Commentaries on the Exhibit’s Works




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A brief commentary prepared by Ryan McEwan, PhD, Professor, Biology, on the following work:

Carl Linnaeus
Systema Naturae (A General System of Nature)
Leiden, 1735; first edition


As of 2014, an astounding 1.9 million animal species have been described and given scientific names. For plants, the number is in the range of 400,000. Yet this diversity may be only the beginning of detailing life on planet Earth; estimates of animal species alone range from 5 million to 11 million. Yet we also must consider extinction rates, estimated at 140,000 species per year.

Considering how little we actually know about species present on Earth, we are now in a race to name species before they disappear. This task began in the 1700s with Carl Von Linne, later Linnaeus, and his masterwork, Systema Naturae.These early efforts emerged from both a curiosity about life and a religious desire to learn the mind of the creator by studying his creation. Whatever the motivation, the objective was daunting. In my opinion, this ranks among the greatest scientific accomplishments.

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Linnaeus: ‘Systema Naturae’ (‘A General System of Nature’)


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