

Anniversaries of Linnaeus’ birth, especially in centennial years, have been marked by major celebrations.Östholm (2007) Linnaeus has appeared on numerous Swedish postage stamps and banknotes. There are numerous statues of Linnaeus in countries around the world. The Linnean Society of London has awarded the Linnean Medal for excellence in botany or zoology since 1888. Following approval by the Parliament of Sweden, Växjö University and Kalmar College merged on 1 January 2010 to become Linnaeus University. Other things named after Linnaeus include the twinflower genus Linnaea, the crater Linné on the Earth’s moon and the cobalt sulfide mineral Linnaeite.

Apostles

During Linnaeus’ time as Professor and Rector of Uppsala University, he taught many devoted students, 17 of whom he called "apostles". They were the most promising, most committed students, and all of them made botanical expeditions to various places in the world, often with his help. The amount of this help varied; sometimes he used his influence as Rector to grant his apostles a scholarship or a place on an expedition.Blunt (2004), pp. 189–190. To most of the apostles he gave instructions of what to look for on their journeys. Abroad, the apostles collected and organised new plants, animals and minerals according to Linnaeus’ system. Most of them also gave some of their collection to Linnaeus when their journey was finished.Broberg (2006), pp. 37–39. Thanks to these students, the Linnaean system of taxonomy spread through the world without Linnaeus ever having to travel outside Sweden after his return from Holland.Anderson (1997), pp. 92–93. The British botanist William T. Stearn notes without Linnaeus’ new system, it would not have been possible for the apostles to collect and organise so many new specimens.Blunt (2004), pp. 184–185. Many of the apostles died during their expeditions.

Early expeditions

Christopher Tärnström, the first apostle and a 43-year-old pastor with a wife and children, made his journey in 1746. He boarded a Swedish East India Company ship headed for China. Tärnström never reached his destination, dying of a tropical fever on Côn Sơn Island the same year. Tärnström’s widow blamed Linnaeus for making her children fatherless, causing Linnaeus to prefer sending out younger, unmarried students after Tärnström.Blunt (2004), pp. 185–186. Six other apostles later died on their expeditions, including Pehr Forsskål and Pehr Löfling.

Two years after Tärnström’s expedition, Finnish-born Pehr Kalm set out as the second apostle to North America. There he spent two-and-a-half years studying the flora and fauna of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Canada. Linnaeus was overjoyed when Kalm returned, bringing back with him many pressed flowers and seeds. At least 90 of the 700 North American species described in Species Plantarum had been brought back by Kalm.Anderson (1997), pp. 93–94.

Cook expeditions and Japan

Daniel Solander was living in Linnaeus’ house during his time as a student in Uppsala. Linnaeus was very fond of him, promising Solander his oldest daughter’s hand in marriage. On Linnaeus’ recommendation, Solander travelled to England in 1760, where he met the English botanist Joseph Banks. With Banks, Solander joined James Cook on his expedition to Oceania on the Endeavour in 1768–71.Anderson (1997), p. 96.Blunt (2004), pp. 191–192. Solander was not the only apostle to journey with James Cook; Anders Sparrman followed on the Resolution in 1772–75 bound for, among other places, Oceania and South America. Sparrman made many other expeditions, one of them to South Africa.Blunt (2004), pp. 192–193.