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Linnaeus’ 300th Birthday Celebrations

23 May 2007
Photographer: Sören Hallgren
© The Linnaeus Museum- Carl Linnaeus home 1743-1778

The method he devised, aged just 25, organised species for the first time according to observable physical characteristics, placing them into a hierarchical ‘family tree’. To understand the radical nature of this system, consider that prior to Linnaeus animals were classified by their habitat and mode of locomotion. Otters and turtles, for example, were therefore considered ‘fish’ as they lived in water.

Using his new system he obsessively set out to document and classify all the known species on earth, cataloguing some 7,700 species of plants and 4,400 species of animals. To each of these species he assigned 2 names, the scientific equivalent of a first and surname, creating the binomial system of nomenclature, which is still used today to describe all living things.

Despite its simplicity, this system had a revolutionary impact on biology, which for first time not only gave each species a unique, universally accepted label, but also grouped them together into related families. Without this system it would be nearly impossible to accurately identify each species or understand how they related to each other.

Although the Linnaean system of taxonomy has undergone major adaptation over the three centuries since his birth, particularly given the recent flood of new evidence from DNA sequencing, it is still recognised as the ‘gold standard’ in biology, providing the most simple and widely recognised method of identifying and grouping living things.


Celebrations in Linnaeus’ Home Country, Sweden

Uppsala, Sweden


Celebrations in England:

Linnaean Society

The Linnaean Garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show


Linnaeus Celebrations Elsewhere:

Linnaeus Celebrations National Botanic Garden of Belgium

Linnaeus Celebrations at Glasnevin Botanic Gardens, Ireland

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