A portrait medallion of Carl Linnaeus, by Josiah Wedgwood I and Thomas Bentley

Etruria Factory, Staffordshire, England, AD 1777

Carl Linnaeus (1707-78) laid the foundation of modern taxonomy by creating a biological classification scheme now known as the binomial system.

Linnaeus was trained as a botanist and physician in Uppsala, Sweden. He continued his studies in Holland, where he published the Systema Naturae (1735), a catalogue of plants, animals and minerals that announced his attempt to classify living things. After returning to Sweden and becoming professor of botany at Uppsala University, he elaborated his classification system, which he had fully developed by 1758.

Linnaeus' scheme gave each organism a unique name made up of two Latin terms. The first indicated the organism's genus (a group sharing basic characteristics), the second its individual species within the genus. The system proved easy to use and was soon taken up by amateurs and professionals. It had a revolutionary impact upon Enlightenment thinking and is still in use today.

This jasperware medallion was one of a number of portrait medallions and plaques of eminent men (and some women) produced by the partnership of Wedgwood and Bentley. The series, which they called 'Illustrious Moderns', included scientists, philosophers, doctors and statesmen of the time.

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More information


K. Sloan (ed.), Enlightenment. Discovering the (London, The British Museum Press, 2003)

W. Blunt & W.T. Stearn, The Compleat Naturalist: a Lif (Frances Lincoln, 2002)

A. Dawson, Masterpieces of Wedgwood in th, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

P. Fara, Sex, Botany and Empire: The St (Icon Books, 2003)


Length: 3.600 inches

Museum number

M&ME 1887,3-7.I.63



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