Joseph Gaertner (1732-1791) was the first to develop a carpological taxonomy in his book De fructibus et seminibus plantarum (1788-1791). The scope and background of this work are discussed; its history is sketched on the basis of the Banks correspondence at the British Museum; the main sources of material are listed. A brief outline of Gaertner’s life is given, also mainly based on letters from him and his contemporaries to Joseph Banks.