College cites 'scientific racism,' renames Linnaeus building

Updated: 7:47 p.m.

A private college in Minnesota has renamed its arboretum that honored an 18th-century Swedish botanist who has been criticized for classifying humans in a way now seen as racist, school officials said Tuesday.

The popular greenspace at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, located about 70 miles south of the Twin Cities, has been known as the “Linnaeus Arboretum” since 1988. It recognized Carl Linnaeus, who popularized the system of classifying living things and divided them into the animal, plant and mineral kingdoms.

Recently, though, Linnaeus has been criticized for his 18th-century book “Systema Naturae,” in which he classified four varieties of human, largely based on skin color and geography, which became the basis for scientific racism.

“Gustavus has historically sought to build an inclusive and just community,” said Scott Anderson, chair of the college's board of trustees. “In recent years, and especially since George Floyd’s murder, we have strengthened our efforts to pay attention to underrepresented voices and discovered how painful Linnaeus’ name and legacy are for some of our students and visitors.”

The 120-acre plot that includes over a dozen formal gardens and restored natural areas has been renamed “The Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College.”

Correction (Oct. 12, 2021): An earlier version of this story misidentified Scott Anderson, and misidentified the nation Carl Linnaeus is from.

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