The life of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the man who gave living organisms two Latin names, is celebrated afresh in this newly revised and magnificently illustrated edition of the definitive biography. In his native Sweden, Linnaeus is revered by children as the "Prince of Flowers" and by adults as a great biologist, the author of classics on natural history, and, owing to his impassioned study of the sex life of plants, as history's foremost "botanical pornographer."
Linnaeus was of pivotal importance in the Age of Enlightenment. Though an adventurous traveler, keen collector, zoologist, and geologist, he loved botany most of all. The son of a pastor, he believed he was chosen by God to resolve the jumbled classification of the natural world. Through his Systema Naturae, first published in 1735, he brought order to all recorded knowledge about living things, distinguishing and naming 7,700 plants and 4,400 animals in his lifetime.
This book gives a fascinating and rounded portrait of Linnaeus the man, charting his rise from a poor student at Lund University to Professor of Medicine at Uppsala and a founder of the Royal Academy of Sciences. Wilfrid Blunt's engaging text is interspersed with vivid passages from his subject's own writings—from riveting descriptions of adventures in the wilds of Lapland to a charming account of Sjupp the raccoon. Linnaeus's family life and his relations with pupils are explored alongside his epoch-making scientific achievements. William Stearn's appendix on Linnean classification provides a concise survey of the basics necessary for understanding Linnaeus's work.
Impeccably researched and highly readable, this biography is ideal for anyone interested in botany, zoology, or mineralogy, as well as naturalists and gardeners. It brings the world of Linnaeus alive with over 200 beautiful illustrations, including evocative photographs and exquisite eighteenth-century botanical drawings, paintings, and engravings.
Enlightenment botany was replete with sexual symbolism -- to the extent that many botanical textbooks were widely considered pornographic. Carl Linnaeus's controversial new system for classifying plants based on their sexual characteristics, as well as his use of language resonating with erotic allusions, provoked intense public debate over the morality of botanical study. And the renowned Tahitian exploits of Joseph Banks -- whose trousers were reportedly stolen while he was inside the tent of Queen Oberea of Tahiti -- reinforced scandalous associations with the field. Yet Linnaeus and Banks became powerful political and scientific figures who were able to promote botanical exploration alongside the exploitation of territories, peoples, and natural resources. Sex, Botany, and Empire explores the entwined destinies of these two men and how their influence served both science and imperialism.
Patricia Fara reveals how Enlightenment botany, under the veil of rationality, manifested a drive to conquer, subdue, and deflower -- all in the name of British empire. Linnaeus trained his traveling disciples in a double mission -- to bring back specimens for the benefit of the Swedish economy and to spread the gospel of Linnaean taxonomy. Based in London at the hub of an international exchange and correspondence network, Banks ensured that Linnaeus's ideas became established throughout the world. As the president of the Royal Society for more than forty years, Banks revolutionized British science, and his innovations placed science at the heart of trade and politics. He made it a policy to collect and control resources not only for the sake of knowledge but also for the advancement of the empire. Although Linnaeus is often celebrated as modern botany's true founder, Banks has had a greater long-term impact. It was Banks who ensured that science and imperialism flourished together, and it was he who first forged the interdependent relationship between scientific inquiry and the state that endures to this day.
Columbia University Press