Systema Naturae  

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"The zero date for modern nomenclature was the tenth edition of Linnaeus' Systema Naturae , His binomial nomenclature has become the standard taxonomy of living organisms (Simpson, 1961, p. 29). Linnaeus' thinking was based primarily on Aristoteleanism and Thomism and reflected the necessity of "typing" organisms according to common characteristics, The Linnaean method of classifying the races of man according to skin color provided the basis for nineteenth century racial grouping and suitably began the science of anthropology on a modern basis, Linnaeus not only identified four races of man according to the color criterion but he also attributed to each race certain moral and intellectual qualities In his descriptions we see a host of attributes that. In subsequent racial taxonomies become more fixed than race itself. Linnaeus particularizes Homo Americanus as reddish, obstinate, contented, and regulated by custom; Homo Europaeus as white, fickle, sanguine, blue-eyed, gentle, and governed by laws; Homo Asiaticus as sallow, grave, dignified, avaricious, and ruled by opinions; and Homo Afer as black, phlegmatic, cunning, lazy, lustful, careless, and governed by caprice (Haller, 1975, p, 4)."--Nature-nurture, I.Q., and Jensenism: a historical perspective (1979) by Ri Charde, Richard Stephen.

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The book Systema Naturae was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735. Its full title is Systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis or translated: "System of nature through the three kingdoms of nature, according to classes, orders, genera and species, with [generic] characters, [specific] differences, synonyms, places".

The tenth edition of this book is considered the starting point of zoological nomenclature.



Linnaeus (later known as "Carl von Linné", after his ennoblement in 1761) published the first edition of Systema Naturae in the year 1735, during his stay in the Netherlands. As customary for the scientific literature of its day, the book was published in Latin. In it, he outlines his ideas for the hierarchical classification of the natural world, dividing it into the animal kingdom (Regnum animale), the plant kingdom (Regnum vegetabile) and the "mineral kingdom" (Regnum lapideum).

The classification of the plant kingdom in the book was not one meant to reflect the actual order of natureTemplate:Clarify me but to organize it in a fashion convenient for humansTemplate:Citation needed: it followed Linnaeus' new sexual system where species with the same number of stamens were treated in the same group. Linnaeus believed that he was classifying God's creation and was not trying to express any deeper relationships. He is frequently quoted to have said God created, Linnaeus organized. The classification of animals was more natural. For instance, humans were for the first time placed together with other primates, as Anthropomorpha.

In view of the popularity of the work, Linnaeus kept publishing new and ever-expanding editions, growing from eleven pages in the first edition (1735) to three thousand pages in the final and thirteenth edition (1767). Also, as the work progressed he made changes: in the first edition whales were classified as fishes, following the work of Linnaeus' friend and "father of ichthyology" Peter Artedi; in the 10th edition, published in 1758, whales were moved into the mammal class. In this same edition he introduced two part names (see binomen) for animal species, something he had done for plant species (see binary name) in the 1753 publication of Species Plantarum. The system eventually developed into modern Linnaean taxonomy, a hierarchically organized biological classification.


In his Imperium Naturae, Linnaeus established three kingdoms, namely Regnum Animale, Regnum Vegetabile and Regnum Lapideum. This approach, the Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Kingdoms, survives until today in the popular mind, notably in the form of parlour games: "Is it animal, vegetable or mineral?". The classification was based on 5 levels: Kingdom, class, order, genus and species. While species and genus was seen as God-given (or "natural"), the three higher levels were seen by Linnaeus as constructs. The concept behind the set ranks being applied to all groups was to make a system that was easy to remember and navigate in, a task in which he must be said to have succeeded.

The work of Linnaeus had a huge impact on science; it was indispensable as a foundation for biological nomenclature, now regulated by the Nomenclature Codes. Two of his works, the first edition of the Species Plantarum (1753) for plants and the tenth edition of the Systema Naturae (1758) are accepted among the starting points of nomenclature; his binomials (names for species) and his generic names take priority over those of others. However, the impact he had on science was not because of the value of his taxonomy. His taxonomy was not particularly notable, but Linnaeus' talent for attracting skillful young students and sending them abroad to collect made his works far more influential than that of his contemporaries. At the close of the 18th century, his system had effectively become the standard system for biological classification.

The Animal Kingdom

Only in the Animal Kingdom is the higher taxonomy of Linnaeus still more or less recognizable and some of these names are still in use, but usually not quite for the same groups as used by Linnaeus. He divided the Animal Kingdom into six classes, in the tenth edition, of 1758, these were:

The Plant Kingdom

His orders and classes of plants, according to his Systema Sexuale, were never intended to represent natural groups (as opposed to his ordines naturales in his Philosophia Botanica) but only for use in identification. They were used in that sense well into the nineteenth century.

The Linnaean classes for plants, in the Sexual System, were:

The Mineral Kingdoms

His taxonomy of minerals has dropped long since from use. In the tenth edition, 1758, of the Systema Naturae, the Linnaean classes were:

  • Classis 1. PETRÆ
  • Classis 2. MINERÆ
  • Classis 3. FOSSILIA

See also

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