Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Sexual Classification System: Online

The Linnean Society of London has posted hundreds of photos of butterflies and moths from the collections of famed naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern taxonomy.

The Linnaean Collections comprise the specimens of plants (14,300), fish (158), shells (1,564) and insects (3,198) acquired from the widow of Carl Linnaeus in 1784 by Sir James Edward Smith, founder and first President of the Linnean Society. They also include the library of Linnaeus (of some 1,600 volumes) and his letters (c. 3,000 items of correspondence and manuscripts).

They have begun digitizing the collection of 4,000 letters from 600 different correspondents including letters from such major figures as Sir Joseph Banks, Johan Frederik Gronovius, Johan Christian Fabricius, the Jussieu brothers, JosĂ© Celestino MĂștis, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, Georg Dionysius Ehret, Anders Celsius, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Why should we care? An avatar of the 18th century Enlightenment, Linnaeus set the stage for Darwin by recognizing similarities between man and ape: he named our species Homo sapiens. In an age when the word was unspoken, Linnaeus recognized that even plants had sex. He put Sweden on the map of natural science and changed forever the way we label living things.

If you wish to read more, check out Sex, Botany & Empire: The Story of Carl Linnaeus and Joseph Banks by Patricia Fara.


Anonymous said...

Well, hot dang, that post title sure got my attention. But that was misleading! ;-p

Anonymous said...

Linnaeus is the unsung hero of classification!