'God creates; but Linnaeus names'

Linnaeus, Prince of Botanists: His Works and Legacy

2007 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), a notable Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician. Linnaeus's passion for order saw him develop a standardised binomial classification system - the Latin two-word tags of plants and animals - that forms the basis of today's classifying system. A religious man, Linnaeus believed the world's flora and fauna was finite, and that he was doing God's work by ordering it. Such was his determination and confidence in his binomial system that he initially believed he would be able to classify Nature within his lifetime. To this end, he travelled extensively, seeking out unknown flora and fauna. He also had disciples, his 'Apostles' such as Carl P. Thunberg, Pehr [Peter] Kalm, Daniel Solander and Anders Sparrman, travel the world searching for and classifying further species. The last two travelled with Captain Cook to the Pacific.

In his pursuit of accurate classification, Linnaeus made regular alterations to his system. One early attempt in his Systema Naturae (1735) was his highly controversial 'sexual system' of plant classification, based on the number and arrangements of stamens (male organs) and pistils (female organs). Another important work was his Species Plantarum (1753), which is regarded as the starting point for the Latin binomial, or two-word, names of plants.

Notable works in this exhibition include an English version of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae (1806), his Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Natural History, Husbandry and Physick (1775), his Species Plantarum, and Genera Plantarum, his Hortus Cliffortianus, the first such description of an English garden, and a first full English edition of Linnaeus's Nemesis Divina (2001).

Other items on display include works by his 'Apostles' Anders Sparrman and Daniel Solander, the first Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (1791), and highly colourful volumes from The Naturalist's Library (1833-1844). Some pre-Linnaean classification titles such as Pliny's The Historie of the World (1635) and John Gerard's famous Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (1633) are also on display.

This exhibition entitled 'Linnaeus, Prince of Botanists: His Works and Legacy' runs from 6th July to 28th September 2007. It coincides with further Linnaean celebrations, an Exhibition and a Linnaean Symposium: 'Nature, Named and Ordered' at the Otago Museum during the month of August 2007.

To view references: List of References

Linnaeus main page University of Otago <