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Carl Linnaeus

Carl LinnaeusCarl Linnaeus The Swedish scientist, Carl Linnaeus (1707–78), is famous for devising the two-part naming system, known as binomial nomenclature, used to classify all living things. A chimpanzee's name under the Linnaean classification system, for example, is Pan troglodytes; a weeping willow is Salix babylonica. Linnaeus has been described as the father of taxonomy, the science of grouping living things together on the basis of their shared characteristics. He is also responsible for describing and classifying the human species exactly in the same way as he classified other animals, at a time when it was generally thought that humans should be regarded as a special case—quite different from animals.


Carl Linnaeus as a child plant collectorCarl Linnaeus as a child plant collector

Early life

Carl Linnaeus was born in 1707, the eldest of five children, in the village of Råshult, Småland, in southern Sweden. His father, Nils, was a church minister and keen gardener. He was eager to teach his son about plants and their various names. By the age of five, Carl had his own garden, and he set about memorizing as many plant names—then, as now, in Latin—as he could.

Carl rarely studied at school, preferring to go to the countryside to look for plants. His headmaster, Daniel Lannerus, was interested in botany and introduced him to Johan Rothman (1684–1763), the state doctor of Småland. Rothman helped Carl develop an interest in medicine.

Linnaeus once designed a "flower clock"—a garden with a range of plants that opened or closed their flowers at particular times of the day. This would accurately tell the time. The idea was tried out in several botanical gardens.

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