Carl Linnaeus


Carl Linnaeus : biography

23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778

Since the initial release of ‘ in 1735, the book had been expanded and reprinted several times; the tenth edition was released in 1758. This edition established itself as the starting point for zoological nomenclature, the equivalent of ‘.Blunt (2004), p. 6.

The Swedish king Adolf Frederick granted Linnaeus nobility in 1757, but he was not ennobled until 1761. With his ennoblement, he took the name Carl von Linné (Latinized as ‘), ‘Linné’ being a shortened and gallicised version of ‘Linnæus’, and the German title ‘von’ signifying his ennoblement. The noble family’s coat of arms prominently features a twinflower, one of Linnaeus’ favourite plants; it was given the scientific name Linnaea borealis in his honour by Gronovius. The shield in the coat of arms is divided into thirds: red, black and green for the three kingdoms of nature (animal, mineral and vegetable) in Linnaean classification; in the center is an egg "to denote Nature, which is continued and perpetuated in ovo." At the bottom is a phrase in Latin, borrowed from the Aeneid, which reads "": we extend our fame by our deeds.Blunt (2004), p. 199.Blunt (2004), pp. 229–230.Gribbin & Gribbin (2008), p. 62.

After his ennoblement, Linnaeus continued teaching and writing. His reputation had spread over the world, and he corresponded with many different people. For example, Catherine II of Russia sent him seeds from her country., English language version He also corresponded with Giovanni Antonio Scopoli, "the Linnaeus of the Austrian Empire", who was a doctor and a botanist in Idrija, Duchy of Carniola (nowadays Slovenia). Scopoli communicated all of his research, findings, and descriptions (for example of the olm and the dormouse, two little animals hitherto unknown to Linnaeus). Linnaeus greatly respected him and showed great interest in his work. He named a solanaceous genus, Scopolia, the source of scopolamine, after him. Because of a great distance, they didn’t ever meet.

Last years

Linnaeus was relieved of his duties in the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in 1763, but continued his work there as usual for more than ten years after. He stepped down as rector at Uppsala University in December 1772, mostly due to his declining health.Blunt (2004), p. 245.

Linnaeus’ last years were troubled by illness. He had suffered from a disease called the Uppsala fever in 1764, but survived thanks to the care of Rosén. He developed sciatica in 1773, and the next year, he had a stroke which partially paralysed him.Blunt (2004), p. 232. He suffered a second stroke in 1776, losing the use of his right side and leaving him bereft of his memory; while still able to admire his own writings, he could not recognize himself as their author.Stöver (1974), pp. 243–245.Broberg (2006), p. 42.

In December 1777, he had another stroke which greatly weakened him, and eventually led to his death on 10 January 1778 in Hammarby.Gribbin & Gribbin (2008), p. 63. Despite his desire to be buried in Hammarby, he was interred in Uppsala Cathedral on 22 January.Quammen (2007), p. 4.Anderson (1997), pp. 104–106.

His library and collections were left to his widow Sara and their children. Joseph Banks, an English botanist, wanted to buy the collection, but his son Carl refused and moved the collection to Uppsala. However, in 1783 Carl died and Sara inherited the collection, having outlived both her husband and son. She tried to sell it to Banks, but he was no longer interested; instead an acquaintance of his agreed to buy the collection. The acquaintance was a 24-year-old medical student, James Edward Smith, who bought the whole collection: 14,000 plants, 3,198 insects, 1,564 shells, about 3,000 letters and 1,600 books. Smith founded the Linnean Society of London five years later.Blunt (2001), pp. 238–240.

The von Linné name ended with his son Carl, who never married. His other son, Johannes, had died aged 3. There are over two hundred descendants of Linnaeus through two of his daughters.