Carl Linnaeus


Carl Linnaeus : biography

23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778

Perhaps the most famous and successful apostle was Carl Peter Thunberg, who embarked on a nine-year expedition in 1770. He stayed in South Africa for three years, then travelled to Japan. All foreigners in Japan were forced to stay on the island of Dejima outside Nagasaki, so it was thus hard for Thunberg to study the flora. He did, however, manage to persuade some of the translators to bring him different plants, and he also found plants in the gardens of Dejima. He returned to Sweden in 1779, one year after Linnaeus’ death.Blunt (2004), pp. 193–194.



File:External Statues, Palm House, Sefton Park (4).jpg|Linnaeus marble by Léon Chavalliaud (1899), outside the Palm House at Sefton Park, Liverpool

Views on mankind

According to German biologist Ernst Haeckel, the question of man’s origin began with Linnaeus. He helped future research in the natural history of man by describing humans just as he described any other plant or animal.Frängsmyr et al. (1983), pp. 156–157. He was the first person to place humans in a system of biological classification.


Carl Linnaeus was born in the village of Råshult in Småland, Sweden on 23 May 1707. He was the first child of Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus and Christina Brodersonia. His father was the first in his ancestry to adopt a permanent surname. Before that, ancestors had used the patronymic naming system of Scandinavian countries: his father was named Ingemarsson after his father Ingemar Bengtsson. When Nils was admitted to the University of Lund, he had to take on a family name. He adopted the Latinate name Linnæus after a giant linden tree (or lime tree), ‘ in Swedish, that grew on the family homestead.Blunt (2004), p. 12. This name was spelled with the æ ligature. When Carl was born, he was named Carl Linnæus, with his father’s family name. The son also always spelled it with the æ ligature, both in handwritten documents and in publications.Blunt (2004), p. 13. Carl’s patronymic would have been Nilsson, as in Carl Nilsson Linnæus.

One of a long line of peasants and priests, Nils was an amateur botanist, a Lutheran minister, and the curate of the small village of Stenbrohult in Småland. Christina was the daughter of the rector of Stenbrohult, Samuel Brodersonius. She subsequently gave birth to three daughters and another son, Samuel (who would eventually succeed their father as rector of Stenbrohult and write a manual on beekeeping).Stöver (1974), p. 8.Broberg (2006), p. 10. A year after Linnaeus’ birth, his grandfather Samuel Brodersonius died, and his father Nils became the rector of Stenbrohult. The family moved into the rectory from the curate’s house.Quammen (2007), p. 1.

Even in his early years, Linnaeus seemed to have a liking for plants, flowers in particular. Whenever he was upset, he was given a flower, which immediately calmed him. Nils spent much time in his garden and often showed flowers to Linnaeus and told him their names. Soon Linnaeus was given his own patch of earth where he could grow plants.Blunt (2004), p. 15.

Early education

Linnaeus’ father began teaching him Latin, religion, and geography at an early age; one account says that due to family use of Latin for conversation, the boy learned Latin before he learned Swedish. When Linnaeus was seven, Nils decided to hire a tutor for him. The parents picked Johan Telander, a son of a local yeoman. Linnaeus did not like him, writing in his autobiography that Telander "was better calculated to extinguish a child’s talents than develop them."Blunt (2004), pp. 15–16. Two years after his tutoring had begun, he was sent to the Lower Grammar School at Växjö in 1717.Stöver (1974), p. 5. Linnaeus rarely studied, often going to the countryside to look for plants. He reached the last year of the Lower School when he was fifteen, which was taught by the headmaster, Daniel Lannerus, who was interested in botany. Lannerus noticed Linnaeus’ interest in botany and gave him the run of his garden. He also introduced him to Johan Rothman, the state doctor of Småland and a teacher at Växjö Gymnasium. Also a botanist, Rothman broadened Linnaeus’ interest in botany and helped him develop an interest in medicine.Blunt (2004), p. 16.Stöver (1974), pp. 5–6. At the age of 17, Linnaeus had become well acquainted with the existing botanical literature. He remarks in his journal "read day and night, knowing like the back of my hand, Arvidh Månsson´s Rydaholm Book of Herbs, Tillandz´s Flora Åboensis, Palmberg´s Serta Florea Suecana, Bromelii Chloros Gothica and Rudbeckii Hortus Upsaliensis.." Carl von Linnés betydelse såsom naturforskare och läkare : skildringar utgifna af Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien i anledning af tvåhundraårsdagen af Linnés födelse|