Science’s 300-Year-Old Grand Unification Theory

Those noble Swedes took a break from plotting to shoot people through the Northern Lights to honor one of their beloved scientists (they're big into giving scientists awards). They've already got Celsius and Angstrom, but this weekend they honored the tercentennial of Linnaeus, who just might be the only scientist to develop a working Grand Unification Theory for his field.  Unburdened by the mercurial nature of studying chemistry's atomic structures or physics' subatomic arcana, Linnaeus conquered biology with his revolutionary, sex-crazed system of classification and became "the father of taxonomy" (which makes him the great-great-greater-than-your-grandfather of PowerPoint flow charts). And, if he were still around, he'd be the first to put his accomplishments in a class by himself. Ba-dum-bum.

Although there are some cocky heretics out there who dare dream that Linnaeus's grand theory could stand to be even grander, his set-up has been pretty much untouched. Which cannot be said for the more-accomplished likes of, say, Aristotle or Newton -- and, someday, Einstein, Hawking and perhaps even the 21st century's elegant wunderkind Brian Greene. Having dealt with more nit-picky theories, even fellow superbiologists Mendel and Darwin have been tweaked over the years. So, props to Linnaeus for being smart enough to pick the low-hanging fruit. And then, of course, to organize it.

Get the latest Science stories in your inbox.