Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

Page 53 of 79

"On Sundays the whole family usually came to[Pg 269] spend the day with us. We sent for a peasant who played on an instrument resembling a violin, to the sound of which we danced in the barn of our farm-house. Our balls certainly were not very splendid,—the company was but small, the music superlatively rustic, and no change in the dances, which were constantly either minuets or Polish; but, regardless of these defects, we passed our time very merrily. While we were dancing, the old man, who smoked his pipe with Zoega, who was deformed and emaciated, became a spectator of our amusement, and sometimes, though very rarely, danced a Polish dance, in which he excelled every one of us young men. He was extremely delighted whenever he saw us in high glee, nay, if we even became very noisy. Had he not always found us so, he would have manifested his apprehension that we were not sufficiently entertained."

The presents which he received from his admirers, the fees of his pupils, his salary, and the property which he had acquired by marriage, rendered him one of the richest of the Upsal professors; and, during the latter period of his life, his stated income was doubled by order of the king. The emoluments which he derived from his works were not great, as he got only for each printed sheet the small sum of one ducat, or about nine shillings and sixpence sterling.

To add to his happiness, his son, at the age of twenty-one, was appointed his assistant and successor, shortly after he himself had received letters of nobility, which were antedated four years. In 1748, Frederick I. had founded the order of the Polar[Pg 270] Star for men of merit in the civil line, and Linnæus was the first who was admitted into it by his successor, Frederick Adolphus. He proposed for his arms the three fields of nature, black, green, and red, surmounted by an egg, with the Linnæa for a crest; but the keeper of the great seal adopted a different arrangement. The Diet at the same time bestowed on him a reward of upwards of £520 sterling, for his discovery relative to the production of pearls; and it is even asserted that his elevation to the rank of nobility was not given on account of his botanical labours, or his general merits, but for this alleged discovery, which, however, has turned to no account.

But the interest which we have felt in the progress of this great man now begins to be less intense. He seems to us to have accomplished his destiny, and we prepare to trace his steps to the grave. In his domestic life he is supposed to have been subjected to many mortifications, arising from the parsimony and domineering temper of his wife. Long before this period, too, he had become subject to attacks of rheumatism, gravel, and gout; while his too-sensitive mind was harassed by the open as well as more insidious attacks of his opponents. It is pleasing to witness the reconciliation of enemies, and we have already remarked that Linnæus and his old antagonist Rosen were ultimately on the most friendly terms. "In 1764," says the private manuscript, "he was attacked by a violent pleurisy. He was anxiously attended by Dr Rosen, who saved him from certain death. From this time he conceived the most sincere affection for his brother-professor."[Pg 271]

Before proceeding to convey the prince of naturalists to the tomb, it seems expedient to examine the most important of his numerous works,—that, namely, in which he arranges all the known objects of nature, and of which the last edition, brought out under his own inspection, appeared about this epoch of his life.[Pg 272]


Account of the Systema Naturæ of Linnæus.

Linnæus's Classification of the Animal Kingdom—Remarks on the Gradations employed, and on Nomenclature—Classification of the Animal Kingdom—General Remarks—Method of Tournefort—Method of Linnæus—Classification of the Vegetable Kingdom—Theory of the Formation of Minerals and Rocks.

The work just mentioned bears the title of Systema Naturæ per Regna tria Naturæ, secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis,—A System of Nature, in which are arranged the objects constituting the three kingdoms of nature, in classes, orders, genera, and species, with their characters, differences, synonymes, and places of occurrence.

The first volume contains the animal kingdom. The introduction presents a brief view of the constitution of the world, in the usually laconic style of the author. In it the three kingdoms of nature are thus defined:—Minerals are concrete bodies, possessing neither life nor sensibility; vegetables are organized bodies, possessed of life, but without sensibility; animals are organized bodies, possessing life and sensibility, together with voluntary motion. Objections may be made to these definitions; but it is not our object at present to criticise his views and arrangements, our intention[Pg 273] being simply to offer a brief account of them, omitting all that is not absolutely essential. It ought to be understood, that the entire work is merely an index or catalogue of the productions of nature; that it was obviously intended as such by its author; and that they who object to the Systema Naturæ, because it contains nothing more than characteristic notes methodically arranged, forget that Linnæus never professed to give descriptions in it.

The natural division of animals, he says, is indicated by their internal structure. This principle his modern adversaries have chosen to overlook, asserting that his classification is founded on external form. In some species the heart has two distinct cavities, and the blood is warm and red; of these some are viviparous,—the mammalia,—others oviparous,—the class of birds. In certain species the heart has only a single cavity, with a single auricle, the blood red but cold; of these the amphibia have a voluntary respiration, while fishes respire by gills. In other animals the heart has also a single cavity, but without an auricle, while the blood is cold and of a white colour; of these the insects are characterized by their antennæ, the vermes or worms by their tentacula.

The Mammalia, which constitute the first class, are the only animals furnished with teats. Their clothing, hoofs, claws, horns, teeth, and other organs, are briefly described, in such a manner as to enable the student to comprehend the meaning of the terms to be subsequently employed. The characters of the orders are derived principally from the teeth.[Pg 274]

I. Primates or Nobles: Mammalia furnished with fore teeth, of which there are four in the upper jaw, and two pectoral mammæ.

II. Bruta: No fore teeth in either jaw.

III. Feræ, Beasts of Prey: The fore teeth conical, usually six in each jaw.

IV. Glires or Gnawers: Two chissel-shaped fore teeth in each jaw.

V. Pecora, Cattle: No fore teeth in the upper jaw, several in the lower.

VI. Belluæ: Fore teeth obtuse; feet furnished with hoofs.

VII. Cete, Whales: Pectoral fins in the place of feet, and in place of a tail the hind feet united so as to form a flat fin; no claws; the teeth cartilaginous.

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