name Linnaeus was obtained by Carl's father during his studies
to become a priest and was a Latinised form of the tree Lind
(Latin: Tilia). The name Carl von Linné is his nobleman name,
obtained when he was knighted in 1761. He used Carolus Linnæus
as author on his Latin works.
From an early
age, his interest in plants dominated his life. His family moved
to Stenbrohults when he was two years old and it was here that
his passion grew further. At the age of five, he was given his
own piece of the garden to take care of and this became one of
the finest in Småland., Even though his father was a devoted
amateur botanist and gardener, he was disappointed that Carl
didn't want to follow him in priesthood: Carl had no plans of
becoming a priest, but "at least" he enrolled at the university
to study medicine at Lund in 1727.
studied study medicine under Kilian Stobæus. Besides being a
professor in medicine, he was also professor in Philosophia
naturalis et physica experimentalis (natural history and
physics) and history. One year later, he continued his medical
studies at Uppsala University under Olof Celsius d.ä. and Olof
Rudbeck d.y. However, he did not find the studies that
interesting, and they were neglected. Most of his time at
Uppsala was spent collecting and studying plants, his true love.
At that time, training in botany was part of the medical
curriculum, for every doctor had to prepare and prescribe drugs
derived from medicinal plants - they were their only drugstore.
himself an enthusiastic botanist saw the great potential in
Carl, and helped him financially, and let him stay in his house.
Later, he got a job at Olof Rudbeck's home, teaching his
children. When Rudbeck needed to leave his job because of age he
commissioned Carl to give lectures in botany in the botanical
garden. As a botanical demonstrator Carl renewed the badly
looked after botanical garden and introduced new, rare plants.
He also began to teach botanical theory, which was something
In 1731, he
left the Rudbeck family and for a while he went back to his
parents in Småland. In 1732, he managed to find funding for a
scientific expedition to Lappland, northern Sweden - probably
inspired by Rudbeck's stories from his Torne lappmark expedition
in 1702. The specimens Rudbeck had collected were lost in a
penetrated the hostile land no one else had seen, and even his
Sami guide feared for his life. On this four month’s tour, he
was amazed at the rich flora his country had, without any one
knowing. Two years later, he went on another scientific
expedition to Dalarna, central Sweden. Once again, he found a
natural richness, he believed could be turned into economical
richness for his country. But there was no one interested in his
had been expensive, and Carl was broke. He gave lectures on e.g:
ore and mineral analysis, and in 1733, he had saved enough to go
to Falun in Dalarna, Sweden for further studies in mineralogy.
From here he launched a 40 day expedition through Dalarna,
consisting of volunteering students. They recorded all, from the
disappointing botany over animals to culture. It was published
in Iter Dalecarlicum.
While being in
Falun, Carl met Sara Elisabeth Moræa. It was a match made in
heaven, but her father demanded Carl to finish his MD, to be
able to support his daughter. His friend Claes Sohlberg's father
gave Carl an annual compensation, if he accepted to be his son’s
tutor and bring him on his journey abroad.
In 1735, he
joined the University of Harderwijk in the Nederland, where he
finished his medicine studies within a week! He defended a
thesis about malaria where he connected the disease with the
amount of clay in the water! Due to lack of funds, he continued
studying at University of Leiden along with Claes Sohlberg, and
his first important work was published: Systema Naturae,
financed by Dr. Johan Fredrich Gronovius. It was a great help
for all, studying botany, and Carl himself coined the phrase:
"God created, Linnaeus classified." He corresponded with
Europe's great botanists, and made tours to Denmark, France,
England and Germany the next four years.
He got an
offer from Professor Herman Boerhaave, one of his time's biggest
authorities in medicine, to travel to South Africa for two years
to collect plants for the botanical garden in Leiden and
thereafter continuing his journey to America. Carl declined the
offer, as he wanted to return to his Sara back in Sweden as soon
Leiden, and on the way home, he met Professor Johan Burman, the
superintendent of the botanical garden in Amsterdam. Burman
offered Carl food and accommodation if he helped him work
through the plants from Ceylon that Burman was working with.
Carl stayed over the winter and during his stay he also
published Bibliotheca Botanica and Fundamenta Botanica.
of Carl's competence and knowledge in botany was spread in the
Netherlands. In the autumn 1735, the director of the Dutch East
India Company; Georg Clifford, persuaded Carl to start working
for him in his botanical garden. Carl accepted the offer and
stayed with Clifford. Carl used the time efficiently and
travelled to the botanical gardens in Holland to obtain plants
for Clifford's garden. He also published Hortus Cliffortianus,
Genera plantarum and Flora Lapponica.
Clifford’s expense, he travelled to England to collect plants
for the garden. At Sherard's Botanical Garden, he met Professor
Johan Jacob Dillenius.
Dillenius disagreed with Carl about his newly published
Genera plantarum. Dillenius thought that Carl had brought
"the whole botany in disorder". Together they carefully examined
flowers and after that, Carl succeeded to convince Dillenius
about the advantages of his new plant genera. They separated as
good friends and Carl returned to Holland.
didn't stay long, before he travelled via Leiden to Paris to
visit his friends, Professor Adriaan van Royen and Professor
succeeded in persuading Carl to stay for six months to arrange
his garden. Carl wrote Hortus Leydenensis and published
his Classes Plantarum.
continued to Paris, where he met Professor Anton de Jussieu who
showed him the gardens and herbaria of Paris. The French Academy
of Sciences accepted Carl as a correspondent. He also got
another offer of employment but declined. He was eager to get
back home to Sweden and Sara.
He returned to
Sweden in 1738, where he made a short visit to his father's
house in Småland, and then continued to Falun and Sara. The
couple now became formally engaged.
He tried to
start practising medicine, but it was hard for an unknown doctor
to get patients. He got in touch with the field marshal Count
Carl Gustav Tessin. He arranged employment for Carl at the
"Bergs Collegio". During the summers he was supposed to hold
lectures about botany and during the winters about minerals.
Tessin also influenced Admiral Ankarkrona to offer Carl an
employment as an appointed physician at the Admiralty.
him to start practising in Stockholm as well. Here, he was the
only one who had a cure for syphilis, which also became a
commercial success. In 1739, he was one of the founders and the
first President of the Royal Academy of Science in Stockholm.
Once again, he had created a name for himself, and at last a
solid income and he was finally able to marry Sara. They had
seven children: Carolus, Elisabeth Christina, Sara Magdalena
(who died just 15 days old), Lovisa, Sara Christina, Johannes
On May the
fifth, 1741, he was awarded a professorship at Uppsala
University. He started sorting out the university garden
according to his system of classification, and undertook a
scientific expedition to the islands of Öland and Gotland in
Sweden. He did a bit of travelling around Sweden, but for the
abroad expeditions, he used his students. A group of pupils had
a special gift, which Carl encouraged. They were called
Linnaeus' disciples or apostles. Some found hell on earth and
even died while other found Paradise and made a name for
themselves like Daniel Solander; the naturalist on Captain James
Cook's first round-the-world voyage. Another famous student was
Carl Peter Thunberg.
Carl was a
devoted teacher and did not neglect his teaching duties. He did
not only draw medical students to his lectures, but also
students from other faculties. Students from all over Europe
came to Uppsala to become Carl's pupils. He always had something
to tell about every plant and animal species he found during his
In 1744, Carl
become the secretary of Vetenskapssocieteten in Uppsala, and the
following year, he published Flora Svecica. In 1746, he
dared himself to undertake a scientific expedition to
Västergötland, Sweden. He continued rewriting Systema Naturae,
and it kept growing from a small pamphlet to a multivolume
work. It included not only plants, but also the animals that was
sent to him from around the world. In his ninth edition of
Systema Naturae, humanity occurs as Homo diurnis, or
"man of the day". In1745 Carl published Flora Suecica and
In 1749, he
undertook a scientific expedition to Skåne, southern Sweden. In
1751, he published Philosophia Botanica.
1753 came his master achievement; Species Plantarum where
the binomial nomenclature for plants was consistently used for
the first time. Instead of the long,
describing names all predecessors had used, Carl used only one
name, which, as and other invasive future; could be honouring a
An other innovative idea was the
dividing of plants by their sexual organs. Using this method, he
managed to describe and sort all plants, known at that time.
The system contained 24 classes
(Greek numbers). The first 13 was divided on their equal long
and separated male parts, the next two by uneven length, five
with male parts grown together with them selves or the female
part, three classes with single sex plants and one class with
plants without flowers.
It tells little about the
relationship between the plants, but made a brilliant tool for
identifying plants in the field. The graphic layout it
brilliant, and remains through time.
One of his big
dreams was to enrich Sweden with it's own crops of cacao,
coffee, tea, bananas, rice, and mulberries. It failed due to the
cold climate, but then he tried to find indigenous plants with
the same abilities. Not a success, but it was only one of many
interests. He still found time to practice medicine, eventually
becoming personal physician to the Swedish royal family.
In 1758 he
bought the manor estate of Hammarby, and built a museum for his
huge private collection. The same year, he published the tenth
edition of Systema Naturae where the binomial system for
animals was consistently used for the first time. His work might
well be the inspiration for Erasmus Darwin to form the idea of
evolution (Zoonomia, or, The Laws of Organic Life
(1794-1796)), so magnificently promoted by his grandson; Charles
knighted in 1761 by king Adolph Fredrik to Knight of
Nordstjärneordern , the first civilian in Sweden to be knighted.
When he was
raised to the nobility,he took the name: Carl von Linné.
When Carl was
released from his duties at the academy in 1763 his son, Carl
fil., got the title of professor. Despite this, it was no big
difference. The older Carl continued working as usual, but then
he suffered what was probably a series of mild strokes in 1774,
the effects of which lingered on for several years after.
On the tenth
of January,1778, Carl von Linné died in Uppsala and was buried
in the Cathedral there.