The great eighteenth century naturalist-physician Carl Linnaeus (Carl von Linné; 1707-1778) was a remarkable individual with immense enthusiasm for nature. Regarded today as an important figure both scientifically and culturally, his work encompassed all plants and animals then known to the Western world. Through his publications - in particular, Species Plantarum (1753) and Systema Naturae (1758) - he established the binomial species nomenclature used today. His importance is further evidenced by major societies named in his honour: the Linnean Society of London is the oldest natural history society in the world.
The libraries of many older taxonomic institutions possess major works by Linnaeus. However, there are many more specialised collections devoted to the work of Linnaeus and his students. Many of these are important to taxonomic, historical and bibliographical research. For example, the Linnean Society of London owns Linnaeus' personal library of books, manuscripts and correspondence, as well as his specimen collections - plants, fish, insects and shells.
Many of these collections remain inaccessible, except to visitors, as very little of the material has been catalogued electronically. It is the aim of this project to extend, enhance and standardise the cataloguing of major Linnaean collections so that they can be brought together, in one interface, on the Internet.
The current project was born of discussions in 1996 between Tomas Anfält (The Linnaean Correspondence), Gina Douglas (Linnean Society of London) and Carol Gokce (The Natural History Museum). It was taken forward in electronic discussions with a wider group of participants, leading to an inaugural meeting in London in April 1999. It is hoped to expand the Project Group to include all institutions with major Linnaean holdings.