Monday, May 23, 2011

Grattis på födelsedagen, Carl

LinnaeusToday in 1707 in the countryside of Småland, in southern Sweden, Carl Linné, who is better known by the Latinised version of his name - Carolus Linnaeus - was born. The family's surname was chosen by his father, Nils Ingemarsson, son of Ingemar Bengtsson, when Nils went to the University of Lund and needed a permanent surname; he used the Latin form in the academic setting. The inspiration for the name was a giant linden tree on the family homestead - their warden tree, in fact.

Linnaeus was primarily a botanist, and throughout his life he made efforts to introduce new crop-plants into Sweden, most of which were failures (due to the climate); he did succeed with rhubarb, though.

But his legacy is the scientific naming system - the binomial nomenclature - used to this day, and the taxonomic system for classifying living things that it encapsulates. When you speak of Families and Orders, of Genera and Species, you're using Linnean language. When you say Homo sapiens, Quercus alba, Tyrannosaurus rex, or Buteo lineatus, your precision is his gift.

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