Uppsala universitet
Skip links
På svenska

Linné on line arrow Plants and Animals arrow The order in nature arrow Linnaeus and the evolution

Linnaeus and the evolution

Carl von Linnaeus 1707–1778
  In Linnaeus’ time the view on nature was different from today's view. It was supposed that all species on earth were the same as on the day God created them, the same number and the same appearance. To study biology was to study the creation. God had not created chaos, but there was a system in the nature for man to discover.

Linnaeus saw it as his task to search for the system in nature. He had found a pattern for sorting the plants – the sexual system. In the beginning all species seemed to be easily arranged into his system, so Linnaeus believed that he had found the divine order in nature.

One day Linnaeus encountered a problem in the shape of a strange plant. It was almost identical to common toadflax, Linaria vulgaris, but it had a differently built flower. For this reason it had to go to another class than the common toadflax in the sexual system. He called the plant Peloria, which is Latin for monster.

Since Peloria did not fit into the sexual system Linnaeus tried to find a solution to the problem. In the end he had to approach the thought that the odd plant might be an example of a species that had originated from nature. When he wrote about this he immediately received a letter from a clergyman who warned him for such a dangerous thought. This happened more than 100 years before Darwin presented his ideas about the origin of species.

Linnaeus never wrote about his thoughts again but planted Peloria by the doorstep to his summerhouse in Hammarby. There he could sit in the summer evenings, smoke his pipe and meditate over this strange monster in God's creation.

Charles Darwin 1809–1882