Carl von Linné

The Swedish researcher Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778; also Carl von Linné after he was ennobled in 1757) was one of the most important natural scientists of his time. Today, Linnaeus is primarily known as the researcher who created the taxonomy and the system of naming species for both plants and animals. According to a saying, “God created, Linnaeus organized”.

Linnaeus, who was born in the village of Råshul in Småland, Sweden, was interested in plants already as a child. At the time, botany was part of medicine, so Carl went to study medicine at the University of Lund in 1727. After graduation, he worked as a doctor and, later, as a professor of botany and medicine.

In 1732, Linnaeus made an expedition to Lapland, which had hardly been visited by scientists at the time. During his journey, he studied both plants and the lives and culture of the local people. In his book Flora Lapponica (1737), Linnaeus described the characteristics of the plant species but also the way plants were used by people. His diary of the journey, Lapinmatka 1732 (“A Journey to Lapland in 1732”) was not published until 1889. Linnaeus had a rather romantic view of the lives of the local people: “I have never met a people that would lead as comfortable a life as the Lapps”. Naturally, Linnaeus was also interested in the use of plants in medicine. He wrote a textbook on the subject in 1749.

The development of a scientific classification and naming system of organisms was Linnaeus´s greatest contribution to science. Organisms are divided hierarchically into groups on the basis of common characteristics. Earlier, species had been given descriptive names that could sometimes be quite long. In his system, Linnaeus replaced the long names with names that had just two parts. The scientific name of a species consists of a generic name and a specific epithet. This system of naming is still used, although the scientific community has changed the criteria for classification. Linnaeus called the twinflower (Linnaea borealis) after himself.

In Archive