Sunday, 15 June 2014

The Most Famous Person in the World?

This morning I read in DN (Swedish daily paper) in the scientific section (yes, it happens) that researchers have used algorithms from Google to find which persons are mostly linked on Wikipedia. That is; links to and from in the world total, and different countries and language areas. The first writer on this research is Young-Ho Eom and the paper is on arXiv.org (not that I could find it but maybe you can).You will not believe who is the person that has the most links to his (yes, it is a his) name?

Carolus Linneaus, or as we say in Swedish Carl von Linné! After him on the international list are Jesus, Aristoteles, Napoleon, Adolf Hitler and Julius Ceasar. The article refer to The Guardian who is surprised by the result, since the English speaking list, is topped by Napoleon and Barack Obama according to one way of counting and Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson according to another.

Benjamin Disraeli is alleged to have said that there are "three kinds of lies: lies, dam lies and statistics." Winston Churchill is supposed to have said: "the only statistics you can trust are the ones you have falsified yourself." Well, statistics are of course dependent on the data you put in, but nevertheless it is an interesting exercise. The reason why Linneaus came out as the most famous person is that he belongs to the world of natural science. This is a universal science and available in all countries at all times. Artist, politicans, religious leaders and writers are popular within a certain time frame, geographical and language area, but scientific people tend to go down the centuries anywhere.

Linneaus was born in 1707 and died in 1778 in Sweden. He was a botanist, physician and zoologist and laid the foundation for the modern biological naming scheme of plants. He is know as the father of modern taxonomy and is also considered as one of the forrunners for modern ecology. Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name was Carolus Linnaeus (and after 1761 Carolus a Linné).

He sent apostles all over the world to report to him and send him species and information. Most of them unfortunately died in their quest. Linné himself lived abroad between 1735 and 1738 and he published his first edition of Systema Naturae in the Netherlands. He returned to Sweden to become professor medicine and botany at Uppsala. In the 1740s he was sent on journeys through Sweden to find and classify plants and animals. It resulted in books through the landscapes of Skåne, Öland, Gotland, Västergötland, Dalarna and Lappland (maybe they have also been translated?). At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe (all from Wikipedia, where else).

From Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau he got the following message: "Tell him I know no greater man on earth." German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote: "With the exception of Shakespeare and Spinoza, I know no one among the no longer living who has influenced me more strongly." Swedish author August Strindberg wrote: "Linnaeus was in reality a poet who happened to become a naturalist". He has also been called Princeps botanicorum, The Pliny of the North and The Second Adam.

We Swedes tend not to take too much notice of our great men and women. However, I think we should. Linné is one of these people who are probably more famous abroad then in Sweden. I am thinking that if I had lived in his time, where I live now, he could have come to my garden. Here we have so many different species (not because I have planted them myself, but they tend to appear still!!) so he would not have had to travel so much!

In 2007 there was actually a celebration or at least a highlight of his deeds in Sweden to celebrate the 300 years since his birth. I have a nice biography about him, not yet read, but why not read it for the Historical Fiction Reading since he is one of the most famous people from the renaissance! It must count as well.

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