Who First Classified Butterflies and Moths?
Butterflies and moths were first classified by the great Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, Carl von Linnè (1707-78) generally known as Carolus Linnaeus. He is known by the epithet “father of modern taxonomy”.
His method, which applied to plants and all living things, was the binominal nomenclature system. This meant that each insect was given two scientific and internationally recognized names: the first is a generic name denoting the genus or group to which the subject belongs; the second is a specific epithet indicating the species within the group.
Similarly we all have surnames and forenames. But, in the case of the Linnaean system, Latin or Greek words are used to ensure uniformity regardless of the expert’s native language. The first or generic name is spelt with a capital letter, but the second name usually begins with a small one.
Linnaeus published more than 180 scientific works, some of the most important ones after he left Sweden for Holland, where he studied medicine. After visiting England and France he returned to Sweden, where he was given the Chair of Botany at Uppsala University.
In the 1750s and 1760s, he continued to collect and classify animals, plants, and minerals, and published several volumes. At the time of his death, he was one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.