Who Was Carolus Linnaeus, and What Were His Important Contributions?

Carolus Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist and physician who pioneered binomial nomenclature and modern taxonomy, the methods by which scientists classify organisms. For his influential work, Linnaeus was widely respected by the intellectual community of Europe.

Carolus Linnaeus did most of his work at Uppsala University in Sweden. The University of California Berkeley's Museum of Palaeontology describes Linnaeus' taxonomic system. He developed the method of assigning organisms various names according to a set hierarchy based on shared physical characteristics. Linnaeus organized plants according to the number and order of reproductive organs. The stamens, or male organs, determined the class, and the female organs, or pistils, determined the pistils.

Linnaeus pioneered the use of genera to classify organisms. Biologists since Aristotle had used genera for classification, but they often made the groups too broad. For instance, they grouped together all land animals and all aquatic animals. Linnaeus was the first biologists to group according to shared similarities.

Berkeley's Museum of Palaeontology also explains the innovative nature of Linnaeus' binomial nomenclature. He greatly simplified the process of naming organisms by designating one Latin name to be the genus and another as shorthand for the species. The new standardized naming methods caught on. Although the traits used as observable characteristics for determining taxonomy have changed over time, the principle established by Linnaeus remains.