Master classifier gets 300th birthday party

Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus is most noted for constructing a system of classification for all organisms.
Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus is most noted for constructing a system of classification for all organisms.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

There are places on the moon named after him. His face appears on Swedish currency, and an era of scientific history bears his name. But Carl Linnaeus is best known for creating the system of classifying living organisms that became the international standard.

Sweden on Saturday began yearlong celebrations that will mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of its most famous scientist, launching festivities with music and fireworks in Linnaeus’ hometown.

“He has meant an incredible amount to the world because by systematizing just about every plant and animal, he helped organize it,” said Kajsa Eriksson, spokeswoman for the Linnaeus 2007 celebration.

Often called the father of taxonomy, Linnaeus laid the foundation for a new classification of plants and animals based on their reproductive systems. His famous book Systema Naturae, classified 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants.

He is also credited for distinguishing humans as Homo sapiens and as primates in the class of mammals.

Linnaeus’ ideas have influenced generations of scientists, including Charles Darwin, and even those opposed to the philosophical and theological roots of his work.

Celebrations began on Saturday with music, art and fireworks in Vaxsjo, a town 275 miles (440 kilometers) south of Stockholm where Linnaeus attended primary school. A national inauguration will begin Sunday in the presence of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

The premiere of a special Linnaeus symphony, composed by the Swedish pop star Ola Salo, will also mark the opening, along with an art exhibition, presentations, lectures and other musical performances.

The scientist’s birthday on May 23 will strike a high note with the visit of the Japan’s Emperor Akihito.

Coordinating the tercentenary work in Sweden is a National Linnaeus Commission of the government’s Swedish Research Council.

Events celebrating the scientist’s contributions will extend beyond Sweden with a modern Linnaeus garden designed by landscape architect Ulf Nordfjell that will be showcased at the 2007 Chelsea Flower Show in London.

“The Linnaeus Expedition,” a film by Mattias Klum and Folke Ryden, are also among the projects that will take place this year to honor him.

“It’s amazing that one person knew as much during the 18th century about how everything is connected,” Klum said.