April 12, 1748 (a Friday)

Antoine Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836)

On this date, the French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu was born in Lyon. He proposed the first natural system of classifiying flowering plants (angiosperms), much of which remains in use today.

In his study of flowering plants, Genera plantarum (1789), Jussieu adopted a methodology based on the use of multiple characters to define groups, an idea derived from Scottish-French naturalist Michel Adanson. This was a significant improvement over the original system of Linnaeus, who classified plants into families based on the number of stamens and pistils. Jussieu did keep Linnaeus’ binomial nomenclature, resulting in a work that was far-reaching in its impact; many of the present-day plant families are still attributed to Jussieu. For example, Morton’s 1981 History of botanical science counts 76 of Jussieu’s families conserved in the ICBN, versus just 11 for Linnaeus.

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