Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Carl Linnaeus & a Liberal Arts Education

Today is Carl Linnaeuss birthday. You may not recognize the name, but I know you know one of his contributions to science: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

Well, thats certainly helpful, but why am I writing a post about Linnaeus? He wasnt really into microbiology.

I have a personal connection with Linnaeus :) When I was an undergraduate, one of my projects was designing a horologium florae. Flowers usually open at the same time every day (of course, depending on latitude/rain/clouds/etc). For example, at my universitys latitude, the blue pimpernel opens at 9 am, and the moss rose opens at 10 am, and the passion flower opens at ll am, and so on. Linnaeus noticed this, and thought it would be a neat idea to make a 'clock' out of flowers. He just wrote about this idea, he never followed through on it.

But I did! Sure I was a hard-core pre-med, not really into real biology at the time, but I went to a liberal arts school, goddammit! I was gonna plant me a garden for the campus! Oh, but not just any clock garden, folks-- A SUPER clock garden! A clock garden superimposed on a sundial!

One of the physics professors designed that for the garden-- And I found flowers that could fit into each time slot to plant in the open areas. Its harder than it sounds! The opening times of flowers isnt something normally found in gardening books or websites, so I had to do a ton of research and 'experiment' with different flowers. Very, very different from what I do today-- but sooooo much fun! Man cannot live on viruses alone :)

For more information on this garden and for pretty pictures, click here!

1 comment:

Hume's Ghost said...

I wish I had my notes with me (I keep notes on pretty much every book I read) ... in The Scientists author John Gribbin points out that Linnaeus believed humans were animals but classified them in their own category to avoid controversy (or something like that ... my memory is notoriously fuzzy on such details - that's why I need the notes!).

Anyway, thought that an interesting tidbit.