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Conservation Biology and the 300th Anniversary of the Birth of Carl Linnaeus

Letters 905
Conservation Biology and the
300th Anniversary of the Birth of
Carl Linnaeus
In February 2007 the board and com-
mittees of the Society for Conserva-
tion Biologys European Section held
consecutive meetings in Uppsala,
Sweden. The choice of venue paid
tribute to the 300-year anniversary
of the birth of Carl Linnaeus (1707
1778), the Swedish taxonomist who
developed a classification system and
binary nomenclature for the descrip-
tion of species that is still in use
today (e.g., Linnaeus 1735, 1758
We visited LinnaeusHammarby
residence, where he completed the
10th12th volumes of Systema Nat-
urae (Linnaeus 17581759, 1762,
17661768) in which Homo sapiens
L., among other taxa, is named. The
residence is the most genuine Lin-
naeus site in the world. The rooms
have original portraits of the fam-
ily, and in the study and bedroom,
the wallpapers are original prints of
plants from contemporary scientific
publications. In visiting we seemed
to travel back 248 years. The gar-
den still contains many plants that
were planted by Linnaeus. Outside
the residence the world has changed
dramatically, but for at least three
reasons Carl Linnaeus remains of in-
terest to present-day conservation
First, Linnaeus played a central role
in the early development of systemat-
ics and taxonomy (Godfray 2007). He
laid out the first system into which all
plants could be classified and made
many important contributions to ani-
mal classification. He coined the term
Mammalia and included whales and
bats in this category (Linnaeus 1758
59). He also suggested that humans
are closely related to apes (Linnaeus
1735), which was not popular among
theologians of the eighteenth cen-
tury. Linnaeus started a global species
inventory and made rules for de-
scribing species (Linnaeus 1735). De-
scriptive taxonomy and systematics
is still an important basis for conser-
vation biology. Although he strongly
believed that he categorized and de-
scribed species that had been inge-
niously designed once and for all
by God, Linnaeusdiscoveries made
him think that new plant species
could arise (Linnaeus 1744). In 1757
1759 he experimentally crossed the
plants Tragopogon pratensis and T.
porrifolius and created a hybrid that
was intermediate in morphology. Ap-
parently Linnaeusstudies triggered
thoughts about evolution a century
before Darwin (1859). Today, the
continuing global investigation and
mapping of biodiversity is a legacy of
Linnaeus and remains crucial to in-
creasing knowledge for biodiversity
Second, his fascination with the
richness in nature and his feeling
that it was both a highly valuable re-
source to use and a heritage to con-
serve is central to conservation biol-
ogy today. Interestingly, even when
Linnaeusstudies and teaching fo-
cused on particular details, it seemed
important to him not to forget the
bigger picture, for example, to ex-
plain or elaborate on character func-
tion in an ecological context. This fea-
ture of his personality and his broad
fascination with the world also made
him a very good teacher and multi-
disciplinary scientific observer. The
notes he made when traveling (e.g.,
Linnaeus 1747, 1811) are still use-
ful to taxonomists, ecologists, geol-
ogists, and social scientists. His for-
mal education in medicine and re-
search in biology makes many of his
eighteenth-century examples of the
utility of biological resources interest-
ing to a wide audience.
A third highly relevant aspect for
conservation biologists is Linnaeus
teaching approach. In addition to lec-
turing and presenting living material
to his students, he took them out for
excursions around Uppsala, where
they examined the flora together. His
students found this outdoor educa-
tion and collaborative learning in-
spiring, and the excursions became
very popular. Linnaeusteaching ap-
proach is reflected in todays out-
door education programs. What his
students especially appreciated was
the keen interest and curiositya
total fascinationthat he conveyed.
Inspiring children (Linnaeus himself
started learning about plants when
he was only 4 years old) and peo-
ple in general to discover and ap-
preciate the values of nature is a
key component of biodiversity con-
servation. Children have reported im-
portant discoveries for nature con-
servation, such as new localities of
threatened species (e.g., the her-
mit beetle [Osmoderma eremita]in
Sweden). Some Linnean examples
that will inspire present-day school
children can be seen in The Linnaean
LessonsInspiration for Knowledge
What would Linnaeus think of the
exploitation and use of biological re-
sources of the last 50 years? We think
he would have strong and mixed feel-
ings and be disturbed by the vast and
rapid erosion of biodiversity and nat-
ural heritage throughout the world.
We think he would welcome using
biotic resources to cure diseases, be
thrilled by the development of new
scientific methods and international
collaboration, and endorse actions
and research to conserve biodiver-
The 300-year anniversary of Lin-
naeusbirth was celebrated in Upp-
sala (, London
(, and other places
on 2324 May. The 2007 Annual
Meeting of the Society for Conserva-
tion Biology in South Africa would
have greatly interested him. He was
fascinated by the many undescribed
species from this region collected by
his students Carl Peter Thonberg and
Anders Sparrman, and because con-
servation biology plays a key role in
advancing the scientific legacy of Lin-
Conservation Biology
Volume 21, No. 4, 2007
906 Letters
Per Sj ¨ogren-Gulve,Elisabeth angstr ¨om,
Andr´as aldi,Pierre Ibisch,§Vassiliki
Kati,∗∗ Barbara Livoreil,†† and Nuria
The Swedish Environmental Protection
Agency, Department of Natural Resources,
SE-106 48 Stockholm, Sweden, email
Uppsala University, Evolutionary Biology
Center, Department of Systematic Botany,
Norbyv¨agen 18D, SE-752 36 Uppsala,
Hungarian Natural History Museum, Ludovika
t´er 2, Budapest, H-1083, Hungary
§University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of
Forestry, Alfred-M¨oller-Straße 1, D-16225 Eber-
swalde, Germany
∗∗University of Ioannina, Department of En-
vironmental and Natural Resources Manage-
ment, Seferi 2, 30100 Agrinio, Greece
††SOPTOM-CRCC, 30 Rue Lamartine, F-83590
Le Luc en Provence, France
‡‡Institute of Nature Conservation, Polish
Academy of Sciences, Mickiewicza 33, 31120
Krak´ow, Poland
Literature Cited
Ahnfelt, A. 1877. Carl von Linn´es lefnadsmin-
nentecknade af honom sjelf. Oscar L.
Lamm, Stockholm.
Darwin, C. 1859. The origin of species. John
Murray, London.
Godfray, H. C. J. 2007. Linnaeus in the infor-
mation age. Nature 446:259260.
Linnaeus, C. 1735. Systema naturae. Lugduni
Linnaeus, C. 1744. Peloria. Dissertation. Upp-
sala University, Uppsala.
Linnaeus, C. 1747. W¨astg ¨ota-resa, p˚a riksens
h¨ogloflige st¨anders befallning f¨orr¨attad ˚ar
1746. Salvius, Stockholm.
Linnaeus, C. 17581759. Systema naturae.
10th edition. Reformata. Impensis direct.
Laurentii Salvii, Holmiae.
Linnaeus, C. 1762. Systema naturae. 11th edi-
tion. Lipsiae.
Linnaeus, C. 17661768. Systema naturae.
12th edition. Impensis direct. Laurentii
Salvii, Holmiae.
Linnaeus, C. 1811. Lachesis Lapponica, or a
Tour in Lapland [1732]. White & Cochrane,
Conservation Biology
Volume 21, No. 4, 2007
... and some other places on May 23-24. 44 Linné not only inspired his students and colleagues in his time, and later other scientists abroad, but also directly influenced many intellectuals from different fields. As an example, Goethe wrote in 1817: "… after Shakespeare and Spinoza, it is Linnaeus who has had the great influence on me". 1 ...
Due to binomial classification system defined by Carl von Linné, it has been shown that living things that were thought to be independent from each other are actually in a relationship. This "binomial classification" idea corresponds to a leap in the history of human thought. Carl von Linné's original idea is a product of the specific conditions of the period, particularly the renaissance and reform movements and geographical discoveries, rather than an idea he produced alone. These movements are part of a chain of ideas that stretches from antiquity to the Medieval and then to the period called the Enlightenment. The aforementioned transformations generally affected the scientist, albeit indirectly, even in geographies far from Sweden, where Carl von Linné spent most of his life. As such, the binomial classification system stands before us as a result of scientific breakthroughs in central Europe. In this study, it will be tried to be explained by taking the opus magnum of Carl von Linne as an example, taking into account the course of scientific developments, which we can attribute to the European civilization, and the philosophical and social texture.
... We can very confidently say that Linnaeus was central to the development of systematics and taxonomy (Godfray 2007). Current global investigations and mapping of biodiversity is a continuum of his legacy (Per Sjogren-Gulve et al., 2007). Since Linnaeus, the estimates of global species diversity have increased almost exponentially. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Although Carl Linnaeus passed way in 1778, the life and methods of this Prince of Botanists continues to inspire taxonomy. A visit to Uppsala Hammarby in Sweden, is an eye opener regarding his life and science. Linnaeus surrounded himself with “curios and curious” students. Though he seldom travelled abroad, he profusely networked with his peers which helped him to test and experiment his philosophies and also expand his understanding of the natural world. His Uppsala manor is still adorned with illustrations which continues to surprise botanists and naturalists alike. He and his family lived in the Hammarby with dead fishes and live monkeys. He raised many plants in his Hammarby garden and grove, some of whose later generations are still there. His Herbationes Upsalienses is probably one of the first recorded example of “citizen science” through which he not only inspired many young talents to pursue it as a career but also advance taxonomy. “Citizen science” can help Indian taxonomy to open up and trigger this image rich discipline.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Nous bénéficions maintenant de plusieurs retours d'expériences de translocation de la Tortue d'Hermann en France. Avec toutes les précautions sanitaires et génétiques (cf. Lignes directrices de l'IUCN) qui s'imposent, les précédents résultats ont montré que la translocation est pertinente et qu'elle fournit des outils pour les décideurs politiques afin d'enrayer le déclin de l'espèce. Une expérimentation couronnée de succès a même laissé entrevoir la possibilité de réaliser des renforcements de population à l'aide de juvéniles. La présente étude de faisabilité cible les populations de Tortue d'Hermann à restaurer suite aux incendies qui ont sévi dans le Var. Elle vise à définir les sites "d'accueil" les plus adéquats via une analyse qualitative basée sur la connaissance des lieux, l’expérience et la capacité de jugement de l’évaluateur. Le support des autorités locales, la maîtrise foncière du site et l'accord des propriétaires et/ou gestionnaires étant une étape primordiale, nous avons pu depuis l'année 2020 concerté avec les acteurs gestionnaires et propriétaires. Les précédents REX, l'évaluation des risques et l'étude de faisabilité confirment ici que cette translocation expérimentale est réalisable. Cinq sites ont été qualifiés de « bon » pour une opération de renforcement de population dont un qui s'avère faire l'unanimité après concertation. Nous avons également définis les modalités de sélection des individus, la stratégie de relâcher et les critères de suivi du succès/échec de l'opération.
As we celebrate the visionary genius of Carl Linnaeus, it is time to analyse how professional taxonomy interfaces with the rest of biology and beyond. Where next for Linnaeus's heirs, asks H. C. J. Godfray?
Carl von Linnés lefnadsminnen-tecknade af honom sjelf
  • A Ahnfelt
Ahnfelt, A. 1877. Carl von Linnés lefnadsminnen-tecknade af honom sjelf. Oscar L. Lamm, Stockholm.
Lachesis Lapponica, or a Tour in Lapland
  • C Linnaeus
Linnaeus, C. 1811. Lachesis Lapponica, or a Tour in Lapland [1732].
Wästgöta-resa, på riksens högloflige ständers befallning förrättadförrättadår 1746
  • C Linnaeus
Linnaeus, C. 1747. Wästgöta-resa, på riksens högloflige ständers befallning förrättadförrättadår 1746. Salvius, Stockholm.
1877 . Carl von Linnes lefnadsmin-nen-tecknade af honom sjelf
  • A Ahnfelt