The Life and Work of Carl Linnaeus
Carl Linnaeus was born in 1707 in Sweden. His father was a Lutheran minister. Even as a child, Linnaeus was interested in botany. At the age of five, he looked after his own garden. As a young man, he studied medicine and natural history at the University of Lund and University of Uppsala, graduating with a degree in medicine from the latter. In 1730, he was appointed lecturer in botany at the University of Uppsala, and two years later he embarked alone on his journey to Lappland in northern Sweden, the natural history of which was almost unknown at the time. This is the trip referred to in “The English Pupil” and as a result of his published findings, Linnaeus became well known in Sweden. According to Arvid HJ. Uggla, Linnaeus’s diary of his Lappland adventure “is one of the treasures of Swedish literature. It shows his brilliant power of quick perception and intuitive description of what he saw.” Linnaeus’s reputation was further established by the publication, with the financial help of the botanist Jan Fredrik Gronovius, of his Systema Naturae in 1735, in which he detailed the system he had developed for the classification of plant species. The system was based on the number and arrangement of the plant’s reproductive organs; a plant’s class was determined by its stamens (male organs), and its order by its pistils (female organs). This system made it easy for newly discovered plants to be placed in a certain category, and it quickly became immensely influential, even though the book amounted to only seven pages in extra large folio. Two years later, in 1737, Linnaeus published his Genera Plantarum , which described all the known species of plants. In 1736, Linnaeus visited England, where he met the leading botanists of the day; he also traveled to Holland and then to Paris. As a result of his travels, he became a well-known figure in European scientific circles. Returning to Sweden in 1738, he practiced medicine with considerable success. In 1739, he was elected the first president of the newly established Academy of Science in Stockholm. In that year also, he married Sara Lisa Moraea, the daughter of a distinguished doctor. Linnaeus was awarded a professorship at the University of Uppsala, Sweden’s most prestigious university, in 1741. His students found him an inspiring teacher and traveled the world researching natural history, bringing back interesting plant specimens to Sweden and promoting Linnaeus’s methods of classification internationally. Linnaeus referred to them as his “apostles,” and many of them were among the leading scientists of the eighteenth century.
Linnaeus remained a teacher for the rest of his life, until ill-health prevented him. He also continued to publish important new works. In 1753, he published Species Plantarum , a description of the six thousand species of plants then known. Each species is named as simply as possible, with one word in addition to the generic name. Linnaeus regarded Species Plantarum as his greatest achievement. In 1758, Linnaeus bought a small one-storey house at Hammarby, outside Uppsala. He liked to spend as much time as he could there, away from the bustle of Uppsala. He built a larger building at Hammarby for the sake of his children’s future, which was completed in 1762. In 1761, Linnaeus was granted a Swedish patent of nobility, and from then on, he was known as Carl von Linné. During his later years, he suffered from ill health and became increasingly pessimistic. His memory began to fail when he was sixty. In 1774, he had a series of strokes, and he died in 1778. His son Carl (the lazy one, according to “The English Pupil”) succeeded to his professorship at Uppsala but had little of his father’s ability.
Ira Mark Milne – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 24, Andrea Barrett, Published by Gale Group, 2006