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Linnaeus
Nature Bulletin No. 383-A   May 23, 1970
Forest Preserve District of Cook County 
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

LINNAEUS
Linne Woods, the forest preserve along the North Branch of the Chicago, River north of Dempster St. in Morton Grove, is named in honor of Carl Linne, born on May 23, 1707, in Rashault, a village in the southernmost part of Sweden. He became a scientist so great that he is called the Father of Systematic Botany" and his Latin name, Linnaeus, is known and used by all botanists and zoologists. The 200th anniversary of his birth was observed throughout the world as a red- letter day in the history of human culture.

In 1753, he published his monumental work. Species Planetarium, which named, described and classified all the plant species then known to exist and by a system universally used today. In this system, each plant and each animal is assigned a name consisting of two words, Latin or Latin in form: the first being the name of the genus or related kinds; the second being the name of the species, which produces offspring having the same distinctive characteristics. This climinates the confusion created by the use of different common names in various localities for certain species, or the same common name for species that arc different. The tree most commonly known as the hackberry, is called sugarberry in six states, nettle tree in three, and is variously known as hoop ash, juniper tree, and bastard elm in other states, but it has only one scientific name: Celtis occidentalis.

Any encyclopedia contains an outline of the life of Linnaeus. The oldest son of the pastor of a little church and intended to be a clergyman, he rose to become the royal physician, was made a noble with the name von Linne, was a member of the most learned academics and societies of Europe, and became world famous as Sweden's greatest scientist and writer. As a university professor of medicine and botany, every year he sent pupils on research expeditions, including Captain Cook s voyage of discovery, and from them received rare or previous unknown plants from every land.

Small of stature, slightly stooped, with beautiful brown eyes, Linnaeus had all the usual human failings but he had an absorbing love of nature, an extraordinary capacity for observing natural objects, and a passion for naming and classifying everything he saw. When only 26, he planned his life's work and made a long list of scientific works which he proposed to write. He was a prodigious worker, rapidly completing and publishing one huge volume after another. His Systema Natura, a vast catalog of all the plant and animal species then known to him, was published in 1735, followed by several epoch-making works, while Linnaeus was getting his medical degree in Holland.

After returning to Sweden in 1738, already famous, he was finally made professor of medicine and natural history at the University of Upsala, where he remained for the rest of his life. His descriptions of his journeys through Lapland and the Swedish provinces arc considered some of the finest writing in Swedish literature. He died in 1778 and was entombed in the Upsala Cathedral.

Until his time, the names of plants were largely derived from monastery gardens, or chosen in honor of some botanist -- a jumbled, incoherent mess. His first two-name system of classification was based on the sexual characteristics of the flowers of plants but he later perfected the better natural system which is used today. He was not so successful with his classification of the animal kingdom but many of the names he proposed are still used. That this radical reform was accomplished at one stroke by an unknown young man with only a few short years of inadequate scientific training is evidence of his great genius.


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