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Author photo. From "Little Journeys To the Homes of the Great Scientists," Elbert Hubbard, 1916 (Project Gutenberg)

From "Little Journeys To the Homes of the Great Scientists," Elbert Hubbard, 1916 (Project Gutenberg)

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Carl Linnaeus, later called Carl von Linné, is regarded as the father of modern taxonomy, the system of naming, ranking, and classifying organisms. He was born in the province of Småland in southern Sweden. His father was a Lutheran minister and an avid gardener. Carl showed a deep love of botany and a fascination with the names for plants from an early age. His parents wanted him to become a minister, but he decided to study medicine, which would involve the study of plants as a part of every doctor's education at the time. He began at the University of Lund and transferred to the University of Uppsala, the most prestigious university in Sweden. He went on a botanical-ethnographical expedition to Lapland in 1731 and another to central Sweden in 1734. He finished his medical degree at the University of Harderwijk in the Netherlands in 1735, and then enrolled in the University of Leiden for further studies. That same year, he published the first edition of his classification of living things, the Systema Naturae. He met or corresponded with Europe's great botanists, and continued to develop his classification system. In 1738, he returned to Sweden, where he practiced medicine and became a professor at Uppsala. There he inspired a generation of students, many of whom traveled on voyages of discovery to the USA, South America, the Middle East, and the Pacific. Linnaeus continued to revise his Systema Naturae as more and more plant and animal specimens were sent to him from every corner of the world. He still found time to practice medicine and eventually become personal physician to the Swedish royal family. In 1758 he bought the manor estate of Hammarby, outside Uppsala, where he built a small museum for his extensive personal collections. In 1761 he was ennobled by the king and took the name Carl von Linné. He continued to write and teach, and his international reputation spurred even more contributions to his collections, including from Catherine the Great of Russia.
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