Monday, December 31, 2007

cascada post 26

The Great Swede

This being the last day of year 2007 is also the last day to celebrate the 300th year of the birth of the great Swede. Of course there are many famous Swedes: Ingmar Bergman, Greta Garbo, Bjorn Borg, Alfred Nobel, Dag Hammarskjöld to name a few. There are surely also many Swedes great in their fields whose names are not well known to the public. But at least since the mid 19th century "THE Great Swede" refers to just one person: Carl Linnaeus, also known as Carl von Linné or Carolus Linnaeus.

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778)

I learned of him about 50 years ago in high school biology, for he was the person, more than any other who made sense of the extreme diversity of the natural world of living things. He started the system of scientific classification of living things that we still use today. His principal work on classification of life was: Systema Naturae which in its first edition was less than a dozen pages. Here is a sample page of the early 1735 edition:

Sample page of Linnaeus's Systema Naturae early 1735 version
(click here for large version -- 385K)

Linnaeus continued to work on his classification system until it grew into a multi-volume work. At least 19 of his students traveled to various parts of the world collecting biological specimens which were included in later editions. The tenth edition of this book is considered the starting point of zoological nomenclature. Here is the cover of volume 1 of that tenth edition.

Cover of volume 1 of the tenth edition (year 1760) of Linneaus's Systema Naturae

To be continued in 2008...

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