Carolus Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus

J.Chapman/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain


Early Life and Education

Born May 23, 1707 - Died January 10, 1778

Carl Nilsson Linnaeus (Latin pen name: Carolus Linnaeus) was born on May 23, 1707 in Smaland, Sweden. He was the first born to Christina Brodersonia and Nils Ingemarsson Linnaeus. His father was a Lutheran minister and his mother was the daughter of the rector of Stenbrohult. In his spare time, Nils Linnaeus spent time gardening and teaching Carl about plants.

Early Life and Education

Carl's father taught him Latin and geography at a very young age in an effort to groom him to take over the priesthood when Nils retired. Carl spent two years being tutored but disliked the man chosen to teach him and then went on to the Lower Grammar School in Vaxjo. He finished there at the age of 15 and continued on to the Vaxjo Gymnasium. Instead of studying, Carl spent his time looking at plants and Nils was disappointed to learn he would not make it as a scholarly priest. Instead, he went off to study medicine at Lund University where he enrolled with his Latin name, Carolus Linnaeus. In 1728, Carl transferred to Uppsala University where he could study botany along with medicine.

Linnaeus wrote his thesis on plant sexuality, which earned him a spot as a lecturer at the college. He spent most of his young life traveling and discovering new species of plants and useful minerals. His first expedition in 1732 was funded from a grant provided by Uppsala University that allowed him to research plants in Lapland. His six-month trip resulted in over 100 new species of plants.

His traveling continued in 1734 when Carl took a trip to Dalarna and then again in 1735 he went to the Netherlands to pursue a doctorate degree. He earned the doctorate in only two weeks' time and returned to Uppsala.

Professional Achievements in Taxonomy

Carolus Linnaeus is best known for his innovative classification system called taxonomy. He published Systema Naturae in 1735, in which he outlined his way of classifying plants. The classification system was primarily based on his expertise of plant sexuality, but it was met with mixed reviews from traditional botanists of the time.

Linnaeus' desire to have a universal naming system for living things led him to the use of binomial nomenclature to organize the botanical collection at Uppsala University. He renamed many plants and animals in the two-word Latin system to make scientific names shorter and more accurate. His Systema Naturae went through many revisions over time and came to include all living things.

In the beginning of Linnaeus' career, he thought species were permanent and unchangeable, as was taught to him by his religious father. However, the more he studied and classified plants, he began to see the changes of species through hybridization. Eventually, he admitted that speciation did occur and a sort of directed evolution was possible. However, he believed whatever changes that were made were part of a divine plan and not by chance.

Personal Life

In 1738, Carl became engaged to Sara Elisabeth Moraea. He did not have enough money to marry her right away, so he moved to Stockholm to become a physician. A year later when finances were in order, they married and soon Carl became a professor of medicine at Uppsala University. He would later switch to teach botany and natural history instead. Carl and Sara Elisabeth ended up having a total of two sons and 5 daughters, one of whom died in infancy.

Linnaeus' love of botany led him to buy several farms in the area over time where he would go to escape the city life every chance he got. His later years were filled with illness, and after two strokes, Carl Linnaeus died on January 10, 1778.

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Scoville, Heather. "Carolus Linnaeus." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Scoville, Heather. (2021, February 16). Carolus Linnaeus. Retrieved from Scoville, Heather. "Carolus Linnaeus." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).