Sunday, May 27, 2007

Becca's New and Hot-- Week 9

May 23 marked the 300th birthday of Carl von Linne, more popularly known as Carolus Linnaeus-- or, the "Father of Modern Taxonomy." Sweden, Linnaeus's home, went wild celebrating, and Linnaeus's alma mater (the University of Uppsala) awarded honorary degrees to prominent figures in the world of science and beyond, including Jane Goodall, James Watson of DNA discovery fame, and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan (random?). I thought it was interesting to hear what his contemporaries (or... more contemporary than we are) had to say about him. According to this article, "The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said there is "no greater man on earth." The German writer Goethe compared him to Shakespeare and Spinoza. The Swedish author and playwright Strindberg described him as a poet who happened to become a naturalist." The article goes on to describe him as a physician, linguist, ethnologist, ecologist, and botanist. It was Linnaeus who coined the term "Homo sapiens," or "man the rational." Sounds like another of the overachievers we've been learning about! Like Darwin's, Linnaeus's contributions to biology helped lay the groundwork for science up to the present. According to Jane Goodall, "The importance of Linnaeus is the way he grasped the similarities in structure between so many different organisms and laid them out in a way that's still useful today." She especially praised Linnaeus for grouping primates and humans together so long ago, noting that some scientists even today won't admit that we are related. Linnaeus made some very useful contributions, and it seems that he deserves his world-wide tricentennial birthday party.

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