Author Topic: A review of "'The Man Who Organized Nature': The Life of Linnaeus"  (Read 9047 times)

Joe Carillo

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In “'The Man Who Organized Nature' Review: Linnaeus the Namer," the biographer Gunnar Bloberg chronicled the achievements and summed up the life of the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (1707-1778)--Linnaeus in the Anglophone world--who bestowed an orderly taxonomy on the natural world in his masterful “Systema Naturae” (“System of Nature”).

    An 1833 engraving of Linnaeus in Lapland dress. PHOTO: ALAMY

As described in Christoph Irmscher's review of the Linnaeus biography in the July 14, 2023 issue of the Wall Street Journal, Bloberg did away with the prevailing image of Linnaeus as nature’s dullest bookkeeper and "paints a moving portrait of a profoundly vulnerable human being with deep affection for the pets he owned, from the birds the young student kept in his room to the raccoon that later roamed his house."

Irmsher, a natural history writer, says Bloberg gave their due even to the wackiest details of nature: "Convinced that the banana tree was the biblical Tree of Knowledge and that Adam and Eve had used banana leaves, not fig leaves, to hide their nakedness, Linnaeus named it the Musa paradisiaca (paradise fruit) and imported it to Uppsala, with the expected results." (All he got, states Bloberg with exquisite irony, was "a feast of a few small, green bananas.”)

Bloberg had put on record that true to character, Linnaeus' love of animals was quirky and personal:  "Towering over his garden was a large statue of Venus, a provocative reminder that the basis of his botanical system was a plant’s sexual organs—“loathsome harlotry,” in the eyes of a detractor."

And Broberg recounts that toward the end of Linnaeus life, the highly accomplished naturalist contemplated the inevitable without sentimentality: "Soon the man who had named everything couldn’t remember his own name. He had asked that no fuss be made after his death—that, like the animal he’d been, he be placed in his coffin unshaven, unwashed, and undressed."

Read Christoph Irmscher's “'The Man Who Organized Nature' Review: Linnaeus the Namer" in now! 
« Last Edit: July 21, 2023, 10:37:17 AM by Joe Carillo »