Linnaeus, Carolus

Swedish botanist and taxonomist

Carolus Linnaeus developed the binomial system for naming organisms. Born Carl von Linné in Sweden, Linnaeus developed an early interest in botany and classification and later developed a new classification scheme for the growing numbers of plants and animals being discovered throughout the world. Linnaeus proposed using the number and arrangement of stamens and pistils in flowers as a simple set of characters to classify plants. This system was used widely for a time but later was replaced by more natural systems based on larger numbers of characters.

Linnaeus's most important contribution was the naming system he devised to accompany his classification system. In contrast to the complex and at times chaotic rules used by other botanists, Linnaeus proposed that each type of organism be called by a simple, two-part (binomial) name. Each plant in his system was given a genus name, which grouped the plant with other similar plants, and a species name, often a descriptive term, to make a combination unique for that organism. Each name was given in Latin. For instance, the white oak is Quercus alba ( alba means white), while the red oak is Quercus rubra ( rubra means red). This nomenclatural system was first published in Species Plantarum in 1753 and was widely and quickly accepted. While naming systems have grown more complex since his time, Linnaeus's binomial system for the genus and species is used today by all biologists.

SEE ALSO Buffon, Count (Georges-Louis Leclerc) ; Taxonomy, History of

Richard Robinson


Isely, Duane. One Hundred and One Botanists. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1994.

Reed, H. S. A Short History of the Plant Sciences. New York: Ronald Press, 1942.

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