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Carl Linnaeus
by Gunnar Broberg
Swedish Institute
Gunnar Broberg is Professor of the History of Science
and Ideas at Lund University.
©I992 Gunnar Broberg and the Swedish Institute
New edition 2006
Te author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed
in this book.
Translation by Roger Tanner
Graphic design by BIGG, Stockholm
Cover illustration: Carl Linnaeus, painting by
J.H. Scheffel, I739
Paper: Cover, Tom & Otto silk 250 g
Inside, Linné white I50 g
Printed in Sweden by Danagårds Grafiska, 2007
ISBN-I0 9I-520-09I2-2
ISBN-I3 978-9I-520-09I2-3
THE SWEDISH INSTITUTE (SI) is a public agency established
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Contents
Preface 5
The young medic and botanist 9
Everything in order: the new natural science 17
Professor in Uppsala 23
Linnaeus the traveller 27
“The Linnaean project” 33
The Apostles 37
The sexual system and the binary nomenclature 43
Chronology in brief 44
ARL LINNÆUS (1707–1778) is Sweden’s most famous natural scientist. He
set out to list and order the whole of Creation. His importance, however,
is not confined to the international history of science. In a way he is also
a part of Swedish everyday life today, as the author of living classics which
people still read. Te Swedes, perhaps, look on him primarily as a traveller
and explorer of their own country, while to others he is the father of the
modern classification of flora and fauna. But he was much more than this.
For example, he was an inspiring teacher who sent his students on voyages
of scientific discovery all over the world.
C
6 ❈caii iixxius
caii iixxius ❈ 7
THE MAIN CHARACTER of this publication has
a variety of names. Swedes know him as
Carl von Linné, the name he took when raised
to the nobility in :;,;. In the Anglo-Saxon
world he is normally referred to as Carl
Linnaeus, which is the name he was given
at his baptism. Te Latin ending of his sur-
name indicates academic status, without
which he would have been called Carl Nilsson,
after his father. (On one occasion Linnaeus
styled himself Carl Nelin, a cryptonym of
Carl N/ilsson/ Linné. Tat was in a prize
competition, which he failed to win even
though the alias probably deceived no-one.)
Ten again, Linnaeus has been called
Princeps botanicorum, the Prince of Botanists,
“Te Pliny of the North”, “Te Second Adam”
and other names besides. To present-day
botanists and zoologists who concern them-
selves with matters of taxonomy, he is just
plain “L.”, the letter which indicates the
naming of an outstandingly large number
of important organisms.
A Swedish proverb says that a loved child
has many names. Perhaps the same goes for
an important person, and it was certainly
no common occurrence for a scientist and
professor to be elevated to the nobility.
Not many scientists were accorded equality
of status with Pliny, the great natural historian
of antiquity. And of course it was grander still
to compare Linnaeus with the ruler of
Paradise and the first namer of animals.
Tousands of plants and animals remind us of
the person who named them, and innumerable
garlands of flowers have been tied in honour
of Linnaeus. Every Swedish province has its
emblematic flower, and the Twinflower,
provincial emblem of Småland, is called
Linnaea after the great son of that province,
putting all Swedes in mind of him personally.
Not until the Earth once more lies empty
and desolate will the name of Linnaeus be
forgotten.
THE PRINCE OF BOTANISTS, THE PLINY
OF THE NORTH, THE SECOND ADAM, “L.”
Linnaeus’ coat of arms. He was ennobled
in 1757.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Cowslips on the Baltic island of Öland
to which Linnaeus made one of his famous
journeys in 1741.
8 ❈caii iixxius
Linnaeus made rather a big thing of his hum-
ble origins. “A great man can step forth from
a small hovel,” he wrote in one of his autobio-
graphies. (He wrote no less than four of them,
which is usually quoted as evidence of his
self-infatuation, but that is not really fair
because the biographies are more in the nature
of curricula vitae and memoranda for subse-
quent memorial addresses. Tis also explains
why Linnaeus writes them in the third person
and not subjectively. And when he lists his
exploits this is perfectly in order, because they
were many and irrefutable.)
However charming and uncomplicated he
might seem, he was supremely career-minded.
Tis, however, is to moralise, and as a historian
one ought rather to emphasise the social mo-
bility so typical of Swedish society at the time.
Linnaeus’ grandfather was a peasant, his father
entered the Church, he himself became a phys-
ician and eventually a professor and a member
of the nobility. One could scarcely advance
caii iixxius ❈ 9
any further than that. Sweden was a relatively
open society whose agrarian population was
traditionally endowed with strength and
liberty.
Trough the centuries, the culture of the
parsonage has been the backbone of science
and the arts in Sweden. Tis is due to the close
connection between Church and State in
Sweden during the :;th century, known
in Swedish as “the Age of Greatness”.
Te Lutheran Church was indispensable to
the State as an educator of the peasant popu-
lation in peacetime and as a shepherd of souls
in the great wars of the period. Te glory and
the misery of the time demanded moral fibre.
When the bubble burst, with the death of
Charles XII on his Norwegian campaign in
:;:ï, the established Church remained to
pilot the country into the more pacific
and culturally fertile Age of Liberty.
The young medic and botanist
LINNÆUS HIMSELF MAINTAINED that he was pre-
disposed for botany by growing up in a beauti-
ful part of Sweden, Småland, as the son of a
keen botanist. Te fact of his being born “just
when spring was at its loveliest and the cuckoo
was proclaiming summer” was in itself an augu-
ry of the scientific flowering that was to follow.
His father had created a small garden contain-
ing many unusual plants which he appreciated
more for their beauty than for their utility.
And during her pregnancy, his mother could
feast her eyes on it, so that Linnaeus became
a botanist while still in the womb. Subsequent
biographers have elaborated the theme of
Linnaeus’ mother, Christina Brodersonia, deco-
rating his cradle with flowers. All this, coupled
with his humble origins, has been turned into
an edifying national saga, with Linnaeus as
the embodiment of an impoverished, exhausted
small nation rising to maturity, power and
authority. Te saga of Linnaeus is one of the
highlights of Sweden’s national mythology.
LINNÆUS BECAME A BOTANIST
WHILE STILL IN THE WOMB
OPPOSITE PAGE
The 32-year-old Linnaeus in his wedding finery.
Oil painting by J. H. Scheffel, 1739.
10 ❈caii iixxius
Born at Råshult in :;c;, Linnaeus was the
eldest son of a typical Swedish clerical family.
He had three sisters and a brother, Samuel,
who was to succeed their father as vicar of
Stenbrohult in Småland. Samuel is known as
the author of a work on bee-keeping, a subject
true to the :ïth century interest in useful sci-
ence. A Church career was pre-ordained for
Carl but required one or two years at university.
Linnaeus attended grammar school in nearby
Växjö and, if legend is to be believed, was a
lack-lustre pupil; this again is a tradition
emanating from Linnaeus himself and his not
altogether reliable autobiographies. His physics
teacher, a doctor called Johan Rothman, spot-
ted his genius and supported his interest in the
less utilitarian study of plant life. (In schools
of the past there was nearly always a mentor of
Rothman’s kind, may their names be praised.)
He told the worried parents that their first-
born should abandon theology for medicine.
Tis is indeed what happened, but the paren-
tal anxiety was understandable. Medical posts
in Sweden were extremely few in number,
whereas theologians had a guaranteed job
market. Ten again, they had heard rumours
about the godlessness of medical science, for
after all, it was the physicians who, a genera-
tion or so earlier, had imported the seditious
doctrines of Descartes to the universities.
From Växjö Grammar School, Linnaeus
ventured forth to the relatively new Lund
University in the province of Skåne. Linnaeus’
capacity for finding benefactors is attributable
not only to his rare ability but also to his
charm and boldness. Tis time it was the
Professor of Medicine, Kilian Stobaeus, who
took Linnaeus into his home, though the mis-
tress of the house objected to the new resident
reading in bed by candlelight, thereby threat-
ening to send everything up in flames.
Lund suited Linnaeus’ purposes for only a year
or so. In :;:ï he moved to Uppsala in the
OPPOSITE PAGE
Råshult in the province of Småland,
Linnaeus’ birthplace.
caii iixxius ❈ 11
12 ❈caii iixxius
province of Uppland, where there was a bigger
and more ancient university, founded in :¡;;.
Tere he found two Professors of Medicine,
Olof Rudbeck the Younger and Lars Roberg,
both of them on the point of retirement.
Linnaeus naturally took a sidelong glance at
their positions and was anxious to display his
capabilities then and there. With a few inter-
missions he spent seven years in Uppsala.
Te intermissions were occasioned by journeys
to Lapland (:;,:) and Dalarna (:;,¡). Most of
his studies were pursued unaided, but he also
got a foot inside the door of Olof Rudbeck the
Younger. Linnaeus ministered to the Rudbeck
family until, for uncertain reasons, Mistress
Rudbeckia showed him the door. He also
earned the confidence of Lars Roberg. Roberg
was an interesting man, a cynic in the philo-
sophical sense and outstandingly erudite. He
had a reputation for being rather odd—badly
dressed and the owner of a great library—but
Linnaeus rightly admired him.
Te early medical studies reflected by Linnaeus’
notes from this period present a remarkable
blend of traditional belief or superstition and
modern mechanistic medicine. One is certainly
intrigued to find Linnaeus, visiting his family
in Stenbrohult, saving his sister from the ague
by wrapping her in the carcase of a newly
slaughtered sheep. In his lectures he tells his
students that, if you apply snaps to a puppy it
will remain small, and that the male progeny
of a white woman and a black man acquires
a black penis. He is famous for his persistent
belief that swallows did not migrate southwards
but hibernated at the bottom of lakes, as if they
had gills and fins. (Tis popular belief has been
put down to the fact that swallows fly close to
the surface of the water in pursuit of insects,
but one is entitled to demand better things of
an academic naturalist.) Mistakes like this
may seem embarrassing, but they are more
appropriately to be regarded as tensions in
a culture of many different strata.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Copper engraving of Carl Linnaeus by
August Ehrensvärd, 1740.
caii iixxius ❈ 13
At the same time, as hinted above, Linnaeus
was convinced of the truth of the new mech-
anistic physiology, readily summarised in the
thesis of “Homo machina est”, i.e. man is
a machine. Lars Roberg, for example, could
put this in the following terms: “Te heart
a pump, the lung a bellows, the stomach a
mixing bowl”. Coupled with another of
Linnaeus’ favourite adages, “Homo est ani-
mal”, this way of looking at humanity had
a bold and modern ring. Te fundamental
notion was that of “the simple plan of Nature”,
as confirmed by the new physics, and ulti-
mately by Newton. In other words, on closer
inspection Creation proved to be based on
a few sensible laws and not on a welter of
exceptions. Nature, thus viewed, was readily
comprehensible, which can sometimes excuse
the conclusions which Linnaeus and others
jumped to, including breathtaking analogies
between the natural kingdoms and between
nature and culture.
14 ❈caii iixxius
Linnaeus was above all attracted to natural his-
tory, and especially botany. He was a divinely
talented botanist, but like any other great sci-
entist or artist still had to work hard to achieve
his position. During excursions of different
kinds in and around Uppsala and through his
teaching in the University Botanical Gardens,
originally laid out by Olof Rudbeck the Elder
in the :o,cs, he gained knowledge, contacts
and reputation. Olof Rudbeck the Younger,
his employer and benefactor, showed him the
famous bird book he had painted in the :o,cs,
based partly on material from a journey to
Lapland, Sweden’s first scientific expedition.
Also in Uppsala at that time was Petrus Artedi,
another medical student and Linnaeus’ inter-
locutor and rival in terms of scientific acumen.
Together they hatched magnificent plans for
a reformed science characterised by order and
breadth of perspective. At home in his student’s
den, Linnaeus collected more and more natural
exhibits, books and manuscripts of his own
writing. A quotation:
“Reader, you should have seen his museum,
which was open to the listeners, and, full of
admiration and delight, you would have loved
its host. Te ceiling he had adorned with bird
skins, one wall with a Lapp costume and other
curiosities, the other wall with large plants and
crustaceans, while both the others were lined
with books of natural science and medicine,
and with docimastic* instruments and stones
neatly arranged. Te corners of the room were
occupied by high branches of trees which he
had taught birds of nearly thirty species to
inhabit; on the inside of the windows, finally,
there were large clay vessels filled with soil in
which rare plants found nourishment.”
Linnaeus prepared for his professional début,
but to qualify for a doctorate in medicine he
had to travel abroad. Since the second half of
the :;th century, it had become customary for
Swedes to travel to Holland for their doctoral
* Docimasy: the assaying of ores or metals.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Linnaeus’ study in the Linnaeus Museum,
Uppsala. In Linnaeus’ day both the house and
the garden were an international centre
for scientific research and teaching.
caii iixxius ❈ 15
16 ❈caii iixxius
disputations. Te country had thus become
an important influence on Swedish intellectual
life. (Artedi arrived there at the same time as
Linnaeus but drowned one dark evening in
an Amsterdam canal.) Te Netherlands were
also a much more suitable place for publishing
works of scholarship. As an experience,
a foreign stay of this kind was invaluable and,
given the chance, would be extended in both
time and space. Linnaeus was to spend three
years on the continent of Europe, mostly in
the Netherlands, but with brief visits to France
and England. Not that this really made him
a cosmopolitan—modern languages, for exam-
ple, did not come easily to him—but the aca-
demic contacts and friends thus acquired were
immensely beneficial in the long run. It was
through them that he was to gain a worldwide
reputation.
A few weeks later Linnaeus had taken his doc-
torate at the little university of Harderwijk.
Te subject of his thesis was ague caused by a
caii iixxius ❈ 17
spanner—clay, actually—in the human works,
a truly modern, mechanistic exposition,
presented with the massive self-assurance
that typifies all Linnaeus’ medical writings.
In addition, the little collection of botanical
rules entitled Fundamenta botanica (:;,o)
was printed, together with greater and lesser
works like Bibliotheca botanica (:;,o), Genera
plantarum (:;,;) and Classes plantarum (:;,ï),
the illustrated work Hortus Cliffortianus (:;,;),
his friend Artedi’s posthumous Ichtyologia
(:;,ï) and a few more besides. Linnaeus was
his own science industry. He had been put in
charge of the garden at Hartecamp, an estate
belonging to the wealthy banker Georg
Clifford, and his duties there sometimes
prevented him from seeing his own writings
through the press. Instead he enlisted the aid
of his friends. He certainly didn’t waste time!
It was in the Netherlands, then, that Linnaeus
made a name for himself and, after a couple of
detours to France and England, one feels he
might very well have settled in Europe for good,
but in :;,ï he returned home to Sweden, never
again to venture into the great wide world.
Everything in order:
the new natural science
IN AMSTERDAM HE WAS lucky enough to make
friends with a kindred spirit, the wealthy nat-
ural historian Johannes Burman, who promised
to help him publish his Systema naturae (:;,,),
the manuscript of which he had brought with
him from Sweden. If ever there was such a
thing as the Linnaean project, this was it.
Typographically, not least, the composition of
its great tables was a magnificent achievement.
Perhaps the Systema naturae was originally
intended to consist of a number of “maps”
which could be put up on the wall, illustrating
the three kingdoms of Nature, with everything
displayed, both the great units and the pro-
gressively smaller individualities. Quite often,
in fact, he referred to his system as a kind of
IF EVER THERE WAS SUCH A THING AS
THE LINNÆAN PROJECT, THIS WAS IT
Title-page of the first edition of Linnaeus’
Hortus Cliffortianus, Amsterdam 1737.
OPPOSITE PAGE
The botanical garden in Harderwijk. The gingko
biloba tree is the oldest in the Netherlands and
may even have been planted by Linnaeus.
18 ❈caii iixxius
military mapping: Nature, like society, consist-
ed of kingdoms, provinces, districts and indi-
vidual smallholdings from which the soldier
was collected. Linnaeus having grown up dur-
ing the great wars, the analogy came naturally.
Not that he was an adherent of the old political
system which had now been toppled, but he
was almost obsessed with lucidity and order.
On one occasion he appointed himself general
of Flora’s army, an apt title in spite of that
goddess’s peaceful attributes.
Linnaean science was founded on divisio et
denominatio, division and naming, which
meant breaking Nature down into a number
of larger or smaller boxes to be labelled and
put in the right places. As the criteria of div-
ision, Linnaeus used, for plants, their sexual
characteristics, which had been discovered at
the end of the :;th century but were by no
means universally accepted. One could go to
great lengths in interpreting Linnaeus’ fascina-
tion with the ubiquitous procreative games of
Nature, from which not even the innocent
flowers were excluded. In addition to perhaps
the first explanation that springs to mind,
that Linnaeus was a kind of Peeping Tom
of natural history, one can also identify a reli-
gious motif, that of Nature, in obedience to its
Creator’s call, being fruitful and multiplying.
Tis, to Linnaeus, is its prime task, and it is in
this way that life is sustained in all its diversity.
His delight in the resemblance of plants to man
also harks back to ideas concerning the simple
plan of Nature. Further inspiration may have
come from alchemy, which excelled in a kind
of scientific nuptial metaphor very similar to
Linnaeus’. Plants also celebrate weddings,
in a whole variety of configurations, either
openly as in the case of the “phanerogams”
or secretly as with the “cryptogams”.
Te animals, in turn, are divided according
to more varied criteria: the quadrupeds, or
as Linnaeus would perceive and term them,
Mammalia, were divided, among other things,
caii iixxius ❈ 19
according to the number and position of their
breasts/udders. Minerals or “stones”, similarly,
were divided according to external characteris-
tics and not with reference to any chemical
composition. Like plants and animals, they are
arranged in the Linnaean hierarchy beginning
with the largest and ending with the smallest,
viz regnum, classis, ordo, genus and species. Te
different species were given long names to
begin with, but from :;,, (Species plantarum)
and :;,ï (Systema naturae, tenth edition, ani-
mal section), they were given the dual names
which have since become standard practice in
natural science. Te white anemone is still
called Anemone nemorosa and the domestic cat
Felis domestica, both with “L.” added to show
who named them.
Tese are technicalities, of which Linnaean
science has many. Not that this makes it “dif-
ficult”; on the contrary, it can be reduced to a
refined hobby. On the other hand, the device
has been infinitely effective as a means of get-
ting a mental hold of Nature and in this way
gaining control of it. Tere is more to a name
than meets the ear.
Te late editions of Systema naturae scan the
entire range of creation, from the stars down
to the microorganisms. Te extra-terrestrial
world, admittedly, commands only a mention
but is nonetheless important as a framework.
Linnaeus is more exhaustive on some points
than others. As usual the insects predominate
while only the rough outlines of the crypto-
gams were known. Tus the path descending
from the stars through the whole of creation
is a jagged one. Often the diversity was over-
whelming; sometimes the right transitions
were lacking. Linnaeus was really contending
with a fundamental difficulty, because at one
and the same time he was looking for differ-
ences and connections, both “ladders” and
“chains”, as it were. Te former fitted in better
with the emphasis of traditional religion on
man’s supremacy, for example. Te latter was
20 ❈caii iixxius
LARGE PICTURE
Aquilegia vulgaris
SMALL PICTURE
Paeonia festiva
caii iixxius ❈ 21
LARGE PICTURE
Aesculus pavia
SMALL PICTURE
Lilium bulbiferum
22 ❈caii iixxius
more in keeping with the thinking of the
times. A new epistemology and a succession
of new discoveries in natural history demon-
strated the impossibility either philosophically
or scientifically, of keeping Nature within
bounds. John Locke’s critique of essentialism
(that is, the theory that species could be de-
fined in terms of “essence”) and a number of
observed borderline organisms—such as the
freshwater polyp, the corals and the primates
—came as challenges to the old structure.
One of the patterns of thought most dear to
the :ïth century was the concept of the great
chain of being. To Linnaeus this became more
and more important. Naturally he regarded
Creation as a hierarchy with man at the top;
his startling positioning of the human race in
the same order as the apes has endured, man
being dubbed in :;,ï Homo sapiens of the
order of Primates. But the chain had to hang
together at the bottom, and Linnaeus searched,
through his reading and through colleagues,
for transitional human beings. He lent his
confidence to dubious reports of a captured
mermaid, and he wrote longingly of the possi-
bility of examining her. He also allowed
himself to be deceived by other travellers’
tales, which seemed to confirm the existence
of sub-humans with tails or humans with
the arms of apes. Tese are even admitted to
Systema naturae, under names like Homo
troglodytes (referring among other things to
albinos) and Homo lar (the gibbon). Tese ele-
ments bear witness to his aim of doing justice
to the diversity and coherence of Nature, two
properties which not only agreed with what
scientific research seemed to be saying but also
with the concept of an infinitely wise and
generous Creator. Tey are at one and the
same time unprejudiced—“pre-Darwinist”—
and prejudiced.
Te Linnaean project had begun. Cast in the
mould of the Linnaean books of rules, it also
had the purpose of listing and ordering the
caii iixxius ❈ 23
whole of Creation. All that now remained was
to carry it out.
Professor in Uppsala
LINNÆUS, THEN, HAD LEFT the Netherlands.
Traditional biographies usually put this down
to his promise to his betrothed, Sara Lisa
Moraea. (Tus the autobiography: “Travelled
straight to Falun to see his beloved, who for
nearly four years had been waiting for her dear
Ulysses.”) But it is also conceivable that he
needed to put his house in order in a more ma-
terial sense. At all events, this love story was no
coincidence. Sara Lisa’s father was physician at
the Falun copper mine, which was one of the
best appointments open to a Swedish physician
and something worth banking on if the aca-
demic plums fell in the wrong direction. Her
betrothed was a promising young medic,
a future “somebody”. By all the laws of higher
romance, Linnaeus ought to have returned
home earlier. Tere was in any case no endur-
ing romance about their ensuing marriage.
Sara Lisa was a worthy woman and Linnaeus
was probably made to keep his distance. But
once again, let us not romanticise yesterday’s
loves nor expect great men to be uncalculating
and their wives to be self-sacrificing slave girls.
Linnaeus spent a couple of years in medical
practice in Stockholm before, after a good
many ins and outs, becoming Professor of
Medicine in Uppsala in :;¡:. Once in position
he displayed a rare degree of energy rivalled
only by that of Olof Rudbeck the Elder. His
professorial duties involved teaching dietetics,
materia medica, and natural history. He was
in charge of the botanical gardens, the success
of which must be weighed against the eco-
nomic and climatological difficulties he had
to contend with. Nor must we forget that it
also involved looking after a small menagerie.
Linnaeus was several times Vice Chancellor
of Uppsala University, which had something
like a thousand students. For many years he
AT ALL EVENTS, THIS LOVE STORY
WAS NO COINCIDENCE
24 ❈caii iixxius
was Inspector to the Småland Student League
(a sodality of students from that part of
Sweden). In addition he was several times
President of the Royal Swedish Academy of
Sciences, founded by himself and a number
of like-minded people in :;,,. He also be-
came, in :;¡¡, Secretary to the Uppsala
Scientific Society. From time to time, and
with mixed feelings, he served as a kind of
court naturalist to the King and Queen in
Stockholm. In the summer he went on his
provincial tours.
Above all, though, Linnaeus was responsible
for large groups of students and tutored no
fewer than :ïo dissertations, nearly all of
which he wrote himself. Over the years an
immense quantity of scientific writings came
from his pen, to the quite considerable finan-
cial benefit of his publisher. To this must be
added his prolific correspondence, only a
minor portion of which has been published,
running to about twenty volumes. Te full
quantity was once estimated at upwards of
o,ccc letters, but the true figure is much
higher.
Tis efficiency is hard to account for, but let us
once more indulge in a climatological specula-
tion. A colleague during the Romantic period,
geobotanist Göran Wahlenberg, declared in
:ï:: that “Linnaeus, then, in common with
his science, is an excellent child of the natural
history of his native country”—the brief, in-
tense summer when the long daylight allows
late nights of study, the cold winter which
hones the intellect. Above all Wahlenberg
points to the combination of forest and plain
resulting from the intrusion of the Uppland
Ridge into the landscape. To this is added the
impact of the air on the slopes, “stimulating
and capable of activating the senses”. Or rather,
“sensual life”—a necessary attribute of the
naturalist-researcher. Such are the surround-
ings suitable for universities and successful
scientists.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Alexander Roslin’s portrait of Linnaeus
from 1775.
caii iixxius ❈ 25
26 ❈caii iixxius
Compass, magnifying glass and pocket book
with Linnaeus’ notes from the Lapland journey
of 1732.
caii iixxius ❈ 27
Linnaeus the traveller
IN SWEDEN, LINNÆUS IS KNOWN above all for his
travel books. Topographical writings are popu-
lar everywhere because they have so much to
tell us about past ages. Another of the attrac-
tions of the Linnaean journeys is that they are
written in Swedish, and a very bracing Swedish
at that. Tey are not so uncontrived as Linnaeus
implies when, with false modesty, he disclaims
membership of “the nightingales of Pliny”, but
they are less stilted than other contemporary
writings and outstandingly concrete. Linnaeus’
curiosity and immense knowledge of his sub-
ject are an unfailing guarantee of the mot juste.
He was capable of clothing his impressions in
a concise, often antithetical and reiterative style
à la Baroque, with dashes of classical mytholo-
gy, hastily jotted down as he went. Even today
they are a favoured travelling companion of
the Swedish reading public.
It is tempting to see in them the foundations of
a specific Swedish feeling for nature. Tey were
already viewed in this light, for example, by
the statistician Gustav Sundbärg when, in :,::,
he published an influential collection of aphor-
isms about the Swedish national character.
Swedes, unlike Danes, are uninterested in
people but very interested in nature, and this
love of nature was greatly inspired by Linnaeus.
Invariably, he mistakenly continues, the focus
of attention is on summer. For Linnaeus, both
summer and winter in the Nordic countries
have their peculiar merits, though winter’s
come often in disguise. In all fairness, the
Swedish feeling for nature is certainly rooted
in Linnaeus, but it did not begin growing in
earnest until the turn of the last century, as
the old agrarian society became urbanised and
industrialised. But be this as it may, Linnaeus’
journeyings are Swedish classics, and it is a pity
that their delights should largely be accessible
only to Swedish readers.
Te first of these provincial journeys, to
Lapland, was financed by the Uppsala
IN SWEDEN, LINNÆUS IS KNOWN
ABOVE ALL FOR HIS TRAVEL BOOKS
28 ❈caii iixxius
caii iixxius ❈ 29
Scientific Society at the instance of Olof
Rudbeck the Younger. Linnaeus was then a
vigorous :,-year-old. It was a journey full of
privations. Later on, it is true, he was to exag-
gerate its length and the perils it entailed, but
his narrative (which remained unpublished un-
til :ï::) inspires admiration enough. Linnaeus
travelled on his own along the east coast of
Sweden up to Luleå, where he turned in to-
wards the mountains, crossing them on foot
and continuing as far as the Arctic coast on the
Norwegian side. Returning the same way, he
continued, with various minor detours, round
the Gulf of Bothnia and down the coast of
Finland, crossing back to Sweden and Uppsala
by way of the island of Åland. In five months
he had covered over :,ccc km. Te scientific
harvest was a rich one. Te Flora Laponica
(:;,;) was a trump card in his Dutch publish-
ing. An unknown corner of Europe had now
been described and published. Tere was also
the harvest of personal experience. Te time
spent in the mountains and together with the
Sami (Lapp) people had convinced him of the
superiority of the simple life over urban com-
forts. When it suited him, Linnaeus readily
preached a kind of medical primitivism and
greenwave gospel.
Te purpose of the Lapland journey in :;,: was
primarily scientific (although the list of topics
for investigation included some fairly odd
problems, such as the question as to whether
Noah’s Ark had come to rest on the Åreskutan
mountain peak in the province of Jämtland).
Linnaeus travelled on his own and took consid-
erable risks. His journey to Dalarna, in :;,¡,
was commissioned by the Governor of that
province in Falun and had the economic
purpose of identifying common assets in the
country at large as well as unknown natural re-
sources and, for example, collecting intelligence
about Norwegian mining activities at Röros.
Tis time Linnaeus headed a small group of
students who assisted him and at the same time
received instruction from their young leader.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Title-page and ‘may tree’ from Örtaboken,
Linnaeus’ earliest known manuscript from 1725.
30 ❈caii iixxius
Te pattern resembles that of the journeys
undertaken by Linnaeus as an Uppsala profes-
sor in the :;¡cs. Te first of those journeys,
to the islands of Öland and Gotland in :;¡:,
preceded his inauguration; the subject of his
inaugural lecture was “the necessity of explor-
ing one’s own country”. Tese expeditions
were paid for by the Estates (i.e. Parliament),
in the hope of a payback through the reform
of economic policy. Linnaeus’ journeys, accord-
ingly, were to be published, and published
in Swedish—the sole exception to this rule
being the recurrent Latin descriptions of spe-
cies. It is very doubtful, though, whether the
Swedish peasantry paid all that much attention
to Linnaeus’ writings, which were not to be-
come best-sellers until much later.
We find ourselves travelling in the company
of an all-seeing eye, a horseman continually
dismounting to scrutinise the flowers at the
roadside, making notes and gathering material.
Te utilitarian aspect is very much in evidence,
OPPOSITE PAGE
Hortus Cliffortianus, both the book and an
allegory by Jacob de Wit.
Linnaeus painted in his Lappish costume by
Martin Hoffman, 1737. When he went to the
Netherlands in 1735 he took the costume,
his herbarium and the manuscript of Flora
Lapponica with him.
caii iixxius ❈ 31
for example, in the Västergötland Journey
(:;¡o), which took Linnaeus to the small
model society of Alingsås with its industries,
which were cherished by the Hat* régime and
viewed with approbation by Linnaeus, and to
Göteborg (Gothenburg), where he felt the
spindrift of Holland. Much is made of
Linnaeus’ feeling for some kind of pristine
natural environment, but he was also favoura-
bly disposed to towns, so long as they con-
formed to his image of a modern community.
Te town, admittedly, could mean vanity and
idleness, but it could also echo with the ham-
mer blows of honest toil.
Te journeys, then, reflect not only Linnaeus’
love of nature but also his patriotism. And it
was above all the cultivated landscape which
commanded his attention. On the last of his
provincial journeys, to Skåne in :;¡,, he
* Te prominent, pro-reform political party between the :;¡cs
and :;ocs.Te Caps were their principal adversaries.
32 ❈caii iixxius
UPPER LEFT
Echinops ritro
UPPER RIGHT
Tropaeolum majus
LOWER LEFT
Sempervivum tectorum
LOWER RIGHT
Papaver orientale
caii iixxius ❈ 33
travels in style, by coach, and in the midst of
pouring rain and bad temper he delights in
the fertility of the soil. As he grew older, it was
man-made Skåne rather than the thin, stony
soil of his native Småland which became his
ideal province and landscape. He was no true
Rousseauan.
“The Linnaean project”
THE LINNÆAN PROJECT WAS a combination of
themes religious and secular. It was man’s duty
to wonder at Creation in all its diversity and in
doing so to give thanks to the Creator for His
generosity. Linnaeus never tires of praising the
deity, but as a Creator, not as a Saviour. Tere
was a certain element of tactics involved here:
natural science, natural history, could benefit
from the backing of religion, but this gratitude
also contained the seeds of a worldly interest
in nature, concerned with things beneficial to
man. Te utilitarian aspect is one of the fore-
most characteristics of :ïth century Sweden
and Linnaeus was one of its leading lights.
Everywhere he saw a purpose in Nature, each
individual thing had its purpose and useful-
ness, and most things, in the ultimate analysis,
existed for man’s benefit. On the other hand,
Linnaeus did not lapse into a trite enumera-
tion of all the benefits derived by man from
divine benevolence. His optimism is counter-
balanced by lamentations over man’s wretch-
edness and by a profound insight into the
workings of Nature.
To this very subject of the workings or inter-
action of Nature he was to devote a number of
dissertations, such as Oeconomia naturae (:;¡,)
and Politia naturae (:;oc). Nature has three
consecutive stages: propagatio, conservatio and
destructio. Tese are so ingeniously connected
that, in the blunt words of the Swedish prov-
erb, one man’s death is the other man’s breath.
In destructio, for example, Nature’s police, the
predators, dominate the scene. Tey too are
needed, and they keep Creation clean and
beautiful. Tis version of the old theodicy
EVERYWHERE HE SAW
A PURPOSE IN NATURE
34 ❈caii iixxius
Linnaeus’ home and place of work for 35 years
in Uppsala now houses the Linnaeus Museum.
caii iixxius ❈ 35
problem—that of reconciling a good and
omnipotent deity with the presence of imper-
fections and evil in Creation—is not original,
but Linnaeus’ solution, instead of being
Rococo and superficial, is sincerely felt and
redolent of blood and pain. It also incorpor-
ates man, who like everything else is included
in the cycle of Nature. Te following excerpt
comes from the Västergötland Journey, as
Linnaeus, in a churchyard, muses lightheart-
edly on a serious subject:
“When I dig the soil of churchyards, I take
the parts which have constituted and been
transformed by human beings into human
beings; if I take them to my kitchen garden
and put plants in them, from this I get cab-
bage heads instead of human heads, but if
I boil these /cabbage/heads and give them to
people, they are transformed once again into
people’s heads or to other parts etc. Tus we
come to eat up our dead, and in so doing
we prosper.”
One can of course attempt to attribute
Linnaeus’ infatuation with order to some inner
unease. Tat certainly existed and there would
indeed be justification for pursuing a more
psychological line of interpretation. (If so,
of course, one must guard against tarring
present-day taxonomists with the same neu-
rotic brush.) But there is also a “big-Swedish”
megalomania, rooted in the Rudbecks, father
and son, who also entertained grandiose but
impossible plans for covering the whole of
Nature, all ages, full scale and in great detail,
conclusively. It all sounds like a Gothic dream,
a patriotic thought that everything great and
remarkable should emanate from the ancient
Scandinavians, but the remarkable thing is
how very nearly it came true. Above all we
should note the fruitful inspiration of modern
science, which was well on its way toward inte-
grating every corner of Europe. Linnaeus was
a disciple of Bacon and wanted to be a Newton
of the life sciences—Newton whom, otherwise,
he barely comprehended.
36 ❈caii iixxius
Te Linnaean project was outstandingly suc-
cessful. Innumerable people were induced, and
still are, to take part in it. All over the world,
research is working on it. But in one sense it
was a fiasco, namely because it cannot be
brought to a conclusion. Linnaeus, dubbed “the
second Adam” by one of his colleagues, clearly
believed that fairly soon, and at all events dur-
ing his lifetime, he would have created for him-
self a comprehensive view of Creation. His dili-
gence was enormous and a growing network of
contacts left him no rest. And so the various
editions of his Systema naturae grew in number
and bulk, from the :: folio pages of the first
(:;,,) to the :,,cc pages of the twelfth (:;oo–
oï), including something like :,,ccc mineral,
plant and animal species. Classifying and nam-
ing such an immense number was a remarkable
achievement, but of course it was only the be-
ginning of what can never be finished. Already
by the end of the :ïth century, the number of
species on Earth was estimated at one million,
while nowadays there is talk of some ,c to ¡c
Carl Gustaf Ekeberg’s zoological wall charts
with notes, ca. 1749. The Latin names
are believed to have been added by
Linnaeus himself.
caii iixxius ❈ 37
million, perhaps more, untold numbers of
which will never come to be described.
Linnaeus must, sometime or other, have
doubted the possibility of completing his task,
or at least of doing so personally. Confronted
by the bottomless wealth of Nature, he must
have felt not only enthusiasm but also
exhaustion.
The Apostles
LINNÆUS WAS A MODERN PROFESSOR, a project
creator and organiser with excellent contacts
in the community at large. He was capable of
inspiring his pupils to great deeds, and he
knew the right strings to pull when money was
needed. Benefactors included the King and
Queen (Adolf Fredrik and Lovisa Ulrika) and
the Swedish East India Company. Linnaeus’
charisma was especially bestowed upon an
inner circle, known as the Apostles, who were
sent forth on voyages of exploration. Many of
them actually suffered martyrdom in the field,
sacrificing their lives for science and its master.
Tey travelled in all directions: one large group
voyaged eastward, in the direction of the East
Indies and China. On their way they stopped
off in Spain and at the Cape, often for consider-
able periods, and these places were an impor-
tant research field for some of them, including
Anders Sparrman and Carl Peter Tunberg.
Once in China, their movements were severely
constricted. Pehr Osbeck, for example, was
hounded back to his ship from innocent botan-
ical excursions by Chinese boys throwing stones.
Similar conditions prevailed in Japan, which
Tunberg visited with the Dutch East India
Company. Trough patience and cunning,
Tunberg overcame the difficulties, thereby
becoming the pioneer of modern research into
the Japanese flora. To cover the interior of Asia,
Linnaeus was planning to dispatch Pehr Kalm
to China overland through Russia, but nothing
came of this. Instead it was Johan Peter Falck
who travelled eastward. His findings proved
among other things to be of ethnographic
LINNÆUS’ CHARISMA WAS ESPECIALLY BESTOWED UPON
AN INNER CIRCLE, KNOWN AS THE APOSTLES
38 ❈caii iixxius
Löfling
Berlin
Hasselquist
Forsskål
Falck
Tärnström
Adler
a, b, c
a
b
c
EUROPE
ASI A
AFRI CA
NORTH
AMERI CA
SOUTH
AMERI CA
NORTH
AMERI CA
SOUTH
AMERI CA
AUSTRALI A
ANTARCTI CA
A R C T I C O C E A N
A T L A N T I C
O C E A N
A T L A N T I C
O C E A N
P A C I F I C O C E A N
I N D I A N O C E A N
S O U T H E R N O C E A N
Caspian
Sea
Black
Sea
Iceland
Spitsbergen
South Georgia
Cape Horn
Riiser Larsen
Peninsula
Cape of
Good Hope
Kerguelen
Madagascar
Arabia
Ceylon
India
Greenland
Sumatra
Java
Timor
Borneo
Formosa
New
Guinea
Japan
Hawaii
New
Zealand
New
Cale-
donia
New
Hebrides
Fiji
Tonga
Tahiti
Marquesas Islands
Easter
Island
Arctic Circle
Tropic of Cancer
Equator
Tropic of Capricorn
Antarctic Circle
Adler
Afzelius
Berlin
Falck
Forsskål
Hasselquist
Kalm
Löfling
Martin
Osbeck
Rolander
Rothman
Solander
Sparrman
Thunberg
Torén
Tärnström
caii iixxius ❈ 39
interest. Te unfortunate Falck took his own
life in Kazan, while the benign, ever useful Kalm
went on the long voyage to North America, call-
ing on Benjamin Franklin and visiting Niagara,
of which he penned the first scientific description.
Anton Martin travelled to the Arctic Ocean, suf-
fered frostbite in his legs and spent the rest of his
days in a miserable condition. Daniel Rolander
travelled to South America, returning in a state
of mental confusion. Linnaeus’ “favourite pupil”,
Pehr Löfling, died in Venezuela after successful
botanical researches there. Fredrik Hasselquist,
supported both by Linnaeus and by the Uppsala
faculty of theology, went to the Holy Land but
died in Smyrna, after which his collections were
purchased by the Queen of Sweden, Lovisa
Ulrika. Peter Forsskål, one of the really interest-
ing disciples and of dissident political persua-
sions, joined a Danish expedition to Arabia,
where he and the other members, except for
their leader, Carsten Niebuhr, died of malaria.
Te results of these enormous efforts may
seem relatively limited. Te travellers sent
home descriptions of plants and animals,
wrote in wonderment about the life of strange
peoples and the magnificence of the natural
scene. Te travel descriptions, several of them
published by Linnaeus, evidently sold well,
even though they consist mainly of descrip-
tions of species for the initiated. Often the
explorers did little more than scratch at the
surface of things. But perhaps the main signif-
icance of their journeys was symbolic, as a sci-
entific adventure and form of sacrifice. Tey
were also of importance for the future, in the
sense of scientists thus having assured them-
selves of a place on the great voyages by land
and sea. Linnaeus’ pupils Anders Sparrman
and Daniel Solander circumnavigated the
globe with James Cook, and when, just over
half a century later, HMS Beagle set out on its
voyage round the world, there was a place on
board for the young Charles Darwin.
OPPOSITE PAGE
Linnaeus sent his ’apostles’ around the world
on perilous voyages of discovery. Many of them
did pioneering scientific fieldwork; some of
them failed to return.
40 ❈caii iixxius
Linnaeus left his personal imprint on a great
deal of :ïth century science, not only in
Sweden but in the whole of the western world.
His concentration on collecting and classify-
ing may sometimes appear quirky, but clearly
it fills an important gap. Natural history had
closed the lead which physics had gained in
the scientific revolution of the :;th century,
and it did so very much by continuing with
a kind of Baroque rationalism and system-
building. L’esprit de système, the urge to trap
reality in a comprehensive net, is typical of
this Linnaean :ïth century. To this end, in-
creasingly specialised manuals and journals
came into being, as well as popular presenta-
tions, e.g. for women. Rousseau, that sorrow-
ful amateur botanist, for example, wrote his
Lettres sur la botanique according to Linnaean
method.
Te passion for system extended beyond the
three realms of natural history, to which a
colleague of Linnaeus wished to add a fourth,
namely “the aquatic kingdom”. Linnaeus
himself went to a great deal of trouble to
classify diseases in his nosology* (Genera
morborum, ); Jeremy Bentham accorded
much the same treatment to the virtues, while
other writers classified books or economy in
Linnaean fashion. Te classification of human
races, an activity which in time was frequently
to produce questionable results, also begins
with Systema naturae. In all this, and in
other things besides, one can speak of a
“Linnaeanism” of the time, the boundaries
of which had yet to be defined by historical
research.
Linnaeus, then, achieved remarkable success.
During his lifetime he was elected to member-
ship of most existing academies. After his
death the Linnean Society of London was
founded, based on his collections, which had
been sold to England by his widow, Sara Lisa.
* Te classification of diseases.
caii iixxius ❈ 41
42 ❈caii iixxius
Soon afterwards came the foundation of
the Société Linnéenne in Paris, which was to
flourish soon after the Revolution of :;ï,.
For various reasons beyond the scope of this
essay, Linnaeus was internationally viable. He
was needed, not least by virtue of the language
reform he had introduced. Linnaeus created a
kind of Linnaean which is not spoken but is
still being written. With his Systema naturae
he gave research an overriding task, a project.
And in Sweden, as we have already seen, he
created a special way of travelling and of ex-
periencing nature.
Was Linnaeus a satisfied man? What joy did he
have of his success? Laudatur et alget—he is
renowned but feels cold—was Linnaeus’ motto.
And so, for his own use and for the edification
of his rather unruly son, the ageing Linnaeus
collected examples of the darkness of human
life, a theologia experimentalis, which he
called Nemesis divina, over all the injustices
committed by other people, adversaries and
those who envied him, against their own
kinsmen, against God and against Nature.
Nature’s interpreter was not the happiest of
men. His miraculous memory was obliterated
by a stroke, after which he admired his own
writings but could not understand that he
himself was the author of them. His only son,
Carl, succeeded him but lived for only a few
more years after his father’s death in :;;ï.
caii iixxius ❈ 43
The sexual system and the binary nomenclature
Linnaeus first published his sexual system in :;,, in the Systema naturae, later
applying it to every then known species in the Species plantarum (first edition
:;,,), which was based to a great extent on material from his garden. Te sexual
system is not now accepted as a classification corresponding to the actual rela-
tionships between plants, and it has therefore been abandoned, but at the time
it represented a method of definition and classification far surpassing anything
previously known. Linnaeus was aware of the theoretical weaknesses and artifi-
cial character of the sexual system, but quite justifiably he remained convinced
of its practical usefulness until the end of his life.
Te sexual system first divides the plant kingdom into :¡ classes according to
the number of stamens (I Monandria, II Diandria, etc) or, from No. XII on-
wards, according to the arrangement of the stamens or sex distribution between
the flowers. Class XXIV represents the cryptogamia, with “concealed” sexual
organs. It is exemplified in the garden by the ferns. Te number of the class is
written in Roman numerals.
Te classes are divided into orders according to the number of styles or pistils in
the flowers. Te designations of the orders are similar from class to class.
Monogynia (with : style), Digynia (with : styles or pistils), etc., to Polygynia
(with a great number of styles or pistils). Te number of the order is written in
Arabic numerals.
Te orders are divided into genera, many of which agree with those we recognise
today (Linnaea, Betula), although others have been subdivided or recombined
since Linnaeus’ day. Tus Linnaeus’ genus designations are not always the same
as those we use now.
Te genera are divided into species, which have double names (the system of
binary nomenclature which Linnaeus introduced) e.g. Linnaea borealis, Betula
nana. Linnaeus’ species classifications have by and large survived, although for
various reasons many of their names have had to be changed.
Georg Dionys Ehret’s original illustration of Linnaeus’ sexual system from 1736.
Chronology in brief
:;c; Born at Råshult, Småland
:;:; Studies in Lund
:;:ï Studies in Uppsala
:;,: Travels to Lapland
:;,¡ Travels in Dalarna
:;,,–:;,ï Travels to Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, England and France
:;,, Takes his doctorate of medicine at Harderwijk, Netherlands
First edition of Systema naturae
:;,o Fundamenta botanica
:;,; Flora Laponica
:;,, Medical practice in Stockholm
Founder member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and its first President
Marries Sara Lisa Moraea
:;¡: Professor of Medicine, Uppsala
Öland and Gotland Journeys
:;¡¡ Secretary of the Uppsala Scientific Society
:;¡, Flora Suecica
:;¡o Västergötland Journey
Fauna Suecica
:;¡, Skåne Journey
:;,: Philosophia botanica
:;,, Species plantarum
:;,; Ennobled
:;,ï Buys Hammarby, near Uppsala
Tenth edition of Systema naturae
:;oo–:;oï Linnaeus’ last edition of Systema naturae
:;;ï Dies in Uppsala
:;ï, Death of Carl Linnaeus the Younger
:;ï¡ Linnaean collections sold in England
Picture credits
Cover photo and page 8 photo © Teddy Thörnlund, Uppsala
University art collection
pages 2, 20, 21 and 32 © Edvard Koinberg
pages 4 and 6 © Johnér
page 7 © Riddarhuset
page 11 photo: Carina Glanshagen © Älmhults kommun
pages 13 and 36 © Centre for the history of science, Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences
page 15 © Olle Norling, Upplandsmuseet
page 16 © Milieucentrum de Hortus, Harderwijk
page 17 © Åbo Academy’s picture collection
pages 18 and 19 © Tiofoto
page 25 © Nationalmuseum
pages 26 and 30 © Sören Hallgren and the Linnaeus Museum
page 28 photo: Lund University Library, © Växjö City Library
page 31 © Teddy Thörnlund and the Linnaeus Museum
page 34 © Anders Damberg and the Linnaeus Museum
page 38 © Stig Söderlind
page 41 © Helena Bergengren, TioFoto
page 43 © photo: Uppsala University Library
CARL LINNÆUS (1707–1778) is Sweden’s most famous natural scientist.
He set out to list and order the whole of Creation. His importance, however,
is not confined to the international history of science. In a way he is also
a part of Swedish everyday life today, as the author of living classics which
people still read. The Swedes, perhaps, look on him primarily as a traveller
and explorer of their own country, while to others he is the father of the
modern classification of flora and fauna. But he was much more than this.
For example, he was an inspiring teacher who sent his students off on
extraordinary voyages of scientific discovery all around the world.
2007 is the 300th anniversary of the birth of this great scientist whose
legacy lives on into our own age.
C
A
R
L

L
I
N
N
Æ
U
S

Carl Linnaeus
by Gunnar Broberg

Swedish Institute

Gunnar Broberg is Professor of the History of Science and Ideas at Lund University. © Gunnar Broberg and the Swedish Institute New edition e author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this book. Translation by Roger Tanner Graphic design by BIGG, Stockholm Cover illustration: Carl Linnaeus, painting by J.H. Scheffel, Paper: Cover, Tom & Otto silk Inside, Linné white g g

is a public agency established to disseminate knowledge abroad about Sweden´s social and cultural life, to promote cultural and informational exchange with other countries and to contribute to increased international cooperation in the fields of education and research. e Swedish Institute produces a wide range of publications on many aspects of Swedish society. ese can be obtained directly from the Swedish Institute or from Swedish diplomatic missions abroad, and many are available on Sweden´s official website, www.sweden.se.
THE SWEDISH INSTITUTE (SI)

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Contents Preface The young medic and botanist Everything in order: the new natural science Professor in Uppsala Linnaeus the traveller “The Linnaean project” The Apostles The sexual system and the binary nomenclature Chronology in brief 5 9 17 23 27 33 37 43 44 .

.

is not confined to the international history of science. as the author of living classics which people still read. He set out to list and order the whole of Creation. . perhaps. however. he was an inspiring teacher who sent his students on voyages of scientific discovery all over the world. But he was much more than this. while to others he is the father of the modern classification of flora and fauna. look on him primarily as a traveller and explorer of their own country. For example. His importance. e Swedes.C ARL LINNÆUS (1707–1778) is Sweden’s most famous natural scientist. In a way he is also a part of Swedish everyday life today.

6 ❈   .

To present-day botanists and zoologists who concern themselves with matters of taxonomy. at was in a prize competition. is called Linnaea after the great son of that province. He was ennobled in 1757. a cryptonym of Carl N/ilsson/ Linné. and the Twinflower. without which he would have been called Carl Nilsson. which is the name he was given at his baptism. Not many scientists were accorded equality of status with Pliny. Every Swedish province has its emblematic flower. after his father. ousands of plants and animals remind us of the person who named them.) en again. Perhaps the same goes for an important person. THE PLINY OF THE NORTH. the name he took when raised to the nobility in . the letter which indicates the naming of an outstandingly large number of important organisms. Swedes know him as Carl von Linné.THE PRINCE OF BOTANISTS. (On one occasion Linnaeus styled himself Carl Nelin. and it was certainly no common occurrence for a scientist and professor to be elevated to the nobility. the great natural historian of antiquity. In the Anglo-Saxon world he is normally referred to as Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus’ coat of arms.” THE MAIN CHARACTER of this publication has a variety of names. OPPOSI TE PAGE Cowslips on the Baltic island of Öland to which Linnaeus made one of his famous journeys in 1741. A Swedish proverb says that a loved child has many names.   ❈ 7 .”. Linnaeus has been called Princeps botanicorum. the Prince of Botanists. which he failed to win even though the alias probably deceived no-one. putting all Swedes in mind of him personally. “L. “ e Second Adam” and other names besides. he is just plain “L. e Latin ending of his surname indicates academic status. provincial emblem of Småland. And of course it was grander still to compare Linnaeus with the ruler of Paradise and the first namer of animals. Not until the Earth once more lies empty and desolate will the name of Linnaeus be forgotten. and innumerable garlands of flowers have been tied in honour of Linnaeus. THE SECOND ADAM. “ e Pliny of the North”.

Linnaeus made rather a big thing of his humble origins. is to moralise. And when he lists his exploits this is perfectly in order. is also explains why Linnaeus writes them in the third person and not subjectively. which is usually quoted as evidence of his self-infatuation. because they were many and irrefutable. but that is not really fair because the biographies are more in the nature of curricula vitae and memoranda for subsequent memorial addresses. his father entered the Church. however. and as a historian one ought rather to emphasise the social mobility so typical of Swedish society at the time.) However charming and uncomplicated he might seem. One could scarcely advance 8 ❈   . he himself became a physician and eventually a professor and a member of the nobility. Linnaeus’ grandfather was a peasant. “A great man can step forth from a small hovel. is.” he wrote in one of his autobiographies. (He wrote no less than four of them. he was supremely career-minded.

e glory and the misery of the time demanded moral fibre. Subsequent biographers have elaborated the theme of Linnaeus’ mother. Oil painting by J. 1739. decorating his cradle with flowers. When the bubble burst.LINNÆUS BECAME A BOTANIST WHILE STILL IN THE WOMB any further than that. is is due to the close connection between Church and State in Sweden during the th century. the culture of the parsonage has been the backbone of science and the arts in Sweden. rough the centuries. e Lutheran Church was indispensable to the State as an educator of the peasant population in peacetime and as a shepherd of souls in the great wars of the period. All this. Scheffel. has been turned into an edifying national saga. the established Church remained to pilot the country into the more pacific and culturally fertile Age of Liberty. The young medic and botanist LINNÆUS HIMSELF MAINTAINED that he was predisposed for botany by growing up in a beautiful part of Sweden. power and authority. so that Linnaeus became a botanist while still in the womb. with the death of Charles XII on his Norwegian campaign in . as the son of a keen botanist. his mother could feast her eyes on it. with Linnaeus as the embodiment of an impoverished. exhausted small nation rising to maturity. coupled with his humble origins. e fact of his being born “just when spring was at its loveliest and the cuckoo was proclaiming summer” was in itself an augury of the scientific flowering that was to follow. Christina Brodersonia. e saga of Linnaeus is one of the highlights of Sweden’s national mythology. . His father had created a small garden containing many unusual plants which he appreciated more for their beauty than for their utility. And during her pregnancy. Sweden was a relatively open society whose agrarian population was traditionally endowed with strength and liberty. known in Swedish as “the Age of Greatness”. Småland.   ❈ 9 OPPOSI TE PAGE The 32-year-old Linnaeus in his wedding finery. H.

is is indeed what happened. Samuel. Linnaeus’ birthplace. spotted his genius and supported his interest in the less utilitarian study of plant life. Linnaeus ventured forth to the relatively new Lund University in the province of Skåne.OPPOSI TE PAGE Råshult in the province of Småland. Linnaeus attended grammar school in nearby Växjö and. though the mistress of the house objected to the new resident reading in bed by candlelight. whereas theologians had a guaranteed job market. may their names be praised. (In schools of the past there was nearly always a mentor of Rothman’s kind. a doctor called Johan Rothman. Linnaeus was the eldest son of a typical Swedish clerical family.) He told the worried parents that their firstborn should abandon theology for medicine. was a lack-lustre pupil. Linnaeus’ capacity for finding benefactors is attributable not only to his rare ability but also to his charm and boldness. From Växjö Grammar School. is time it was the Professor of Medicine. this again is a tradition emanating from Linnaeus himself and his not altogether reliable autobiographies. Kilian Stobaeus. but the paren10 ❈ tal anxiety was understandable. if legend is to be believed. for after all. Lund suited Linnaeus’ purposes for only a year or so. a subject true to the th century interest in useful science. they had heard rumours about the godlessness of medical science. a generation or so earlier. He had three sisters and a brother. A Church career was pre-ordained for Carl but required one or two years at university. en again. who was to succeed their father as vicar of Stenbrohult in Småland. Medical posts in Sweden were extremely few in number. Samuel is known as the author of a work on bee-keeping. Born at Råshult in . it was the physicians who. had imported the seditious doctrines of Descartes to the universities. In  he moved to Uppsala in the   . thereby threatening to send everything up in flames. who took Linnaeus into his home. His physics teacher.

  ❈ 11 .

In his lectures he tells his students that. but one is entitled to demand better things of an academic naturalist. e intermissions were occasioned by journeys to Lapland () and Dalarna (). Linnaeus ministered to the Rudbeck family until. ere he found two Professors of Medicine. as if they had gills and fins. ( is popular belief has been put down to the fact that swallows fly close to the surface of the water in pursuit of insects. He had a reputation for being rather odd—badly dressed and the owner of a great library—but Linnaeus rightly admired him. both of them on the point of retirement. Linnaeus naturally took a sidelong glance at their positions and was anxious to display his capabilities then and there. Olof Rudbeck the Younger and Lars Roberg. a cynic in the philosophical sense and outstandingly erudite. He is famous for his persistent belief that swallows did not migrate southwards but hibernated at the bottom of lakes.OPPOSI TE PAGE Copper engraving of Carl Linnaeus by August Ehrensvärd. 1740. e early medical studies reflected by Linnaeus’ notes from this period present a remarkable blend of traditional belief or superstition and modern mechanistic medicine. founded in . One is certainly intrigued to find Linnaeus. Roberg was an interesting man. saving his sister from the ague by wrapping her in the carcase of a newly slaughtered sheep. 12 ❈   . and that the male progeny of a white woman and a black man acquires a black penis. Mistress Rudbeckia showed him the door. Most of his studies were pursued unaided. if you apply snaps to a puppy it will remain small. visiting his family in Stenbrohult. but he also got a foot inside the door of Olof Rudbeck the Younger. He also earned the confidence of Lars Roberg. for uncertain reasons. With a few intermissions he spent seven years in Uppsala. province of Uppland. where there was a bigger and more ancient university.) Mistakes like this may seem embarrassing. but they are more appropriately to be regarded as tensions in a culture of many different strata.

Lars Roberg. i.   ❈ 13 . as hinted above. as confirmed by the new physics. was readily comprehensible. which can sometimes excuse the conclusions which Linnaeus and others jumped to. the lung a bellows. thus viewed. and ultimately by Newton. In other words. for example. on closer inspection Creation proved to be based on a few sensible laws and not on a welter of exceptions. Linnaeus was convinced of the truth of the new mechanistic physiology. Nature. the stomach a mixing bowl”. this way of looking at humanity had a bold and modern ring. Coupled with another of Linnaeus’ favourite adages. including breathtaking analogies between the natural kingdoms and between nature and culture. e fundamental notion was that of “the simple plan of Nature”.e. man is a machine. “Homo est animal”.At the same time. readily summarised in the thesis of “Homo machina est”. could put this in the following terms: “ e heart a pump.

he gained knowledge. He was a divinely talented botanist. while both the others were lined with books of natural science and medicine. Uppsala. another medical student and Linnaeus’ interlocutor and rival in terms of scientific acumen. originally laid out by Olof Rudbeck the Elder in the s. Olof Rudbeck the Younger. and especially botany. but like any other great scientist or artist still had to work hard to achieve his position. Linnaeus collected more and more natural exhibits. but to qualify for a doctorate in medicine he had to travel abroad.” Linnaeus prepared for his professional début. At home in his student’s den. it had become customary for Swedes to travel to Holland for their doctoral * Docimasy: the assaying of ores or metals. you should have seen his museum. Since the second half of the th century. During excursions of different kinds in and around Uppsala and through his teaching in the University Botanical Gardens. and. based partly on material from a journey to Lapland. there were large clay vessels filled with soil in which rare plants found nourishment. finally. and with docimastic* instruments and stones neatly arranged. on the inside of the windows. e ceiling he had adorned with bird skins. A quotation: 14 ❈ “Reader. one wall with a Lapp costume and other curiosities. full of admiration and delight. Also in Uppsala at that time was Petrus Artedi. Sweden’s first scientific expedition. In Linnaeus’ day both the house and the garden were an international centre for scientific research and teaching.OPPOSI TE PAGE Linnaeus’ study in the Linnaeus Museum. the other wall with large plants and crustaceans. you would have loved its host. Together they hatched magnificent plans for a reformed science characterised by order and breadth of perspective. books and manuscripts of his own writing. which was open to the listeners. contacts and reputation. showed him the famous bird book he had painted in the s. Linnaeus was above all attracted to natural history. e corners of the room were occupied by high branches of trees which he had taught birds of nearly thirty species to inhabit.   . his employer and benefactor.

  ❈ 15 .

disputations. would be extended in both time and space. but with brief visits to France and England. Not that this really made him a cosmopolitan—modern languages. A few weeks later Linnaeus had taken his doctorate at the little university of Harderwijk. e country had thus become an important influence on Swedish intellectual life. given the chance. a foreign stay of this kind was invaluable and.) e Netherlands were also a much more suitable place for publishing works of scholarship. It was through them that he was to gain a worldwide reputation. mostly in the Netherlands. e subject of his thesis was ague caused by a 16 ❈   . for example. Linnaeus was to spend three years on the continent of Europe. did not come easily to him—but the academic contacts and friends thus acquired were immensely beneficial in the long run. As an experience. (Artedi arrived there at the same time as Linnaeus but drowned one dark evening in an Amsterdam canal.

the illustrated work Hortus Cliffortianus (). Perhaps the Systema naturae was originally intended to consist of a number of “maps” which could be put up on the wall. an estate belonging to the wealthy banker Georg Clifford. mechanistic exposition. his friend Artedi’s posthumous Ichtyologia () and a few more besides. actually—in the human works. Typographically. the composition of its great tables was a magnificent achievement. who promised to help him publish his Systema naturae (). together with greater and lesser works like Bibliotheca botanica (). both the great units and the progressively smaller individualities. the little collection of botanical rules entitled Fundamenta botanica () was printed. presented with the massive self-assurance that typifies all Linnaeus’ medical writings. Instead he enlisted the aid of his friends. one feels he might very well have settled in Europe for good. and his duties there sometimes prevented him from seeing his own writings through the press. he referred to his system as a kind of   ❈ 17 Title-page of the first edition of Linnaeus’ Hortus Cliffortianus. that Linnaeus made a name for himself and. He certainly didn’t waste time! It was in the Netherlands. illustrating the three kingdoms of Nature. with everything displayed. not least. . a truly modern. then. after a couple of detours to France and England. Everything in order: the new natural science IN AMSTERDAM HE WAS lucky enough to make friends with a kindred spirit. the wealthy natural historian Johannes Burman. never again to venture into the great wide world. The gingko biloba tree is the oldest in the Netherlands and may even have been planted by Linnaeus. Genera plantarum () and Classes plantarum (). but in  he returned home to Sweden.IF EVER THERE WAS SUCH A THING AS THE LINNÆAN PROJECT. In addition. this was it. Linnaeus was his own science industry. THIS WAS IT spanner—clay. the manuscript of which he had brought with him from Sweden. Quite often. He had been put in charge of the garden at Hartecamp. If ever there was such a thing as the Linnaean project. in fact. Amsterdam 1737. OPPOSI TE PAGE The botanical garden in Harderwijk.

and it is in this way that life is sustained in all its diversity. which meant breaking Nature down into a number of larger or smaller boxes to be labelled and put in the right places. One could go to great lengths in interpreting Linnaeus’ fascination with the ubiquitous procreative games of 18 ❈ Nature. that of Nature. Linnaean science was founded on divisio et denominatio. the analogy came naturally. their sexual characteristics. e animals. like society. Not that he was an adherent of the old political system which had now been toppled. As the criteria of division. division and naming. that Linnaeus was a kind of Peeping Tom of natural history. which excelled in a kind of scientific nuptial metaphor very similar to Linnaeus’. being fruitful and multiplying. in obedience to its Creator’s call. are divided according to more varied criteria: the quadrupeds. to Linnaeus. from which not even the innocent flowers were excluded. or as Linnaeus would perceive and term them. among other things. in a whole variety of configurations. in turn. an apt title in spite of that goddess’s peaceful attributes. either openly as in the case of the “phanerogams” or secretly as with the “cryptogams”. for plants. His delight in the resemblance of plants to man also harks back to ideas concerning the simple plan of Nature. Mammalia. were divided. In addition to perhaps the first explanation that springs to mind. Linnaeus having grown up during the great wars. but he was almost obsessed with lucidity and order. Linnaeus used.   . which had been discovered at the end of the th century but were by no means universally accepted. is. consisted of kingdoms. Further inspiration may have come from alchemy. On one occasion he appointed himself general of Flora’s army. Plants also celebrate weddings. provinces.military mapping: Nature. districts and individual smallholdings from which the soldier was collected. is its prime task. one can also identify a religious motif.

genus and species. e late editions of Systema naturae scan the entire range of creation. admittedly. Linnaeus is more exhaustive on some points than others. ese are technicalities. Linnaeus was really contending with a fundamental difficulty.according to the number and position of their breasts/udders. but from  (Species plantarum) and  (Systema naturae. Minerals or “stones”. Like plants and animals. for example. commands only a mention but is nonetheless important as a framework. both with “L. animal section). tenth edition.” added to show who named them. from the stars down to the microorganisms. e extra-terrestrial world. Often the diversity was overwhelming. it can be reduced to a refined hobby. e different species were given long names to begin with. e white anemone is still called Anemone nemorosa and the domestic cat Felis domestica. us the path descending from the stars through the whole of creation is a jagged one. because at one and the same time he was looking for differences and connections. sometimes the right transitions were lacking. as it were. on the contrary. they were given the dual names which have since become standard practice in natural science. Not that this makes it “difficult”. the device has been infinitely effective as a means of get- ting a mental hold of Nature and in this way gaining control of it. On the other hand. classis. both “ladders” and “chains”. e latter was   ❈ 19 . were divided according to external characteristics and not with reference to any chemical composition. e former fitted in better with the emphasis of traditional religion on man’s supremacy. similarly. they are arranged in the Linnaean hierarchy beginning with the largest and ending with the smallest. ere is more to a name than meets the ear. ordo. of which Linnaean science has many. viz regnum. As usual the insects predominate while only the rough outlines of the cryptogams were known.

L ARGE PIC TURE Aquilegia vulgaris SMALL PIC TURE Paeonia festiva 20 ❈   .

L ARGE PIC TURE Aesculus pavia SMALL PIC TURE Lilium bulbiferum   ❈ 21 .

A new epistemology and a succession of new discoveries in natural history demonstrated the impossibility either philosophically or scientifically. his startling positioning of the human race in the same order as the apes has endured. of keeping Nature within bounds. it also had the purpose of listing and ordering the   . e Linnaean project had begun. and he wrote longingly of the possibility of examining her. He lent his confidence to dubious reports of a captured mermaid. But the chain had to hang together at the bottom. Cast in the mould of the Linnaean books of rules. ese are even admitted to Systema naturae. One of the patterns of thought most dear to the th century was the concept of the great chain of being. To Linnaeus this became more and more important. which seemed to confirm the existence of sub-humans with tails or humans with the arms of apes. ey are at one and the same time unprejudiced—“pre-Darwinist”— and prejudiced. He also allowed himself to be deceived by other travellers’ tales. man being dubbed in  Homo sapiens of the order of Primates. John Locke’s critique of essentialism (that is. the corals and the primates —came as challenges to the old structure. 22 ❈ for transitional human beings.more in keeping with the thinking of the times. ese elements bear witness to his aim of doing justice to the diversity and coherence of Nature. two properties which not only agreed with what scientific research seemed to be saying but also with the concept of an infinitely wise and generous Creator. through his reading and through colleagues. the theory that species could be defined in terms of “essence”) and a number of observed borderline organisms—such as the freshwater polyp. under names like Homo troglodytes (referring among other things to albinos) and Homo lar (the gibbon). Naturally he regarded Creation as a hierarchy with man at the top. and Linnaeus searched.

( us the autobiography: “Travelled straight to Falun to see his beloved.”) But it is also conceivable that he needed to put his house in order in a more material sense. HAD LEFT the Netherlands.AT ALL EVENTS. a future “somebody”. Sara Lisa Moraea. THIS LOVE STORY WAS NO COINCIDENCE whole of Creation. Sara Lisa’s father was physician at the Falun copper mine. let us not romanticise yesterday’s loves nor expect great men to be uncalculating and their wives to be self-sacrificing slave girls. Her betrothed was a promising young medic. Sara Lisa was a worthy woman and Linnaeus was probably made to keep his distance. By all the laws of higher romance. Once in position he displayed a rare degree of energy rivalled only by that of Olof Rudbeck the Elder. ere was in any case no endur- ing romance about their ensuing marriage. Linnaeus ought to have returned home earlier. He was in charge of the botanical gardens. and natural history. this love story was no coincidence. the success of which must be weighed against the economic and climatological difficulties he had to contend with. All that now remained was to carry it out. Traditional biographies usually put this down to his promise to his betrothed. Linnaeus spent a couple of years in medical practice in Stockholm before. For many years he   ❈ 23 . Linnaeus was several times Vice Chancellor of Uppsala University. which was one of the best appointments open to a Swedish physician and something worth banking on if the academic plums fell in the wrong direction. But once again. His professorial duties involved teaching dietetics. At all events. after a good many ins and outs. Nor must we forget that it also involved looking after a small menagerie. Professor in Uppsala LINNÆUS. THEN. who for nearly four years had been waiting for her dear Ulysses. materia medica. which had something like a thousand students. becoming Professor of Medicine in Uppsala in .

but let us once more indulge in a climatological speculation. in common with his science. and with mixed feelings. only a minor portion of which has been published. he served as a kind of court naturalist to the King and Queen in Stockholm. the cold winter which hones the intellect. In the summer he went on his provincial tours. Over the years an immense quantity of scientific writings came from his pen. Or rather. founded by himself and a number of like-minded people in . A colleague during the Romantic period. e full 24 ❈ quantity was once estimated at upwards of . To this must be added his prolific correspondence. “sensual life”—a necessary attribute of the naturalist-researcher. but the true figure is much higher. nearly all of which he wrote himself. geobotanist Göran Wahlenberg. Above all Wahlenberg points to the combination of forest and plain resulting from the intrusion of the Uppland Ridge into the landscape. running to about twenty volumes. to the quite considerable financial benefit of his publisher. “stimulating and capable of activating the senses”. in . is efficiency is hard to account for. To this is added the impact of the air on the slopes. Above all. declared in  that “Linnaeus. He also became. In addition he was several times President of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Secretary to the Uppsala Scientific Society. intense summer when the long daylight allows late nights of study. Such are the surroundings suitable for universities and successful scientists. letters. was Inspector to the Småland Student League (a sodality of students from that part of Sweden). From time to time. is an excellent child of the natural history of his native country”—the brief. then. Linnaeus was responsible for large groups of students and tutored no fewer than  dissertations.OPPOSI TE PAGE Alexander Roslin’s portrait of Linnaeus from 1775.   . though.

  ❈ 25 .

Compass. 26 ❈   . magnifying glass and pocket book with Linnaeus’ notes from the Lapland journey of 1732.

e first of these provincial journeys. ey are not so uncontrived as Linnaeus implies when. For Linnaeus. Swedes. he published an influential collection of aphorisms about the Swedish national character. Topographical writings are popular everywhere because they have so much to tell us about past ages. But be this as it may. was financed by the Uppsala   ❈ 27 . the focus of attention is on summer. both summer and winter in the Nordic countries have their peculiar merits. and this love of nature was greatly inspired by Linnaeus. he disclaims membership of “the nightingales of Pliny”. ey were already viewed in this light. but they are less stilted than other contemporary writings and outstandingly concrete. often antithetical and reiterative style à la Baroque. with dashes of classical mythology. are uninterested in people but very interested in nature. LINNÆUS IS KNOWN above all for his travel books. unlike Danes. It is tempting to see in them the foundations of a specific Swedish feeling for nature. hastily jotted down as he went. by the statistician Gustav Sundbärg when. the Swedish feeling for nature is certainly rooted in Linnaeus. with false modesty. Linnaeus’ curiosity and immense knowledge of his subject are an unfailing guarantee of the mot juste. for example.IN SWEDEN. Another of the attractions of the Linnaean journeys is that they are written in Swedish. He was capable of clothing his impressions in a concise. but it did not begin growing in earnest until the turn of the last century. in . LINNÆUS IS KNOWN ABOVE ALL FOR HIS TRAVEL BOOKS Linnaeus the traveller IN SWEDEN. Invariably. though winter’s come often in disguise. he mistakenly continues. to Lapland. as the old agrarian society became urbanised and industrialised. and a very bracing Swedish at that. Even today they are a favoured travelling companion of the Swedish reading public. In all fairness. and it is a pity that their delights should largely be accessible only to Swedish readers. Linnaeus’ journeyings are Swedish classics.

28 ❈   .

crossing back to Sweden and Uppsala by way of the island of Åland. crossing them on foot and continuing as far as the Arctic coast on the Norwegian side. Linnaeus readily preached a kind of medical primitivism and greenwave gospel. in . but his narrative (which remained unpublished until ) inspires admiration enough. Linnaeus was then a vigorous -year-old. Scientific Society at the instance of Olof Rudbeck the Younger. e scientific harvest was a rich one. was commissioned by the Governor of that province in Falun and had the economic purpose of identifying common assets in the country at large as well as unknown natural resources and. e purpose of the Lapland journey in  was primarily scientific (although the list of topics for investigation included some fairly odd problems. ere was also the harvest of personal experience. he continued. Linnaeus travelled on his own along the east coast of Sweden up to Luleå.OPPOSI TE PAGE Title-page and ‘may tree’ from Örtaboken. he was to exaggerate its length and the perils it entailed.   ❈ 29 . Linnaeus travelled on his own and took considerable risks. is time Linnaeus headed a small group of students who assisted him and at the same time received instruction from their young leader. Later on. e time spent in the mountains and together with the Sami (Lapp) people had convinced him of the superiority of the simple life over urban comforts. When it suited him. It was a journey full of privations. km. it is true. collecting intelligence about Norwegian mining activities at Röros. An unknown corner of Europe had now been described and published. In five months he had covered over . round the Gulf of Bothnia and down the coast of Finland. Returning the same way. for example. e Flora Laponica () was a trump card in his Dutch publishing. with various minor detours. such as the question as to whether Noah’s Ark had come to rest on the Åreskutan mountain peak in the province of Jämtland). His journey to Dalarna. where he turned in towards the mountains. Linnaeus’ earliest known manuscript from 1725.

which were not to become best-sellers until much later. It is very doubtful.Linnaeus painted in his Lappish costume by Martin Hoffman. his herbarium and the manuscript of Flora Lapponica with him. the subject of his inaugural lecture was “the necessity of exploring one’s own country”. e pattern resembles that of the journeys undertaken by Linnaeus as an Uppsala professor in the s. ese expeditions were paid for by the Estates (i. Linnaeus’ journeys. and published in Swedish—the sole exception to this rule being the recurrent Latin descriptions of species. preceded his inauguration. to the islands of Öland and Gotland in . accordingly. 30 ❈ OPPOSI TE PAGE Hortus Cliffortianus. We find ourselves travelling in the company of an all-seeing eye. making notes and gathering material. e utilitarian aspect is very much in evidence. 1737. a horseman continually dismounting to scrutinise the flowers at the roadside. whether the Swedish peasantry paid all that much attention to Linnaeus’ writings.e. were to be published. e first of those journeys. Parliament). both the book and an allegory by Jacob de Wit.   . in the hope of a payback through the reform of economic policy. though. When he went to the Netherlands in 1735 he took the costume.

admittedly. he * e prominent. but he was also favourably disposed to towns. and to Göteborg (Gothenburg). e town.for example. On the last of his provincial journeys. so long as they conformed to his image of a modern community. to Skåne in . then. where he felt the spindrift of Holland. e journeys.   ❈ 31 . could mean vanity and idleness. And it was above all the cultivated landscape which commanded his attention. which were cherished by the Hat* régime and viewed with approbation by Linnaeus. but it could also echo with the hammer blows of honest toil. Much is made of Linnaeus’ feeling for some kind of pristine natural environment. reflect not only Linnaeus’ love of nature but also his patriotism. which took Linnaeus to the small model society of Alingsås with its industries. in the Västergötland Journey (). e Caps were their principal adversaries. pro-reform political party between the s and s.

UPPER LEF T Echinops ritro UPPER R IGHT Tropaeolum majus LOWER LEF T Sempervivum tectorum LOWER R IGHT Papaver orientale 32 ❈   .

To this very subject of the workings or interaction of Nature he was to devote a number of dissertations. each individual thing had its purpose and usefulness. such as Oeconomia naturae () and Politia naturae (). It was man’s duty to wonder at Creation in all its diversity and in doing so to give thanks to the Creator for His generosity. and most things. As he grew older. Nature’s police. Linnaeus did not lapse into a trite enumeration of all the benefits derived by man from divine benevolence. He was no true Rousseauan. ere was a certain element of tactics involved here: natural science. in the ultimate analysis. His optimism is counterbalanced by lamentations over man’s wretchedness and by a profound insight into the workings of Nature. existed for man’s benefit. and they keep Creation clean and beautiful. for example. conservatio and destructio. Nature has three consecutive stages: propagatio. in the blunt words of the Swedish proverb. concerned with things beneficial to man. dominate the scene.EVERYWHERE HE SAW A PURPOSE IN NATURE travels in style. could benefit from the backing of religion. “The Linnaean project” THE LINNÆAN PROJECT WAS a combination of themes religious and secular. and in the midst of pouring rain and bad temper he delights in the fertility of the soil. In destructio. is version of the old theodicy   ❈ 33 . e utilitarian aspect is one of the foremost characteristics of th century Sweden and Linnaeus was one of its leading lights. by coach. but as a Creator. ey too are needed. the predators. Everywhere he saw a purpose in Nature. one man’s death is the other man’s breath. not as a Saviour. stony soil of his native Småland which became his ideal province and landscape. On the other hand. Linnaeus never tires of praising the deity. but this gratitude also contained the seeds of a worldly interest in nature. natural history. it was man-made Skåne rather than the thin. ese are so ingeniously connected that.

Linnaeus’ home and place of work for 35 years in Uppsala now houses the Linnaeus Museum. 34 ❈   .

of course. in a churchyard. as Linnaeus. one must guard against tarring present-day taxonomists with the same neurotic brush. all ages. at certainly existed and there would indeed be justification for pursuing a more psychological line of interpretation.   ❈ 35 .problem—that of reconciling a good and omnipotent deity with the presence of imperfections and evil in Creation—is not original. Linnaeus was a disciple of Bacon and wanted to be a Newton of the life sciences—Newton whom. which was well on its way toward integrating every corner of Europe. who like everything else is included in the cycle of Nature. who also entertained grandiose but impossible plans for covering the whole of Nature. is sincerely felt and redolent of blood and pain.) But there is also a “big-Swedish” megalomania. muses lightheartedly on a serious subject: “When I dig the soil of churchyards. father and son. otherwise. (If so. e following excerpt comes from the Västergötland Journey. he barely comprehended. from this I get cabbage heads instead of human heads. I take the parts which have constituted and been transformed by human beings into human beings. and in so doing we prosper. rooted in the Rudbecks. if I take them to my kitchen garden and put plants in them. a patriotic thought that everything great and remarkable should emanate from the ancient Scandinavians. Above all we should note the fruitful inspiration of modern science. conclusively. us we come to eat up our dead. instead of being Rococo and superficial. It also incorporates man. but if I boil these /cabbage/heads and give them to people. full scale and in great detail.” One can of course attempt to attribute Linnaeus’ infatuation with order to some inner unease. they are transformed once again into people’s heads or to other parts etc. It all sounds like a Gothic dream. but Linnaeus’ solution. but the remarkable thing is how very nearly it came true.

he would have created for himself a comprehensive view of Creation. the number of species on Earth was estimated at one million. plant and animal species. from the  folio pages of the first () to the . while nowadays there is talk of some  to  36 ❈   . All over the world. e Linnaean project was outstandingly successful. And so the various editions of his Systema naturae grew in number and bulk. to take part in it. mineral. including something like . Linnaeus. Innumerable people were induced. 1749. and still are. ca. clearly believed that fairly soon. The Latin names are believed to have been added by Linnaeus himself. research is working on it. Already by the end of the th century. pages of the twelfth (– ). and at all events during his lifetime. His diligence was enormous and a growing network of contacts left him no rest. Classifying and naming such an immense number was a remarkable achievement. dubbed “the second Adam” by one of his colleagues. but of course it was only the beginning of what can never be finished. But in one sense it was a fiasco. namely because it cannot be brought to a conclusion.Carl Gustaf Ekeberg’s zoological wall charts with notes.

have doubted the possibility of completing his task. Confronted by the bottomless wealth of Nature. and these places were an important research field for some of them. which unberg visited with the Dutch East India Company. He was capable of inspiring his pupils to great deeds. sometime or other. unberg overcame the difficulties. rough patience and cunning. in the direction of the East Indies and China. he must have felt not only enthusiasm but also exhaustion. including Anders Sparrman and Carl Peter unberg. Benefactors included the King and Queen (Adolf Fredrik and Lovisa Ulrika) and the Swedish East India Company. sacrificing their lives for science and its master. thereby becoming the pioneer of modern research into the Japanese flora. who were sent forth on voyages of exploration. Linnaeus’ charisma was especially bestowed upon an inner circle. their movements were severely constricted. Once in China. was hounded back to his ship from innocent botanical excursions by Chinese boys throwing stones. Pehr Osbeck. Instead it was Johan Peter Falck who travelled eastward. a project creator and organiser with excellent contacts in the community at large. perhaps more. KNOWN AS THE APOSTLES million. for example. ey travelled in all directions: one large group voyaged eastward. untold numbers of which will never come to be described. The Apostles LINNÆUS WAS A MODERN PROFESSOR. often for considerable periods. Many of them actually suffered martyrdom in the field. Linnaeus was planning to dispatch Pehr Kalm to China overland through Russia.LINNÆUS’ CHARISMA WAS ESPECIALLY BESTOWED UPON AN INNER CIRCLE. His findings proved among other things to be of ethnographic   ❈ 37 . or at least of doing so personally. but nothing came of this. Similar conditions prevailed in Japan. Linnaeus must. known as the Apostles. To cover the interior of Asia. and he knew the right strings to pull when money was needed. On their way they stopped off in Spain and at the Cape.

b. c b a c Kerguelen S O U T H E R N Riiser Larsen Peninsula O C E A N Antarctic Circle A N T ARC T I CA 38 ❈   .Spitsbergen Greenland A R C T I C O C E A N Arctic Circle Iceland Adler Afzelius Berlin Falck Forsskål Hasselquist Kalm Löfling Martin Osbeck Rolander Rothman Solander Sparrman Thunberg Torén Tärnström Falck AS I A NO R TH A MER ICA N O R TH AME RI C A A T L A N T I C O C E A N EU R O PE Black Sea Hasselquist Caspian Sea Japan Tropic of Cancer Hawaii Arabia Löfling Berlin AFRICA Forsskål India Tärnström Ceylon Sumatra Borneo Adler Java Formosa P A C I F I C New Guinea Timor New Hebrides Fiji O C E A N Equator Marquesas Islands S OU TH A M E RI C A Madagascar Tahiti SO UTH A MER ICA Tropic of Capricorn AU S T RALIA A T L A N T I C O C E A N South Georgia Cape Horn Cape of Good Hope New Caledonia Tonga Easter Island I N D I A N O C E A N New Zealand a.

ey supported both by Linnaeus and by the Uppsala were also of importance for the future. suf. and when. died of malaria. Many of them did pioneering scientific fieldwork. Linnaeus’ “favourite pupil”. one of the really interest. e unfortunate Falck took his own life in Kazan. died in Venezuela after successful icance of their journeys was symbolic. there was a place on their leader. But perhaps the main signifPehr Löfling. HMS Beagle set out on its where he and the other members.   ❈ 39 . e travellers sent home descriptions of plants and animals. except for voyage round the world. e results of these enormous efforts may seem relatively limited. e travel descriptions. joined a Danish expedition to Arabia.OPPOSI TE PAGE Linnaeus sent his ’apostles’ around the world on perilous voyages of discovery. Fredrik Hasselquist. calling on Benjamin Franklin and visiting Niagara.and Daniel Solander circumnavigated the ing disciples and of dissident political persuaglobe with James Cook. in the faculty of theology. some of them failed to return. Peter Forsskål. Often the travelled to South America. of which he penned the first scientific description. Linnaeus’ pupils Anders Sparrman Ulrika. surface of things. as a scibotanical researches there. several of them Anton Martin travelled to the Arctic Ocean. interest. returning in a state explorers did little more than scratch at the of mental confusion. entific adventure and form of sacrifice. Carsten Niebuhr. Lovisa and sea. fered frostbite in his legs and spent the rest of his even though they consist mainly of descripdays in a miserable condition. ever useful Kalm went on the long voyage to North America. Daniel Rolander tions of species for the initiated. evidently sold well. wrote in wonderment about the life of strange peoples and the magnificence of the natural scene. just over sions. board for the young Charles Darwin.published by Linnaeus. while the benign. half a century later. after which his collections were selves of a place on the great voyages by land purchased by the Queen of Sweden. went to the Holy Land but sense of scientists thus having assured themdied in Smyrna.

and in other things besides. is typical of this Linnaean th century. achieved remarkable success. to which a colleague of Linnaeus wished to add a fourth. for example. 40 ❈ namely “the aquatic kingdom”. not only in Sweden but in the whole of the western world. while other writers classified books or economy in Linnaean fashion. but clearly it fills an important gap. based on his collections. During his lifetime he was elected to membership of most existing academies. the urge to trap reality in a comprehensive net. Linnaeus. Natural history had closed the lead which physics had gained in the scientific revolution of the th century. Linnaeus himself went to a great deal of trouble to classify diseases in his nosology* (Genera morborum. e. * e classification of diseases. e classification of human races. the boundaries of which had yet to be defined by historical research. that sorrowful amateur botanist. Sara Lisa. ). for women. one can speak of a “Linnaeanism” of the time.g. which had been sold to England by his widow. In all this. Jeremy Bentham accorded much the same treatment to the virtues.   . L’esprit de système. His concentration on collecting and classifying may sometimes appear quirky. e passion for system extended beyond the three realms of natural history. To this end. as well as popular presentations. also begins with Systema naturae. then. wrote his Lettres sur la botanique according to Linnaean method. an activity which in time was frequently to produce questionable results. After his death the Linnean Society of London was founded. and it did so very much by continuing with a kind of Baroque rationalism and systembuilding.Linnaeus left his personal imprint on a great deal of th century science. Rousseau. increasingly specialised manuals and journals came into being.

  ❈ 41 .

And so. against their own kinsmen. For various reasons beyond the scope of this essay. Carl. Nature’s interpreter was not the happiest of men. With his Systema naturae he gave research an overriding task. the ageing Linnaeus collected examples of the darkness of human life. Linnaeus was internationally viable. against God and against Nature. for his own use and for the edification of his rather unruly son. And in Sweden. a theologia experimentalis. as we have already seen. adversaries and those who envied him. His only son. over all the injustices committed by other people. He was needed. Linnaeus created a kind of Linnaean which is not spoken but is still being written. Was Linnaeus a satisfied man? What joy did he have of his success? Laudatur et alget—he is renowned but feels cold—was Linnaeus’ motto. not least by virtue of the language reform he had introduced. a project. succeeded him but lived for only a few more years after his father’s death in . which was to flourish soon after the Revolution of .Soon afterwards came the foundation of the Société Linnéenne in Paris. which he called Nemesis divina. he created a special way of travelling and of experiencing nature. after which he admired his own writings but could not understand that he himself was the author of them. 42 ❈   . His miraculous memory was obliterated by a stroke.

g. e sexual system is not now accepted as a classification corresponding to the actual relationships between plants. Digynia (with  styles or pistils). us Linnaeus’ genus designations are not always the same as those we use now.. but at the time it represented a method of definition and classification far surpassing anything previously known. e designations of the orders are similar from class to class. Monogynia (with  style).The sexual system and the binary nomenclature Linnaeus first published his sexual system in  in the Systema naturae. Linnaeus was aware of the theoretical weaknesses and artificial character of the sexual system. from No. II Diandria. to Polygynia (with a great number of styles or pistils). e number of the class is written in Roman numerals. e orders are divided into genera. and it has therefore been abandoned. Linnaea borealis. e classes are divided into orders according to the number of styles or pistils in the flowers. Betula nana. although others have been subdivided or recombined since Linnaeus’ day. Class XXIV represents the cryptogamia. e genera are divided into species. It is exemplified in the garden by the ferns. but quite justifiably he remained convinced of its practical usefulness until the end of his life. many of which agree with those we recognise today (Linnaea. which was based to a great extent on material from his garden. later applying it to every then known species in the Species plantarum (first edition ). e number of the order is written in Arabic numerals. Linnaeus’ species classifications have by and large survived. Betula). with “concealed” sexual organs. although for various reasons many of their names have had to be changed. etc. which have double names (the system of binary nomenclature which Linnaeus introduced) e. e sexual system first divides the plant kingdom into  classes according to the number of stamens (I Monandria. Georg Dionys Ehret’s original illustration of Linnaeus’ sexual system from 1736. according to the arrangement of the stamens or sex distribution between the flowers. etc) or.   ❈ 43 . XII onwards.

21 and 32 © Edvard Koinberg pages 4 and 6 © Johnér page 7 © Riddarhuset page 11 photo: Carina Glanshagen © Älmhults kommun pages 13 and 36 © Centre for the history of science. Netherlands. TioFoto page 43 © photo: Uppsala University Library . Småland  Studies in Lund  Studies in Uppsala  Travels to Lapland  Travels in Dalarna – Travels to Denmark.Chronology in brief  Born at Råshult. Uppsala Öland and Gotland Journeys  Secretary of the Uppsala Scientific Society  Flora Suecica  Västergötland Journey Fauna Suecica  Skåne Journey  Philosophia botanica  Species plantarum  Ennobled  Buys Hammarby. Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences page 15 © Olle Norling. © Växjö City Library page 31 © Teddy Thörnlund and the Linnaeus Museum page 34 © Anders Damberg and the Linnaeus Museum page 38 © Stig Söderlind page 41 © Helena Bergengren. Harderwijk page 17 © Åbo Academy’s picture collection pages 18 and 19 © Tiofoto page 25 © Nationalmuseum pages 26 and 30 © Sören Hallgren and the Linnaeus Museum page 28 photo: Lund University Library. Uppsala University art collection pages 2. near Uppsala Tenth edition of Systema naturae – Linnaeus’ last edition of Systema naturae  Dies in Uppsala  Death of Carl Linnaeus the Younger  Linnaean collections sold in England Picture credits Cover photo and page 8 photo © Teddy Thörnlund. Germany. Netherlands First edition of Systema naturae  Fundamenta botanica  Flora Laponica  Medical practice in Stockholm Founder member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and its first President Marries Sara Lisa Moraea  Professor of Medicine. Upplandsmuseet page 16 © Milieucentrum de Hortus. 20. England and France  Takes his doctorate of medicine at Harderwijk.

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while to others he is the father of the modern classification of flora and fauna. For example. look on him primarily as a traveller and explorer of their own country. however.CARL LINNÆUS (1707–1778) is Sweden’s most famous natural scientist. In a way he is also a part of Swedish everyday life today. is not confined to the international history of science. perhaps. as the author of living classics which people still read. He set out to list and order the whole of Creation. His importance. 2007 is the 300th anniversary of the birth of this great scientist whose legacy lives on into our own age. he was an inspiring teacher who sent his students off on extraordinary voyages of scientific discovery all around the world. . The Swedes. But he was much more than this.

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