Linnaeus apostles book project

If you’re interested in Linnaeus, or even the history of natural history generally, you should now about this project, which is nearing completion. It’s an eight volume (11 book) publication called The Linnaeus Apostles: Global Science and Adventure:

THE GREATEST RESEARCH AND PUBLISHING PROJECT EVER – on the chosen few who came to be known as the LINNAEUS APOSTLES. During the 18th century, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) was to inspire 17 of his scholars to travel to distant corners of the world to document local nature and culture. They travelled on their own or with expeditions across land and sea – their travels covered every continent between the years 1745 and 1799.

Although Linnaeus and some of his apostles are known internationally, several of the apostles are relatively unknown despite their global pioneering work in the service of science and mankind. The publication of their journals – several of them now made available for the very first time – will for a long time to come stimulate fresh research, new thinking and not least provide exciting reading about cultures, landscapes and people of a bygone era.

The publication of a major international series of eight volumes – in all 11 books and over 5,500 pages – which has been in preparation since the late 1990s under the overall title of The Linnaeus Apostles – Global Science & Adventure. All the accounts of the apostles’ journeys to every continent have been published for the first time in English; those of the apostles who left no travel journals are described through their correspondence or other sources. In the introductory and concluding volumes world experts in various subject fields will provide accounts of the 18th century, of Linnaeus, of travelling and the hardships of field work, together with biographies and a index to volumes One to Eight, which contains more than 125,000 classified search terms.

All the 17 apostles’ complete texts, illustrations and maps have been published in the oeuvre mainly based on the original journals and, as an alternative where no such exist, previously printed old material or correspondence is used. This is the very first time this interesting and important material – about bygone horizons – is made public in its entirety; to the joy not only of interdisciplinary researchers into natural and cultural history, but also of everybody with a general interest in these subjects.

Even though the main authors of the six volumes of this oeuvre (Vol. 2-7) are THE 17 APOSTLES (C. F. Adler, A. Afzelius, A. Berlin, J. P. Falck, P. Forsskål, F. Hasselquist, P. Kalm, P. Osbeck, P. Löfling, D. Rolander, A. Rolandsson Martin, G. Rothman, D. Solander, A. Sparrman , C. P. Thunberg, O. Torén and C. Tärnström) we also present a number of leading scientific writers (G. Broberg, R. Edberg, U. Ehrensvärd, A. Ericsson, G. Eriksson, K. Grandin, V. Hansen, S. Helmfrid, C. Linnaeus, B. Nordenstam, H. Smethman, P. Sörbom and S. Sörlin) in the introductory (Vol. 1) and concluding (Vol. 8) volumes. Volume 1 (INTRODUCTION) will be the descriptive volume. Here the reader will get a deeper understanding of the world in which Linnaeus and his apostles lived. The 18th century was both like and unlike our world today. It was during this era that the modern world first saw the light of day.

The concluding volume 8 (ENCYCLOPÆDIA) will include maps, a categorised index for all the volumes, biographical fact files of each apostle and a list of the most important collections of scientific material in museums, archives and libraries connected to the apostles. Finally, an introduction to “iLINNAEUS” the global workshop to promote natural & cultural history inspired by the Linnaeus Apostles.

Much more detail about this series in this PDF. A purchase you should suggest to your university library…

The Linnean Society: Darwin and Wallace


Darwin and Wallace at the [old] Linnean Society

Darwin and Wallace at the (old) Linnean Society

I am in London right now, on a research trip to the Royal Institution (I posted about this on Transcribing Tyndall yesterday). The Linnean Society is just around the corner from the RI, so on my lunch break today I popped in for my daily dose of Darwin. The Linnean Society is, of course, where Darwin’s and Wallace’s papers on natural selection were presented on July 1, 1858. The current location of the Linnean Society is not where it stood in 1858. It used to be in the part of Burlington House that now houses the Royal Academy of Arts. So, in the meeting room of the current location there are portraits of Darwin, Wallace, and other important naturalists, and in the Academy of Arts you can go to the room that used to be the meeting room, know what happened there, and check out a commemorative plaque. Pictures of both locations can be had here.


A very cool scuplture of Linneaus by Anthony Smith (who did the young Darwin statue in Cambridge):

Carl Linnaeus by Anthony Smith

Carl Linnaeus by Anthony Smith

Plethora of Darwin

Orchids through Darwin’s Eyes, an exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History, through April 26.

Darwin’s newly re-discovered student bills from Christ’s College, Cambridge, at Darwin Online

A review of the Darwin exhibit on the blog Entangled Bank.

Some music about scientists from Artichoke: 26 Scientists,Volume 1 (Anning-Malthus).

Watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos free on

Carl Zimmer’s Darwin Day lecture, “Darwin and Beyond,” is available on

The BBC’s Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life, with David Attenborough, is now available on DVD.

Darwin’s Bulldogs, the Consortium for Evolutionary Studies at California State University, Fresno.

Case Western University’s Year of Darwin / Darwin and the Evolution of Industries and Firms by Hayagreeva Rao:

The March-April 2009 issue of Comptes Rendus Palevol is devoted to “Histoire évolutive de la Vie/Evolutionary history of Life.” View the TOC here.

The University of Birmingham will host a one-day Royal Institute of Philosophy conference on June 10, 2009 focusing on Darwin’s philosophy and the philosophy of biology more generally. More information here.

Darwin biographer/historian Jim Moore discusses Darwin and his own interest in Darwin in several videos from Open2.

Darwin stamps from Bulgaria, India, and a coin from Australia.

The February 2009 issue of The American Biology Teacher was devoted to Darwin an evolution. View the TOC here.

Several history of science-relates articles in the February 2009 issue of Taxon, including “Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778): his life, philosophy and science and its relationship to modern biology and medicine” and “Taxonomy was the foundation of Darwin’s evolution.”

The Journal of Biology‘s Special Darwin Issue, view the entire issue as a PDF here.

Darwin Across the Disciplines at the College of William and Mary:

As a reminder, you can add my Google Reader shared items feed to your feed reader to remain updated on Darwin/history of science content I browse…

Some Darwin Links

A review [PDF] of Roy Davies’ The Darwin Consipracy by a creationist, and Davies’ response.

Darwin tours at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Darwin Now, an exhibit about evolution, biology, and medicine, from the British Council and the NMNHS.

Putting more blame on Darwin.

Darwin Trails, a recent expedition in Brazil to celebrate Darwin and science education (Randal Keynes took part). See pictures here.

Letters to Linnaeus, a new volume which “reveal Linnaeus’ personal impact, advances and developments in science since his death, the profound impact he has had on generations of naturalists and what we might expect in the next 250 years.”

Article froms Rhetorica and Endeavour:

James Wynn, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890, USA.

Abstract Historians of science resist recognizing a role for mathematics in The Origin of Species on the grounds that Darwin’s arguments are inductive and mathematics is deductive, while rhetoricians seem to oppose the idea that deductive mathematical arguments fall within the jurisdiction of rhetorical analysis. A close textual analysis of the arguments in The Origin and a careful examination of the methodological/philosophical context in which Darwin is doing science, however, challenges these objections against and assumptions about the role of mathematical warrants in Darwin’s arguments and their importance to his rhetorical efforts in the text.

J.F. Derry, Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Labs, King’s Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, Scotland, UK

 Abstract The long-term marital dance of Emma and Charles Darwin was set to the routine beat of an almost daily piano recital. Emma was a proficient pianist, and so a quality instrument was a welcome and appropriate house-warming present for their first marital home in London. That same piano accompanied the Darwins on their move to Downe before being upgraded for a newer model, which is still there, whilst another, cheaper piano may have played in Charles Darwin’s work, particularly on earthworms. Whilst he lamented his own lack of musicality, Darwin revelled in his wife’s prowess, a capacity that he recognised could be inherited, not least through observation of his own children. The evolution of musicality, he reasoned, was rooted in sexual attraction as a form of communication that preceded language.



The aim of this 3-year research project is to explore these processes through a detailed reconstruction of the ways in which the naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) assembled, filed, and cross-referenced information about plants and their medicinal virtues. Linnaeus has been described as a “pioneer in information retrieval.” In particular, Linnaeus was one of the first to suggest that “natural” plant genera and families share similar pharmaceutical virtues, and that herbal drugs might be sought out on that basis. His manuscripts, held at the Linnean Society (London), provide an excellent opportunity to understand how information processing practices determine such ideas.

Learn more about this project here.

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Stephen Hales (Born 17 Sep 1677; died 4 Jan 1781). English botanist, physiologist, who pioneered the quantitative experimental approach in plant and animal physiology. He was a clergyman whose work in plant physiology, Vegetable Staticks (1787), included early demonstrations of the importance of air and light in plant growth, and of the role of transpiration in causing upward sap flow. He also measured the rates of growth of shoots and leaves and the pressure roots exert on sap, and he investigated plant respiration. Hales was the first to quantitatively measure blood pressure, measured the capacity of the left ventricle of the heart, and the output of the heart per minute. He invented an artificial ventilator that could convey fresh air into prisons, ships’ holds, and granaries.

Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (Died 17 Sep 1836; born 12 Apr 1748). French botanist who developed the principles that served as the foundation of a natural system of plant classification. He was born into a family of eminent botanists from Lyons in France. After graduating from the Jardin du Roi in 1770, he continued to work there. He is remembered for introducing a natural classification system that distinguishes relationships between plants relying a large number of characters, unlike the artificial Linnean system, which uses only a few. He distinguished 15 classes and 100 families, of which 76 remain in botanical nomenclature today. His uncles Antoine, Bernard, and Joseph de Jussieu all made important contributions to botany and his son, Adrien, subsequently continued the family tradition.

LECTURE: Linnaeus and the role of women in 18th century botany


Linnaeus and the role of women in 18th century botany
Thursday 18th September 2008, 6.00pm

The new classification method for plants introduced by Carl Linnaeus – the sexual system – was based on the number of stamens and pistils in the flower and easy to use for anyone interested in botany. To Linnaeus and contemporary Swedish scientists, it was important that not only academics, but also laymen contributed to the exploration of natural resources, including plant species. Linnaeus therefore encouraged women to study botany. He corresponded with women in Sweden and abroad, and expressed that women were more suitable than men to perform botanical long-term studies such as experimental plantations of exotic species.

It is clear that women were inspired by Linnaeus’ teachings and made earnest studies in botany. In their non-academic environment they were not restricted to traditional methods, and sometimes used their freedom to cross the borders between science and art. Some of them were important in the scientific network around Linnaeus, and some had a substantial impact on science. However, their work has sunk into oblivion and traces are not easy to find. This talk will shed some light on the work of women like Lady Ann Monson, Mary Delany, Anna Blackburne, Ulla Sparre, Caroline Luise von Baden-Durlach and Elisabeth Christina Linnaea.

Carl Zimmer: Darwin, Linnaeus, and One Sleepy Guy

Check out Carl Zimmer’s post, Darwin, Linnaeus, and One Sleepy Guy:

We are now descending into a frenzy of Darwin celebrations, and you’re not going to escape it until the end of 2009. We’ve got his 200th birthday in February, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species in November. The spotlight is going to be on Darwin, and Darwin alone.

I think this is a mistake. Darwin deserves celebrating, but that doesn’t mean we should fall prey to a cult of personality. Darwin did not invent biology. Darwin did not even find most of the evidence that he used to back up his theory of evolution. And he certainly did not discover all there was to know about evolution. Biologists have discovered many new things about evolution since his time. In some cases, they’ve challenged some of his most important arguments. And that’s fine. That’s the great strength of science.

And a response from Brian at Laelaps

Conference: Systema Naturae 250

Systema Naturae 250
26-27 August 2008, Paris

A symposium of the 20th International Congress of Zoology celebrating 250 years of the scientific naming of animals, starting with the publication of the 10th edition of Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae, on January 1st 1758, organised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.

Programme 26 August 2008 PM

Session 1 (ICZ S4): Systema Naturae 250: The Linnaean Ark – 250 years of animal names

Presentation of the Sherborn Award for services to biodiversity informatics. This will be presented by twice Pulitzer prizewinning author, and leading biodiversity scientist, Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

Keynote Speaker – Edward O.Wilson: The Linnaean Ark
David Quammen: Linnaeus – name giver. A passion for order (presented by Andrew Polaszek)
James Dobreff: In the wake of the Linnaean Ark – Daniel Rolander’s Diarium Surinamicum and its insects
Hans Dieter Sues: Fossils and Linnaean classification
Gordon McGregor Reid: The naming of threatened animal and plant species – a matter of life and death
Quentin D. Wheeler: Linnaean classifications – from Ark to Battlestar

Programme 27 Aug 2008 AM

Session 2 (ICZ S5A): Systema Naturae 250: current issues in animal nomenclature (I)

Philippe Bouchet: Documenting marine megabiodiversity
Estelle Balian, Hendrik Segers, Christian Lévèque & Koen Martens: Freshwater Animal diversity Assessment – a project documenting biodiversity in continental aquatic ecosystems.
Neal Evenhuis, Thomas Pape, Adrian Pont, & Chris Thompson: Flying after Linnaeus – Dipteran names since Systema Naturae (1758)
Frank Bisby: The Catalogue of Life – an e-Science Systema Naturae for the future
Donat Agosti, Terry Catapano, Norman F. Johnson, Richard Pyle & Zhi-Qiang Zhang:1758 – Latin Binomen; 2008 – e-Descriptions
Sandra Knapp & Debbie Wright: e-Publish or Perish
David Schindel & Scott Miller: Provisional Nomenclature – The On-Ramp to Taxonomic Names
David Patterson: Future taxonomy – bigger, better and faster
Simon Tillier: Grasping the taxonomic diversity of Life – barcoding and integration of infrastructures
James Hanken: The Encyclopedia of Life

Programme 27 Aug 2008 PM

Session 3 (ICZ S5B): Systema Naturae 250: current issues in animal nomenclature (II)

Norman Johnson: Future taxonomy today – new tools applied to accelerate the taxonomic process
David Remsen: The All Genera Index
Andrew Polaszek & Ellinor Michel: Linnaeus – Sherborn – ZooBank
Richard Pyle et al: ZooBank – reviewing the first two years, and preparing for the next 250.
Charles Godfray: Web taxonomy – the future or a distraction?
Alfried Vogler: 250 years – enough animal nomenclature
Benoit Dayrat: The Codes – is reconciliation possible?
Fredrik Ronquist: 250 years of Swedish taxonomy

Today in Science History

From Today in Science History:

Carl R. Woese (Born 15 Jul 1928). American microbiologist who recognized the existance of the organisms Archaea as a third domain of life, distinct from the previously recognized two domains of bacteria, and life other than bacteria. On 2 Nov 1977, his identification of methanogens, a form of life dating back some 3.5 billion years, was reported from the University of Illinois. Woese had long studied the evolutionary track of DNA and RNA. In 1976, he was approached by his colleague Ralph Wolfe, who presented a group of methane producing organisms. Woese studied their RNA and recognized their lack of the entire oligonucleotide sequences. Methanogens are found in oxygen-deficient environments, and mostly obtain their energy by reducing CO2 and oxidizing hydrogen, and releasing methane.

Gavin Maxwell (Born 15 Jul 1914; died 7 Sep 1969). Scottish naturalist and author best known for his book Ring of Bright Water (1960), the story of his life in the western Highlands of Scotland with two pet otters. In 1945, he bought the small Hebridean island of Soay, to create a shark fishery there, but his effort was undercapitalized and failed. He found the sharks elusive, difficult to land in a small boat and he underestimated the refrigeration capacity for storage. However, the experience became the source for his book Harpoon Venture (1952). His later enterprises included encouraging Eider Ducks to breed on the small island of Eilean Dudh so that the down from their nests could be harvested, and establishing a collection of wild animals indigenous to Scotland to create a private zoo.

Lee Raymond Dice (Born 15 Jul 1887; died 31 Jan 1977). American zoologist, geneticist and ecologist who introduced biotic provinces to characterize areas of continuous ecological similarity in climate, soils, and topography. He investigated geographical and ecological distribution pertaining to plants and animals in fieldwork throughout the Southwest and Mexico in the 1920s and 30s. When he found C. Hart Merriam’s idea of life zones to be inadequate for modeling distribution patterns, he developed his concept of biotic provinces. Dice demonstrated their application in his book, The Biotic Provinces of North America (1943). He is also known for his derivation of the Dice index, a similarity coefficient used to measure degree of association between biotic samples.

John Wilson (Died 15 Jul 1751; born 1696). English botanist who was the first writer that attempted a systematic arrangement of English indigenous plants in the English language, which he published in Synopsis of British Plants (1744). Wilson was self-taught in botany, and built on the method of Ray, which he had to read in Latin. Wilson preferred to write plainly, in English, recording his finds made on frequent trips into the local countryside. His systematic studies did much to bring some order and place the science on the broad scientific basis. He died at age 55, before finishing a second volume intended to contain the fungi, mosses, grasses, and trees. Wilson remains little known because his book was eclipsed by the writings of Linnæus that became popular shortly after his death.

Just a few links…

To be out in June (according to Amazon), a volume of Darwin’s letters on evolution, with an introduction by David Attenborough. I like the cover.

A summary of E.O. Wilson’s Linnean Enterprise lecture. Also from the Linnean Society, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Darwin and Wallace’s 1848 joint publication.

“The Linnaean Tradition in Modern Biology – A Revival?” (conference last October) at Agora (Wilson also gave his speech here, and there is a PDF of his powerpoint.)

A summary of John van Whye’s forthcoming piece on the myth of Darwin’s finches. interview with David Quammen.

Wallace Should Hang from The New York Times.

Today in Science History

Born this day:

Johann Christian Fabricius (Born 7 Jan 1745; died 3 Mar 1808). Danish entomologist who was one of the great entomologists of the 18th century. After studying with Swedish naturalist Linnaeus, Fabricius travelled widely in Europe to see insect collections and produced many publications describing all the new species that he saw. He named and classified some 10,000 species of insects. The system of classification of insects he developed was based on mouth structure (instead of wing). He offered theories, progressive for his time, suggesting that hybridization could produce produce new species or varieties, and that environmental adaptation could influence changes in anatomical structure or function.

Linking Linnaeus

On December 12, Edward O. Wilson spoke on “The Great Linnean Enterprise” at the Linnean Society. I think it is, however, a retelling of another lecture he gave in 2004 for the American Philosophical Society as part of a symposium, “Science, Art, and Knowledge: Practicing Natural History from the Enlightenment to the Twenty-first Century” (papers given at this symposium are available online as pdfs here, including Wilson’s “The Linnaean Enterprise: Past, Present, and Future.” Deb of A Celebration of Mundanity gives her thoughts on the 2007 lecture here, and the Linnean Society has a schedule of upcoming 2008 programs here.

Why is Linnaeus on The Beagle Project Blog? Also read about the Three Wise Men (and here).

Australia’s Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts offers a poster to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus’ birth.

The most recent newsletter of the History of Science Society has two articles on Linnaeus, one about the exhibit, Come into a New World: Linnaeus & America (see here also), the other about the Linnaeus correspondence project.

2007 marks several new books about Linnaeus: Order out of Chaos: Linnaean Plant Names and their Types (or here) from the Linnean Society, A Passion for Systems: Linnaeus and the Dream of Order in Nature from Linnaues 2007, and an ambitious publication from the IK Foundation & Company, The Linnaeus Apostles -Global Science & Adventure (8 Volumes).

[Picture: Linnaeus by Gabbster at deviantArt]

LECTURE: E.O. Wilson on "The Great Linnean Enterprise"

UPDATE: Thoughts on this lecture at A Celebration of Mundanity.

From the HIST-NAT-HIST listserve (11/30/2007):

You may be interested in this forthcoming lecture which has recently been added to the programme. This meeting is free and open to all, registration is not necessary but seats will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

The Great Linnean Enterprise: Then and Now
Edward O. Wilson FMLS

At the Linnean Society of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BFOn Wednesday 12th December 2007 at 2.30pm

It can be reasonably assumed that the first words to emerge during the origin of human speech included the names of plants and animals. That advance, which probably occurred during the transition from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens a half million years ago, can be regarded as the earliest forerunner of science. Accuracy and repeatability in communication about the environment were then as now necessary for survival. Getting things by their right names, as the Chinese put it, is the first step to wisdom.

Carl Linnaeus, the great Swedish biologist, whose name is virtually synonymous with the modern era of systematics, made three decisively influential contributions. The first, presented in the Leiden Systema Naturae of 1735, formalized the hierarchical system of classification used today. A direct philosophical descendant of Aristotle’s first scheme, it grouped all known organisms into three kingdoms, which were then divided successively downward into classes, orders, genera, and species. The basic unit Linnaeus recognized is the species, and he aggregated the higher taxonomic categories into successively larger clusters of species according to their anatomical similarity. Although Linnaeus believed in special creation, he nevertheless spent his entire career striving to define the diversity of life as a natural, comprehensible system as opposed to an arbitrary, chaotic system.

Edward Osborne Wilson is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, and naturalist. Wilson is known for his career as a scientist, his advocacy for environmentalism, and his scientific humanist ideas concerned with religious, moral, and ethical matters. He is the Pellegrino University Research Professor in Entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He is a Humanist Laureate of the International Academy of Humanism.

Also, the Linnean Society has pdfs of their newsletter The Linnean here!

Linnaeus’ ‘Systema Naturae’ on Display

Linnaeus’ personal copy of his Systema Naturae (1st edition, 1735), an important document for the emergence of taxonomic classification of living organisms, was put on display at two American locales to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus’ birth (see this link for posts with Linnaeus celebration information). First, it was on display at the New York Botanical Garden from November 8-10, including some talks, one with Edward O. Wilson. Then it went to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History from November 13-14 as “A Tribute to Carl Linnaeus,” part of a symposium, “Three Hundred Years of Linnaean Taxonomy.” The blog of the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) originally posted on this, and digitized versions of Systema Naturae are available at the BHL or

Also, a copy of Systema Naturae was recently sold by the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh through Christie’s. More at PhiloBiblos, Antiquarian Book News, the Evening News, and the Edinburgh Paper. And Science magazine’s Gonzo Scientist writes of Linnaeus’ culinary work.

Died This Day: Otto Brunfels, German botanist and a "Father of Botany"

From Today in Science History:

Otto Brunfels, Died 23 Nov 1534 (born c 1488) German botanist, considered by Carolus Linnaeus to be one of the founders of modern botany. His Herbarum vivae eicones (1530-36) was the first of the great printed herbals. It has been stated that his work may be considered as a link between ancient and modern botany. He adopted the ancient classification of plants as woody and herbaceous. Brunfels rejected the alphabetical sequence of genera in favor of an association based on agreement in medicinal value but he gave no thought to the nomenclature of species. The illustrations were lifelike and not copies from earlier herbals. The plants were drawn from nature by Hans (II) Weiditz, using live models rather than earlier drawings.

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science (Biology)

Latest issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences is out. Table of contents are here. Papers on Linnaeus, Darwin, Wallace, and Mendel, among others. They appear to be freely downloadable at the moment.

Collection and collation: theory and practice of Linnaean botany
Staffan Müller-Wille

Abstract Historians and philosophers of science have interpreted the taxonomic theory of Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) as an ‘essentialist’, ‘Aristotelian’, or even ‘scholastic’ one. This interpretation is flatly contradicted by what Linnaeus himself had to say about taxonomy in Systema naturae (1735), Fundamenta botanica (1736) and Genera plantarum (1737). This paper straightens out some of the more basic misinterpretations by showing that: (1) Linnaeus’s species concept took account of reproductive relations among organisms and was therefore not metaphysical, but biological; (2) Linnaeus did not favour classification by logical division, but criticized it for necessarily failing to represent what he called ‘natural’ genera; (3) Linnaeus’s definitions of ‘natural’ genera and species were not essentialist, but descriptive and polytypic; (4) Linnaeus’s method in establishing ‘natural’ definitions was not deductive, but consisted in an inductive, bottom-up procedure of comparing concrete specimens. The conclusion will discuss the fragmentary and provisional nature of Linnaeus’s ‘natural method’. I will argue in particular that Linnaeus opted for inductive strategies not on abstract epistemological grounds, but in order to confer stability and continuity to the explorative practices of contemporary natural history.

A translation of Carl Linnaeus’s introduction to Genera plantarum (1737)
Staffan Müller-Wille
and Karen Reeds

Abstract This paper provides a translation of the introduction, titled ‘Account of the work’ Ratio operis, to the first edition of Genera plantarum, published in 1737 by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778). The text derives its significance from the fact that it is the only published text in which Linnaeus engaged in an explicit discussion of his taxonomic method. Most importantly, it shows that Linnaeus was clearly aware that a classification of what he called ‘natural genera’ could not be achieved by a top-down approach of logical division, but had to rely on inductive, bottom-up procedures. The translation is supplemented by explanatory notes.

Darwin and the linguists: the coevolution of mind and language, Part 1. Problematic friends
Stephen G. Alter

Abstract In his book The descent of man (1871), Charles Darwin paid tribute to a trio of writers (Hensleigh Wedgwood, F. W. Farrar, and August Schleicher) who offered naturalistic explanations of the origin of language. Darwin’s concurrence with these figures was limited, however, because each of them denied some aspect of his thesis that the evolution of language had been coeval with and essential to the emergence of humanity’s characteristic mental traits. Darwin first sketched out this thesis in his theoretical notebooks of the 1830s and then clarified his position in Descent, where he argued that mind–language coevolution had occurred prior to the rise of distinct racial groups. He thus opposed the view of August Schleicher and Ernst Haeckel, who (along with Alfred Russel Wallace) taught that speech had originated subsequent to the geographical and racial dispersion of humanity’s ancestors. As Darwin argued in Descent, this quasi-polygenetic version of coevolution was unable to explain primeval man’s initial dominance over rival ape-like populations. Drawing inspiration from British anthropologists, Darwin made the early development of language, hence mental monogenesis, central to his account of human evolution.

Resister’s logic: the anti-vaccination arguments of Alfred Russel Wallace and their role in the debates over compulsory vaccination in England, 1870–1907
Martin Fichman
and Jennifer E. Keelan

Abstract In the 1880s, Alfred Russel Wallace, the celebrated co-discoverer of natural selection, launched himself into the centre of a politicised and polarised debate over the unpopular compulsory vaccination laws in England. Wallace never wavered in his belief that smallpox vaccination was useless and likely dangerous. Six years before his death, the anti-vaccinationists successfully secured a conscience clause that effectively dismantled the compulsory vaccination laws. Several other important Victorian scientists joined Wallace in the fight to repeal compulsory vaccination arguing that widely held views on the effectiveness of vaccination and evidence for immunity were inconclusive in the light of (then) contemporary standards of evidence. This article situates Wallace’s anti-vaccination logic within the broader matrix of sociopolitical and cultural reform movements of the late Victorian era. Additionally it provides the first detailed analysis of his critique of vaccination science, in particular the role statistics played in his arguments. In this period, both pro-vaccinationists and anti-vaccinationists invested great efforts in collating and analysing statistical data sets that either supported or refuted the claims of vaccination’s effectiveness. While each side presented ‘controlled’ case studies to support their assertions, without an unambiguous test to measure or demonstrate vaccination’s effectiveness, the anti-vaccinationists continued to mount credible statistical critiques of vaccination science.

Statistics is not enough: revisiting Ronald A. Fisher’s critique (1936) of Mendel’s experimental results (1866)
Avital Pilpel

Abstract This paper is concerned with the role of rational belief change theory in the philosophical understanding of experimental error. Today, philosophers seek insight about error in the investigation of specific experiments, rather than in general theories. Nevertheless, rational belief change theory adds to our understanding of just such cases: R. A. Fisher’s criticism of Mendel’s experiments being a case in point. After an historical introduction, the main part of this paper investigates Fisher’s paper from the point of view of rational belief change theory: what changes of belief about Mendel’s experiment does Fisher go through and with what justification. It leads to surprising insights about what Fisher had done right and wrong, and, more generally, about the limits of statistical methods in detecting error.

Happy Birthday, Buffon!

2007 is a big year for birth and death anniversaries of naturalists and scientists (see pages 4-5 of this newsletter). May 23 marked the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus‘s birth, and just as celebrations are planned for the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth in 2009, several insitutions celebrated the life and legacy of Linnaeus, such as the Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences (Linnaeus 2007), Uppsala University (Linne 2007), and the California Academy of Sciences (Linnaeus and Beyond). The Linnaeus Correspondence website was introduced, the journal Nature devoted a wealth of pages to “Linnaeus’ Legacy,” and there were a few radio programs, as well as scores of link-happy blog posts (1, 2, 3).

But 2007, and today specifically, marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus’s rival, George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. From Today in Science History:

Buffon was a French naturalist, who formulated a crude theory of evolution and was the first to suggest that the earth might be older than suggested by the Bible. In 1739 he was appointed keeper of the Jardin du Roi, a post he occupied until his death. There he worked on a comprehensive work on natural history, for which he is remembered, Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière. He began this work in 1749, and it dominated the rest of his life. It would eventually run to 44 volumes, including quadrupeds, birds, reptiles and minerals. He proposed (1778) that the Earth was hot at its creation and, from the rate of cooling, calculated its age to be 75,000 years, with life emerging some 40,000 years ago.

In Finding Order in Nature: The Naturalist Tradition from Linnaeus to E.O. Wilson (Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 2000), historian of science Paul L. Farber notes the realtionship between Linnaeus and Buffon:

Buffon’s encyclopedia, combined with Linnaeus’s brilliant work in classifying and naming, laid the foundation for the emergence of natural history as a scientific discipline during the second half of the eighteenth century. This is not to say that Buffon and Linnaeus saw themselves as partners. Linnaeus regarded Buffon’s flowery prose as a distraction to those who sought knowledge of nature, and Buffon considered Linnaeus’s classification systems as little more than boring tables in which to store information. But the combined result of their individual efforts was to set a new level of rigor in investigation, one that gave primary importance to knowledge gained through observation. Nature was seen to operate through natural laws and contained a structure that humans could fathom. The key to understanding nature did not come from Scripture, or contemplation, or mystical insight. It consisted in careful study, comparison, and generalization. (20-21)

Farber further notes that although Linnaeus’s work was largely religious in purpose (to discover “God’s own secret logic of biological classification,” in David Quammen’s words from the June 2007 National Geographic)). Also, Buffon searched for more broad themes in nature from a secular viewpoint, placing the role of classification below his attempt to understand natural relationships, geographical distribution, and historical change. Farber also states that although they differed in their approach to the study of nature, they had alot in common – they both “strove for an understanding of the order in nature,” and had “supplied a foundation” for the study of nature.

Linnaeus is well remembered. From the recent Nature issue on Linnaeus: “His categorizations were not uniformly valuable, but his systematic spirit, his stress on the concept of species, and the formal but adaptable conventions of nomenclature he introduced have endured” [“The legacy of Linnaeus” (editorial), Nature 446 (March 15, 2007): 231]. But since Farber, and Stephen Jay Gould [“Inventing Natural History in Style,” in The Lying Stones of Marrakech: Penultimate Reflections in Natural History (New York: Harmony books, 2000, p. 75-90; and “The Man Who Invented Natural History,” The New York Review of Books, October 22, 1998, part online here] explain the importance of Buffon’s contibutions to science, then why all the celebrations for Linnaeus and not so much for Buffon?

Here is an article [PDF: Richard Conniff, “Happy Birthday, Linnaeus,” Natural History 115 (Dec 2006/Jan 2007): 42-47] that answers the question, “Are we celebrating the wrong birthday?”

Come and stand here,” said a guide in a room on the second floor of the house where the naturalist Carl Linnaeus lived with his wife, five children, several monkeys, parrots, and a pet raccoon. The house, in Uppsala, Sweden, is now the Linnaeus Museum. “Do you feel the way the floor is worn away under your feet?”

Linnaeus’s sexual system for classifying flowering plants appears in the 1736 edition of his Species Plantarum. Linnaeus first assigned the flowering plants to classes according to the number of stamens, or male parts, of each flower, and further differentiated each class into orders according to the number of pistils, or female parts.

Linnaeus stood on this spot to lecture his students, in a corner of the room where the professorial elbow naturally eases back onto the carved mantle. By all accounts, he was a charismatic teacher, both ribald and full of religious fervor for the wonders of the natural world. The words Linnaeus spoke here inspired nineteen of his students to undertake voyages of exploration to the far corners of the Earth. He called them his “apostles,” praised their every “immortal” discovery, and saw half of them die overseas in the service of his mission. His ideas would also prove indispensable to later explorers, from Captain James Cook and Charles Darwin to biologists of the present day.

Linnaeus was, of course, the inventor of the system by which every living species gets its two-part scientific name, its genus and its species. Homo sapiens, for instance, was a name Linnaeus coined. People today tend to take his system for granted, and scientific names such as E. coli and C. elegans have become part of the common language. Of Linnaeus himself, even biologists specializing in natural history generally know little or nothing.

But for those who had struggled to make sense of the world before Linnaeus, the system he invented was cause for jubilation. “When Linnaeus started,” says Thierry Hoquet, a science historian at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, “natural history was a mess, and people needed guidelines. Do you know in Greek mythology the story of how Ariadne fell in love with Theseus, and gave him a ball of thread to help him find his way out of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth? Linnaeus gave us the thread.”

Having followed that thread myself, I wanted to know more about Linnaeus. A good way to do it, it seemed to me, was to look not just at Linnaeus, but also at his underappreciated French rival, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, whose encyclopedic Histoire naturelle became one of the best sellers of the eighteenth century. Both men were born in 1707, and so both are rapidly approaching their 300th birthdays. And both struggled with the same fundamental questions, which still trouble biologists today: What exactly is a species? Where does one species end and another begin? How do species and habitats affect each other?

Both Linnaeus and Buffon were towering figures in their day, and each despised the other. Linnaeus regarded himself as anointed by God to bring order to the chaos of creation. Buffon, who was in many ways the deeper thinker, questioned the very idea of creation and provided crucial scientific evidence against Biblical assumptions about the age of the Earth. Linnaeus focused his relentless energy on naming species and organizing them into groups. Buffon ridiculed the whole idea of imposing order on nature, preferring instead to focus on how species behaved and how they related to one another.

And yet with the questions they asked, Linnaeus and Buffon together launched one of the greatest intellectual quests in history–to understand life on Earth in all its diversity. In place of the animal folklore that earlier naturalists had complacently repeated since Roman times, they demanded specimens and eyewitness accounts. When they began their work, the number of species known to science was no more than a few thousand. Today, it numbers about 1.7 million. Linnaeus will get much of the credit for that, in tercentennial events around the world in the coming year. But as I learned about Buffon, whose own tercentennial will be largely ignored, I began to wonder: could it be that we’re celebrating the wrong birthday?

Botanical expedition to Lapland, where Linnaeus acquired the costume depicted in this 1775 lithograph, helped establish Linnaeus’s image as an explorer and proved critical to his success. Linnaeus portrayed his expedition as a perilous adventure among dangerous natives, though he probably spent only a few Weeks among the Sami people there.

The known world at the start of the eighteenth century did not include Antarctica, nor much more than a glimpse of the coast of Australia. But every ship coming home from Africa, Asia, and the Americas seemed to carry some bizarre new creature: an opossum appeared on the crowded London quays, an iguana in Antwerp, a chambered nautilus shell in Paris. How did such creatures live? Where did they fit in the scheme of creation? How did they affect ideas about our own species? Naturalists caught in the tide of strange new life-forms had no language or methodology for discussing such questions. They could not agree on how to name the plants and animals in their own backyards. How could they possibly make sense of species at the opposite ends of the Earth?

Linnaeus was hardly an obvious candidate to provide the answer. He was a provincial, descended from four generations of Lutheran parsons in the Swedish countryside. But he was a careful observer of plants and animals, and compulsively organized about recording his observations. He was also ambitious and spectacularly egotistical (“Nobody has been a greater botanist or zoologist,” he once wrote). By the age of twenty-five he had already completed an expedition to Lapland, sponsored by the Royal Society of Science in Uppsala. He later depicted his journey as a perilous adventure among dangerous natives in uncharted regions. But in her 1999 biography, Linnaeus: Nature and Nation, the historian Lisbet Koerner of Imperial College London concludes that he probably spent no more than a few weeks among the Sami people there. He also claimed double the distance he actually traveled, possibly because he was being paid by the mile.

His image as an explorer proved critical to his success. In Amsterdam, London, and Paris, he dressed in a showy variation on the native costume of the Sami. Together with his buoyant personality, the figure he cut gained him entrée with the leading scientists of the day. He quickly impressed his new friends with his ideas about the classification of species, which he published as Systema naturae, at the age of twenty-eight.

The Linnaean system incorporated three important innovations, none of them completely original. First, Linnaeus classified flowering plants according to the number of stamens and pistils, the male and female parts, in each flower. Such a simplistic sexual system was, he knew, artificial (other botanists soon replaced it with a reliance on a broader range of traits). But it instantly opened up the botanical world to anyone who could look into a flower and count. Second, he devised precise rules for describing any species, which, again, even beginners could follow. And third, he gradually introduced his binomial system. A species that used to suffer under the name Arum summis labris degustantes mutos reddens became instead simply Arum maculatum.

Cherubs and a trumpet-bearing angel weave garlands about the image of Linnaeus in this adulatory, 1806 portrait by Francesco Bartolozzi. The religious iconography reflects Linnaeus’s Bible-based beliefs, an integral part of his scientific approach. Like most of his contemporaries, Linnaeus rooted his definition of species in the plants and animals with which the God of Genesis populated Eden.

Linnaeus shrewdly served up this new system with a lyrical dollop of sexual innuendo. He described flower petals as “the bridal bed,” perfumed and hung with “precious bed-curtains,” awaiting “the time for the bridegroom to embrace his beloved bride.” He spoke blithely of two brides in bed with one husband (two pistils and one stamen).

Sex undoubtedly attracted newcomers to the charms of botany, and the simplicity of the Linnaean system gave them confidence in their identifications. The French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau later celebrated the Linnaean system as a source of “great pleasure,” because the layperson was no longer confined to making isolated observations. Testimonials of delight and gratitude arrived from around the world. By the time he was thirty-three, Linnaeus was already boasting that scholars abroad regarded him on a par with Newton and Galileo.
Then, as now, Uppsala was a college town of pink-, cream-, and ochre-colored buildings arranged around a pretty little river, the Fyrisån. The garden where Linnaeus practiced his craft as a botanist and as a professor at Uppsala University occupies much of a city block in the middle of town, with his house on one corner. From here, Linnaeus used to lead regular collecting excursions into the local countryside joined by as many as 300 people at a time. With his characteristic passion for order, Linnaeus organized them into platoons. They armed themselves with butterfly nets and carried their trophies home pinned to their hats. Kettle drums and hunting horns announced their jubilant return at the end of the day, accompanied by cries of “Long Live Linnaeus!”

From the start, Linnaeus also attracted critics. The German botanist Johann Georg Siegesbeck protested that Linnaeus was turning innocent flower gardens into beds of harlotry. Linnaeus, who suffered criticism poorly, responded by giving the name Siegesbeckia to a small, foul-smelling weed. Another vocal critic, though not on sexual grounds, was the French naturalist Buffon.

The Jardin des Plantes in Paris is today an enclosed compound of rose gardens, tree-lined alleys, and museums about the natural world. Georges-Louis Leclerc, a son of provincial bourgeoisie, assumed the powerful title of administrator here in 1739, when he was just thirty-two. During the next half-century, he more than doubled the size of the Royal Botanical Garden, as it was then known, to its present sixty-four acres. He also laid the foundations for what was to become the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle, one of the finest natural history museums in the world. Leclerc was a talented administrator, politically adroit, a confidante of everyone from Benjamin Franklin to King Louis XV. But the key to his reputation was his writing, which made him internationally famous as Buffon–later Comte, or Count, of Buffon–a name taken from a small Burgundy village near his country home in Montbard.

From 1740 on, Buffon spent half the year in Montbard (“Paris is hell,” he wrote). Here Buffon set out to catalogue the king’s collection of natural artifacts, taking on his new task with such enthusiasm that he eventually wrote thirty-six volumes of his encyclopedic Histoire naturelle. It became an attempt to synthesize everything then known about the animal and mineral worlds. The Histoire naturelle was an immediate best seller–and remained a pillar of French literature until Buffon’s lofty prose fell out of favor in mid-twentieth century.

What made Buffon different was not just his style, but also his scrupulous avoidance of religious or supernatural explanations. Linnaeus and most other contemporaries still rooted their definition of species in the plants and animals created by God to populate Eden. Buffon, by contrast, thought it was absurd to imagine God being “very busy with the way a beetle’s wing should fold.” He defined a species scientifically, as a group of animals breeding together over time.

Such departures from orthodoxy angered religious authorities, who presented Buffon with a list of fourteen “reprehensible statements.” Buffon dutifully signed a declaration of his faith in Scripture. (“It is better to be humble than hung,” he remarked.) But he left his “reprehensible statements” unaltered.

Buffon’s keen interest in habitat and behavior anticipated sciences such as ecology and ethology, which were still 200 years in the future. And though he had no inkling of evolution, he wrote about how species could be transformed by their habitat. He believed, for instance, that a cold, wet climate caused animals in the Americas to be smaller. (His friend Thomas Jefferson, then the American ambassador to Paris, gently corrected this error by presenting the Royal Botanical Garden with the hide of a moose.) Buffon’s aim was to incorporate particular observations about animals into general theories about the natural world, and it earned him a reputation as “the Pliny and the Aristotle of France.” Given the egos involved, a clash with the “Newton and Galileo” of Sweden was inevitable.

Books, a globe, and a few animals serve as decorative elements in this 1769 portrait of Buffon, in contrast to the religious imagery in the painting of Linnaeus on the opposite page. Unlike Linnaeus, Buffon scrupulously avoided religious and supernatural explanations. Buffon suggested that animals were not immutable forms created by God, but rather adapted to their habitats.

Buffon struck the first blow in the mid-1740s, attacking Linnaeus for imposing an artificial order on the disorderly natural world. He gleefully pointed out absurdities in the groups Linnaeus had proposed. Did tulips really belong with barberries? Or elm trees with carrots? Linnaeus had mistakenly grouped those species together because he did not realize that a particular trait–the number of pistils and stamens, for instance–could evolve independently even in the most distantly related species. It was even worse in zoology. On the basis of dental structure, for instance, humans and monkeys both turned up in the order Anthropomorpha. But so did two-toed sloths. “One must really be obsessed with classifying to put such different beings together,” Buffon wrote.

Linnaeus dismissed his antagonist as a “hater of all methods,” who delivered “few observations” and much “beautiful ornate French.” He quoted the Bible (“And I have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight”) to prophesy that the “Frenchman named Buffon” who “always wrote against Linnaeus” would suffer the wrath of God.

Buffon’s objections to the Linnaean system arose partly from sincere belief. “Nature moves through unknown gradations and consequently she cannot be a party to these divisions,” he wrote, “because she passes from one species to another species, and often from one genus to another genus, by imperceptible nuances.”

He was highlighting a problem that bedevils biologists to this day. The Linnaean system, even in its modern form, is far from perfect. New evidence routinely obliges taxonomists to move species from one genus to another, or even to an entirely different order. At times, the revised groupings can seem as absurd as the ones Buffon lampooned. Buffon was also correct in arguing that the Linnaean system is often arbitrary. Taxonomic “splitters” tend to recognize new species on the basis of relatively small differences. Taxonomic “lumpers” group them together on the basis of traits they have in common. Then they fight.

But if the system Linnaeus invented is so flawed, why has his reputation endured? Partly it’s because binomial identification has proved so convenient. And partly it’s because Linnaeus was extraordinarily lucky. Although he was thinking about God and creation, he developed a rudimentary hierarchy of classification that would prove congenial, a century later, to the new evolutionary thinking of Darwin. His timing was also impeccable. He provided a coherent system of classification just as the age of discovery was revealing the overwhelming richness of plant and animal life.

Buffon, meanwhile, proposed no alternative way of coming to grips with the abundance of new species. He made the mistake, as absurd as anything in Linnaeus, of putting human beings at the center of the animal world, and his Histoire naturelle paid inordinate attention to species that were useful and familiar to us. Perhaps Linnaeus was a mere collector and classifier, as Buffon argued. And maybe he lacked Buffon’s insight into ecology and animal behavior. But Buffon somehow missed a point all modern scientists understand: Classification is the essential first step. You need to know what species you are looking at, before you can begin to talk about how they behave.

The attack on Linnaeus mainly hurt Buffon himself. According to Phillip R. Sloan, a historian of science at the University of Notre Dame, the Histoire naturelle was quickly translated into most major European languages. But it was twenty-five years before the first translation appeared in England, where the cult of Linnaeus was particularly devout. (Even in the eighteenth century he was celebrated there as “the immortal Linnaeus.”)

But does Buffon deserve to be forgotten? His relative obscurity, like the immortality of Linnaeus, also turns out to be largely a matter of luck.

From Montbard, I walked along a canal to a collection of handsome stone buildings with red tile roofs, just outside Buffon’s namesake village. It’s an old forge where, late in life, Buffon conducted a series of remarkable experiments. He had his workers take molten balls of iron of various size and composition from the smelter and carefully measure how long it took them to cool down. His theory was that the Earth originated as a fireball, gradually solidifying as it cooled. By scaling up from iron balls to the size of the planet, he hoped to estimate the age of the Earth. His numbers ranged from 10 million years to as little as 75,000 years, the estimate he published when his “Epochs of Nature” finally appeared in 1778.

Geologists now know that the Earth is billions of years old. But Buffon’s work was the beginning of the end for the biblical belief that all creation dated back just 6,000 years. According to the late Stephen Jay Gould, “Epochs of Nature” was “the most important scientific document ever written in promoting the transition to a fully historical view of nature.”

The forge is now a museum, but amazingly, the exhibits make no reference whatever to the experiments Buffon conducted there. And that seems to be Buffon’s fate in history. His ideas, though essential in their day to the advancement of science, were consigned thereafter to oblivion.

Le Jardin des Plantes, the most important botanical garden in France, is depicted around 1805. In his half-century as its administrator, Buffon more than doubled its size. According to one story, Buffon’s son was sent to the guillotine during the French Revolution by former neighbors that Buffon père had evicted in the course of expanding the garden.

Thierry Hoquet, the author of a recent book about Buffon, credits him with four important ideas in the history of science: the understanding of geologic time, the definition of species on biological terms, the role of habitat in shaping species, and the conviction that species can transform over time. Those ideas all stand up to modern scrutiny. But they are relatively complex, and buried in a prodigious stream of other ideas.

Buffon’s reputation also suffered for political reasons. He died in 1788, a year before the French Revolution, which, unsurprisingly, had little regard for such a close ally of the king. Buffon’s son went to the guillotine. At least the revolutionaries understood the value of Buffon’s work well enough to found the Museum national d’Histoire naturelle on the collections he had largely assembled. But one of the early zoologists there, Georges Cuvier, set out to turn natural history into a scientific discipline. And clearing the path to professionalism meant pushing Buffon and the kind of amateur naturalists he had inspired into the dustbin.

But even Cuvier later conceded that Linnaeus and Buffon together possessed the essential tools for rapidly advancing the scientific study of nature: “Linnaeus knew with precision the distinctive traits of creatures; Buffon comprehended in a glance some of their most remote relations.” Without both, natural science as we know it would not exist.

At the Jardin des Plantes, a bronze statue of Buffon presides in casual splendor over the gardens and the natural history museums he helped make great. One day this past summer, a worker–an unwitting agent of the cult of Linnaeus–set up a sprinkler directly in front of the statue, so that it seemed to be spitting indifferently onto Buffon’s ruffled blouse. But then the pressure went off, and for a little while, the image of Buffon glistened again under the Paris sun.

There is one institutional celebration for the 300th anniversay of Buffon’s birth, however – Symposium Buffon – this October at the French National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Linnaeus Correspondence

from a History of Natural History listserve:

This is to spread the word that digital images of the letters sent to Linnaeus are now accessible online at tp:// The collection held by the Linnean Society contains over 4000 letters from 600 different correspondents including letters from such major figures as Joseph Banks, Johan Frederik Gronovius, Johan Christian Fabricius, the Jussieu brothers, José Celestino Mútis, Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin, Georg Dionysius Ehret, Anders Celsius, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and even Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

To access the letters go to the web site and choose “Letters” to go to the full list. Then choose document type, the author of the letter and the recipient. You will get a list with a number for each letter. This is the code assigned to each individual letter, each begins with an “L”. Click on the number for the one you want and a pop up screen will give you more details. Where there is a (+) sign you can get more information by clicking on that. The images of the letters are in “Manuscripts” and published editions in “Editions”: click on the page numbers for those and you will see the letter. These can be magnified, saved and printed if required. Other options are available on the opening screen or on the left of the screen

More information is available on the Linnean Society news page at or on the Collections page at

Kevin Zelnio’s Darwin and History of Science Slides

Kevin Zelnio, a graduate student at Penn State University, and author of the blog The Other 95%: An Appreciation of the Underappreciated Majority of Life, has made available online 3 powerpoint slideshows from his history of science talks here.

Direct links:
Sir Charles Lyell and Geology’s Influence on Darwin’s Theories
Hooker Huxley Haeckel: Darwin’s Apostles
300 Years of Linnaeus!

I also have my powerpoint slides from a paper presentation I did last year on Darwin’s seed experiments available here.

Mega-Post: Post-Fifth Week of Internship

These are all the states I have been to or visited (born in New Mexico, lived in California, Oregon, and Montana, visited the others). I’ve got alot of America to see! Make your own state map here.

July 24th: America’s first collecting expedition sponsored in 1801
July 25th: Rosalind Franklin (<– Sandwalk’s thoughts) was born in 1920
July 28th: Francis Crick died in 2004; Roger Tory Peterson died in 1996

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Darwin’s greatest discovery: Design without designer (May 2007) [Uncommon Descent’s thoughts]
Guardian Unlimited: Darwin’s faith
On Darwin, T-shirts, and Doing Science at Beagle Project Blog here and here
If you’re a British citizen or resident, sign a petition to make February 12th officially “Darwin Day” (Peter thinks you should)
On Darwin’s “worm years” at Pines Above Snow
Two quotes from Hull’s Darwin and His Critics at Thoughts in a Haystack
Humanist Network New’s podcast on Darwin (from January 2007)
Darwin speculates “the passage by which Nature joins the Lizards to the Snakes.”
To the Best of Our Knowledge (radio show): Electrons to Enlightenment: Debating Darwin
Richard Carter, FCD’s “Darwin-tagged” photos
Get your own framed photo of Darwin from PBS
More creationist babble on the Darwin to Hitler link here
Sydney Morning Herald: The Thinking Man’s Swede (Linnaeus)

Mano Singham’s Web Journal’s 13th, 14th, and 15th post on evolution (some info on Quammen & E.O. Wilson for the 2009 Darwin celebrations, too)
Sandwalk discusses 3 historic genetics papers (1, 2, 3)

Red State Rabble informs us about PBS’s show on the Dover intelligent design trial
CreationEvolutionDesign‘s outline for book on “Problems of Evolution”
Evolution & Development: intelligent design book reviews

World Wide Wunderkammern at the Hairy Museum of Natural History blog

Table of Contents for latest issue of Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences
Science Magazine: The World Measurers (book review)
Telegraph: Image Experimentation (composite photography, Francis Galton, etc.)
The History of Science and Technology (book review) at Book Sharing-Materials and Chemistry

Mega-Post: Post-Third Week of Internship

This is my avatar from the The Simpson’s movie website

July 9th: Sir George Darwin (second son of Charles Darwin) born in 1845; Loren Eisley (author of Darwin’s Century and Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X) died in 1977.
July 12th: Josiah Wedgewood (Darwin’s grandfather, not his father-in-lae/uncle) born in 1730.

Afarensis: Darwin and His Seeds, and On the Theory of Natural Selection (quote)
The Beagle Project Blog on Darwin and Fitzroy
Influences on Darwin: Maer Hall and environs at The Red Notebook
Richard Carter, FCD’s Down House photos
Richard Carter, FCD’s favorite Wellcome image is a [pirate-y] walking stick once owned by Darwin (Pharyngula liked it, too)
Richard Carter, FCD informs us of a Darwin coin slated for 2009
Sandwalk: What is Darwinism?
Book Dragon reviews David Quammen’s The Boilerplate Rhino
Nature: Linnaeus and taxonomy in Japan (subscription required)
eBook: Asa Gray’s Darwiniana: essays and reviews pertaining to Darwinism

Dalhousie University: Evolutionary biology has moved past Darwin’s model
Mano Singham’s Web Journal: 7th, 8th and 9th posts in a series on evolution
Sandwalk’s favorite Wellcome image is a telegram to Francis Crick imforming him of receiving the Nobel Prize
Sandwalk comments on Pharyngula’s image post about Crick
The Struggle for Existence/Belief in Evolution at The Frontal Cortex
Red State Rabble: Carl Sagan explaining evolution

A funny cartoon at Pharyngula
Greg Laden wants you to join the National Center for Science Education
Evolution News & Views: Another Dirty Little Secret in the History of Darwinism
NOVA’s Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial
Kenneth Miller on The Colbert Report
Thoughts in a Haystack provides quotes/photos about the Scopes Monkey Trial (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)

Journal of Social History: Museum Manners: The Sensory Life of the Early Museum
Galileo’s Finger at the Museum of the History of Science in Florence, Italy
EADT: Platform for history at ‘online’ museum

Latest issue of Isis table of contents
An old Tangled Bank on 18th century science
My advisor at MSU (Michael Reidy) is going on a sabbatical to research the relationship between mountaineering and the advancement of science
Religion and Science at Evolving Thoughts
SHOTnews links to The History of Science and Technology in the Northwest and Science and Law (also see earth forum for links)
Laelaps favorite Wellcome Image is of a plesiosaur (some history of paleontology)
Diary of a Dandelion Diva reviews Dava Sobel’s The Planets
Discover Magazine‘s The 7 Most Exciting Moments in Science
Scott Gerard‘s thoughts on studying the history of science
Laelaps on books: Nothing like some good ‘ol 19th century science
Bookyards Author For Today Is The Astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus