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Linnaeus’s Preoccupation With Sex – “A Short History of Nearly Everything” – Bill Bryson

November 29th, 2010 · No Comments · Description, Science

Linnaeus’s other striking quality was an abiding—at times, one might say, a feverish—preoccupation with sex. He was particularly struck by the similarity between certain bivalves and the female pudenda. To the parts of one species of clam he gave the names vulva, labia, pubes, anus, and hymen. He grouped plants by the nature of their reproductive organs and endowed them with an arrestingly anthropomorphic amorousness. His descriptions of flowers and their behavior are full of references to “promiscuous intercourse,” “barren concubines,” and “the bridal bed.” In spring, he wrote in one oft-quoted passage: Love comes even to the plants. Males and females … hold their nuptials … showing by their sexual organs which are males, which females. The flowers’ leaves serve as a bridal bed, which the Creator has so gloriously arranged, adorned with such noble bed curtains, and perfumed with so many soft scents that the bridegroom with his bride might there celebrate their nuptials with so much the greater solemnity. When the bed has thus been made ready, then is the time for the bridegroom to embrace his beloved bride and surrender himself to her. He named one genus of plants Clitoria. Not surprisingly, many people thought him strange. But his system of classification was irresistible.

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