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Carolus Linnaeus (cleaned up version)
Carolus Linnaeus by Alexander Roslin, 1775

Carolus Linnaeus (23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778) was a Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist who created the binomial nomenclature. In this system, every kind of animal and plant is given a name consisting of two Latin words, for its genus and species. This became used by biologists all over the world, and he is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". He was a good linguist, and famous in his time. He was made a noble by the Swedish king.


Early life

Carl was born in Sweden. He was going to be a priest, but did not do well enough in school for that. Instead his interest in botany got him started studying at a college for this. Carl studied in Lund and tried to make something of the garden there. He later went to another college.

Travels and research

In 1735 Linnaeus moved to the Netherlands, for three years. Here he earned his degree in medicine. He also published his book on plant classification.

Later he moved to Stockholm and practiced as a doctor. In 1739 Linnaeus married Sara Morea in Stockholm. Throughout the 1740s he conducted many field trips to places in Sweden to name plants and animals. When not on travels, Linnaeus worked on his classification, so it would work for plants, animals, and minerals.

The Swedish king Adolf Fredrik made Linnaeus a noble in 1757, and Linnaeus took the last name von Linné, later often signing just Carl Linné.

Last years

After he was made a noble, he continued teaching and writing. His reputation had spread over the world, and he talked with many different people. Linnaeus was upset by weak health, and he had gout and tooth aches. A stroke in 1774 weakened him, and two years later he had another, losing the use of his right side. He died on January 1778 and was buried in Uppsala cathedral.


Detail from the 6th edition of Systema Naturae (1748) describing Anthropomorpha ( = Primates) with a division between Homo and Simia

Linnaeus classified man as among the primates, which was already well understood by anthropologists like Blumenbach and natural historians like Buffon. It attracted the criticism of the Swedish church. The Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala accused him of "impiety".

Linnaeus recognised four races in the human species. These were European whites, American reds (Native Americans), Asian browns, and African blacks. Blumenbach's classification was similar, with the addition of a Mongolian (= Chinese) or yellow race. Thus recognition of man's position as a primate and the existence of races was quite widespread before the theory of evolution was formulated.


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