Part of Emperor Akihito’s speech in Britain in May to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus was published Thursday in Nature, marking the first time a paper by a member of the imperial family has appeared in the prestigious British science journal.
Published as a two-page essay, the extract from the Emperor’s May 29 speech in English at the Linnean Society of London praises Linnaeus for providing a “universal basis” for taxonomy.
The Emperor dwells on the connection between Linnaeus and Japan, describing the interaction between Carl Peter Thunberg, Linnaeus’ disciple who came to Japan in 1775, and two Japanese doctors who gained access to scientific knowledge from Europe through him.
Linnaeus (1707-1778) created a method of classifying living organisms by combining the genus name with the species name — a system known as binomial nomenclature. He is thus known as the father of modern taxonomy.
The Emperor, himself a scientist who has written on fish taxonomy, said in the essay, “The binomial nomenclature established by Linnaeus has been immensely beneficial, providing a universal basis for taxonomy and enabling taxonomists around the world to communicate with each other through a common language about things existing in nature.”
He also said he felt “taxonomy is entering a new era,” noting that the analysis of mitochondrial DNA provides fresh possibilities for finding new species, it said.
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