Carl von Linné, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778)

Carl Linnaeus, 1737.

Carl Linnaeus, 1737.

Credits:Science Museum, London/SSPL

Carolus Linnaeus, or Carl von Linné as he was later called, was born in Sweden and studied medicine at Uppsala. Linnaeus became a doctor, but most of his work focused on botany which in the 1700s was an important part of medical study, as doctors often prepared medicines from plants. Linnaeus developed a new system, or taxonomy, of naming plants and animals which, with some modifications, is still in use today. The aim of his system was to help biologists make sure that they were talking about the same plant or animal, when they could not see each other's specimens.

Like many scientists of the 1700s, Linnaeus was interested in making scientific knowledge useful for society. In 1732 he travelled on an expedition to Lapland to collect plants, animals and minerals. Later he became a professor at Uppsala University, and established a vast network of colleagues and students around the world to identify new plants and their medical uses.

He also worked on tools and techniques which would enable him to introduce useful foreign plants and animals into Sweden, making the country independent from foreign imports. Getting plants and animals to thrive in new environments was important across the globe.