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Linnaeus, Carl von (1707–78)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-Q059-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 12, 2024, from

Article Summary

Linnaeus was educated in Sweden, and became a doctor of medicine in Harderwijk, Holland, in 1735. He visited other European countries then, but he never left Sweden after his return in 1738. After practising as a physician in Stockholm, he moved to Uppsala University as professor of medicine and botany in 1741. He articulated four different but complementary ways of understanding nature – through two kinds of classification, and through what can be called developmental and functional/ecological interactions. Linnaeus is best known for his classificatory work, for which he received material from all over the world. His classificatory precepts are elaborated in the Philosophia botanica of 1751, an enlarged version of the 365 aphorisms of his Fundamenta botanica of 1735; the other aspects of his work are diffused through his writings. His artificial classification system, initially very popular, was replaced by the ’natural’ system, more slowly in botany than in zoology, and more slowly in England than in some other countries. Current biological nomenclature is based on his Species plantarum, edition 1 (for plants), and Systema naturae, edition 10 (for animals). His codification of botanical terms remains influential. Almost 200 dissertations, most written by Linnaeus, were defended by his students. In these and other less well-known works, including the unpublished Nemesis divina (Stories of Divine Retribution), he covered a wide range of subjects. Quinarian thinking is noticeable in Linnaeus’ work – there are five ranks in systems, five years’ growth in flowers – and in some of the occult works that he knew. He also shows a strong combinatorial bent and a tendency to draw close analogies between the parts of animals and plants.

Citing this article:
Stevens, P.F.. Linnaeus, Carl von (1707–78), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-Q059-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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