Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)
Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné or Carolus Linnaeus, is often called the Father of Taxonomy. His system for naming, ranking, and classifying organisms is still in wide use today (with many changes). His ideas on classification have influenced generations of biologists during and after his own lifetime, even those opposed to the philosophical and theological roots of his work.
He was born on May 23, 1707, at Stenbrohult, in the province of Småland in southern Sweden. His father, Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus, was both an avid gardener and a Lutheran pastor, and Carl showed a deep love of plants and a fascination with their names from a very early age. Carl disappointed his parents by showing neither aptitude nor desire for the priesthood, but his family was somewhat consoled when Linnaeus entered the University of Lund in 1727 to study medicine. A year later, he transferred to the University of Uppsala, the most prestigious university in Sweden. However, its medical facilities had been neglected and had fallen into disrepair. Most of Linaeus's time at Uppsala was spent collecting and studying plants, his true love. At the time, training in botany was part of the medical curriculum, for every doctor had to prepare and prescribe drugs derived from medicinal plants. Despite being in hard financial straits, Linnaeus mounted a botanical and ethnographical expedition to Lapland in 1731. In 1734 he mounted another expedition to central Sweden.
Linnaeus went to the Netherlands in 1735, promptly finished his medical degree at the University of Harderwijk, and then enrolled in the University of Leiden for further studies. That same year, he published the first edition of his classification of living things, the Systema Naturae. During these years, he met or corresponded with Europe's great botanists, and continued to develop his classification scheme. Returning to Sweden in 1738, he practiced medicine (specializing in the treatment of syphilis) and lectured in Stockholm before being awarded a professorship at Uppsala in 1741. At Uppsala, he restored the University's botanical garden (arranging the plants according to his system of classification), made three more expeditions to various parts of Sweden, and inspired a generation of students. He was instrumental in arranging to have his students sent out on trade and exploration voyages to all parts of the world: nineteen of Linnaeus's students went out on these voyages of discovery. Perhaps his most famous student, Daniel Solander, was the naturalist on Captain James Cook's first round-the-world voyage, and brought back the first plant collections from Australia and the South Pacific to Europe. Anders Sparrman, another of Linnaeus's students, was a botanist on Cook's second voyage. Another student, Pehr Kalm, traveled in the northeastern American colonies for three years studying American plants. Yet another, Carl Peter Thunberg, was the first Western naturalist to visit Japan in over a century; he not only studied the flora of Japan, but taught Western medicine to Japanese practicioners. Still others of his students traveled to South America, southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Many died on their travels.
Linnaeus continued to revise his Systema Naturae, which grew from a slim pamphlet to a multivolume work, as his concepts were modified and as more and more plant and animal specimens were sent to him from every corner of the globe. Linnaeus was also deeply involved with ways to make the Swedish economy more self-sufficient and less dependent on foreign trade, either by acclimatizing valuable plants to grow in Sweden, or by finding native substitutes. Unfortunately, Linnaeus's attempts to grow cacao, coffee, tea, bananas, rice, and mulberries proved unsuccessful in Sweden's cold climate. His attempts to boost the economy (and to prevent the famines that still struck Sweden at the time) by finding native Swedish plants that could be used as tea, coffee, flour, and fodder were also not generally successful. He still found time to practice medicine, eventually becoming personal physician to the Swedish royal family. In 1758 he bought the manor estate of Hammarby, outside Uppsala, where he built a small museum for his extensive personal collections. In 1761 he was granted nobility, and became Carl von Linné. His later years were marked by increasing depression and pessimism. Lingering on for several years after suffering what was probably a series of mild strokes in 1774, he died in 1778. His son, also named Carl, succeeded to his professorship at Uppsala, but never was noteworthy as a botanist. When Carl the Younger died five years later with no heirs, his mother and sisters sold the elder Linnaeus's library, manuscripts, and natural history collections to the English natural historian Sir James Edward Smith, who founded the Linnean Society of London to take care of them.
Linnaeus was the first person to describe ants using the bionomial classification system in 1758.
Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: L. Salvii, 824 pp.
Linnaeus, C. 1761. Fauna suecica sistens animalia Sueciae regni: Mammalia, Aves, Amphibia, Pisces, Insecta, Vermes. Editio altera, auctior. Stockholmiae [=Stockholm]: L. Salvii, 48 + 578 pp.
Linnaeus, C. 1763. CXXI. Centuria insectorum quam praeside D. D. Car. von Linné proposuit Boas Johansson, Calmariensis (Upsaliae 1763. Junii 23). Pp. 384-415 in: Amoenitates academicae; seu dissertationes variae physicae, medicae, botanicae, antehac seorsim editae, nunc collectae et auctae cum tabulis aeneis. Tomus 6. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: G. Kiesewetter, 486 pp.
Linnaeus, C. 1764. Museum S:ae R:ae M:tis Ludovicae Ulricae Reginae Svecorum, Gothorum, Vandalorumque, &c. In quo animalia rariora, exotica, imprimis. Insecta & Conchilia describuntur & determinantur. Prodromi instar. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: Salvius, 8 + 720 pp.
Linnaeus, C. 1767. Systema naturae, per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum caracteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Pars 2. Editio duodecima, reformata. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: L. Salvii, pp. 533-1327.
Linnaeus, C. 1771. Mantissa plantarum altera generum editionis VI & specierum editionis II. Holmiae [= Stockholm]: Laurentii Salvii,  + 143-587 pp.
Anderson, Margaret Jean. Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, 1997.
Blunt, Wilfred. A Life of Linnaeus. New York: Viking Press, 1971.
Blunt, Wilfrid. Linnaeus: The Compleat Naturalist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Koerner, Lisbet. Linnaeus: Nature and Nation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.