When they named any thing, they turned toward it, and as they spoke, I saw and remembered that they called the thing they would point out by the name they uttered.
Saint Augustine, Confessions
Linnaeus was born about 300 years ago. (His birthday is officially commemorated as May 23, 1707, but given the fits and starts of Sweden's Julian-to-Gregorian calendar transition between 1700 and 1753, I believe I'm within the grace period of not having to turn to the "Belated Birthday" rack at Hallmark just yet.) His father, Nils, created the surname "Linnaeus" after the littleleaf linden tree (Tilia cordata) on the family homestead.
His love of flowers developed an an early age, and it is recorded that when only eight years old he was nicknamed "the little botanist."
Encyclopaedia Brittanica (1958 edition).
The Prince of Naturalists, Barton called Linnaeus. The Great Architect. The Swedish Sage. God's Registrar.
[Narration of the imagined Meriwether Lewis]
Brian Hall, I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark.
I love those botanical names, even when I'm bamboozled by pronunciations (Cotinus coggyggria, anyone?) and frustrated by the it's-Mahonia-no-it's-Berberis types that keep rearranging the sock drawer. Forest for the trees, folks, forest for the trees:
The first word in his scheme of Latin binomials tells the genus, grouping diverse plants which nevertheless share a commonality; the second word names the species, plants alike enough to regularly interbreed and produce offspring like themselves. It is a framework for understanding, a way to show how pieces of the world fit together.
Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions.
"It is a marvelous creation, isn't it? Linnaeus's system? The most valuable contribution to natural history since Noah put saw to gopher wood. His binomial standard reminds me of terrestrial coordinates, the genus, say, representing latitude, and the species longitude, so that the two of them in conjunction enable you to pinpoint the one precise location or the one recognized scintilla of Creation, that is here, this one, and no other."
Dialogue of the imagined Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, from I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company.
This statue and I arrived on campus the same year, 1976, but it wasn't until one spring morning last year that I spent more than a passing moment in its company. I was at the medical center to accompany a family member (with an ailment favorably resolved for now), for a procedure that would take most of the morning. I was reading King Dork, and figured that my steady stream of low chuckles occasionally punctuated by the poorly suppressed outburst of laughter would be inappropriate comportment for the waiting room of the PET scan department, so I walked down the Midway and visited Linnaeus. The statue's surrounded by beautiful gardens (which wasn't always the case), and I sat down on one of the garden benches. Across me was a crabapple tree, every limb full and drooping with blossoms, and behind me another, which pelted me with petals like ticker tape with every musky sweet breeze.
This statue of Linnaeus is uncommonly expressive. He's on the go, with one foot stepping off his pedestal. A book is tucked under his arm, and he's clutching a bunch of flowers—could they be of his beloved tea plant (Camellia sinensis)? The visage is intelligent, engaged, and even a little bemused:
I read in one of my handbooks, written before it was considered necessary to be dull to be taken seriously:
"Delightful Linnaeus, who dearly loved his little joke, himself confesses to have named the day-flowers after three brothers Commelyn, Dutch botanists, because two of them—commemorated in the showy blue petals of the blossom—published their works; the third, lacking application and ambition, amounted to nothing, like the third inconspicuous whitish third petal."
From A Country Year: Living The Questions.
To the man, our latter-day Adam, who named living things: Happy three-hundredth birthday.