THE SYSTEM OF NATURE: CARL LINNAEUS (1707—1778)
National Library of Australia
Carl Linnaeus invented the way the natural world is described. While much modified, his ‘system´ of hierarchical classification, from three great Kingdoms to Classes, Orders, to Genus and Species remains largely intact. Equally, his ‘binomial´ form of classification is still used. That is, all living things have a unique two word Latin description.
So, for example, humankind is homo sapiens, a term first used by Linnaeus. Australia is the world´s first Linnaean nation. Except for some plant specimens collected in the late 17th century by William Dampier in New Holland, the flora and fauna of Australia has otherwise been classified according to the principles established by Linnaeus.
The voyage of the Endeavour (1768—1771) with both Joseph Banks, ‘a gentleman of large fortune´ a key supporter, and a Linnaean ‘apostle´ Daniel Solander on board, was arguably the first modern plant-collecting expedition. In 1788, as Sydney was being settled in distant New South Wales, the Linnaean Society of London was founded. In 2007 the National Library is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus.