Linnaeus and his Disciples



I’ll start, with a ramble on Linnaeus and his Disciples…

In October 2019 we (NZ) will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of Cooks’ First Landing, which also happened at the place I now live, Gisborne. When I discovered 2 years ago that this was coming up, I started reading up on that first voyage, and everything good and bad that happened on it. And here is where it gets indirectly related to iNat…

On that voyage, Captain Cook was accompanied by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, the later being one of the disciples of Linnaeus. We all know Linnaeus from his having created our taxonomic system, which with a few tweaks along the way has survived remarkably well as far as scientific tools go! In fact, the whole voyage was loaded with state of the art scientific gear, from navigational instruments to charting methods that were ground breaking…

So my “learning opportunity” extended from learning about how the Maori and Europeans first met and interacted (overlooking the interactions of Tasman of course!) to uncovering one of the first and greatest bioblitzes undertaken outside of the modern times. Linnaeus tasked his “disciples” (12 of his best students) to go to the farthest lands and bring back examples of living things with which to apply his new Linnaen system to. Thus it was that Daniel Solander and his wealthy friend Joseph Banks joined that voyage of discovery into the Pacific.

As you can well imagine of a vast collection put together 250 years ago, the publication of the results was no small undertaking. Banks personally commissioned (at tremendous cost) the engraving of plates of many of the illustrations that had been made of the plants found on that journey, and the publication of Banks Florilegium took over 230 years to achieve!

As we embark on bioblitzes here in NZ, and even looking forward to the City Nature Challenge 2019, I can’t help casting a thought back to what it would have been like on that very first bioblitz. And just as they had the cutting edge technology and science available to them, I feel very fortunate that we have iNaturalist as our own version of “cutting edge technology and science”. What took 200 years to publish, we literally have published within seconds of making the observations, and what would take decades to reach a taxonomic identification, we obtain within minutes to a few days in most cases.

There are accounts of all the disciples which are easily found on the internet, and I encourage everyone on iNaturalist to find out which of them visited your neck of the woods. If you start by looking into the history of Linnaeus, you will find the names of the disciples and where they went, and then, as they say, follow the nose.



I want to read up on Captain Cook’s botanical adventures. Especially after I recently got to see a specimen collected on his 1768 trip with Solander and Banks. Amazing! You can see the voucher on my blog post,