Cuckoo's ingratitude. Johann Siegesbeck

In December of 1741 the position of the director of “Pharmaceutical garden” was officially established. The garden was located on the island of Saint Petersburg of the same name, later it was developed and called imperial botanical garden.

The new-appointed director did a lot in order to improve the state of the trusted institution. He bought seeds and cuttings of new exotic plants from anywhere he could get them. He spent almost all the time on the island, cultivating as many new specimens as he could. As time passed, Lestocq hinted Johann Siegesbeck:

  • It’s high time for you, Johann, to write an academic book. You should understand that they don’t give academic degrees for no special reason.
  • But what can I write?
  • The work is expected not only to be fundamental but also helpful in bringing something new in the scientific field.
  • I just don’t understand, - muttered academician, - what new ideas I can bring in with my work..
  • Why don’t you try criticizing the work of that Swedish, Carl Linnaeus, - suggested Lestocq. – the work will get fame.

Following the advice, the academician fulfilled the idea and wrote a book. To be honest, judging by the words of contemporaries, the scientist was known to be a persisted person in cultivating plants, but not a talented scientist at all. However, the work with the pompous title “Botanosofia” was finished by Siegesbeck. He even managed to refute Carl Linnaeus ‘s conclusions that plants had sexual differences with great aplomb. In order to prove his point of view, the scientist didn’t apply for any scientific facts but used a very simple argument, declaring that God would never ever let the immoral sexual division exist in the world of plants. He also mentioned that it was unacceptable to teach young and immature men and women such a chasteless and vicious theory, as Linnaeus’s theory was.

It should be mentioned that having read the work of the academician, Linnaeus, who supposed the latter to be a colleague holding the same views, seriously got offended. And the offence developed into real revenge, that was performed in quite an original manner. A few weeks after the publication, the Swedish scientist sent to Saint Petersburg a parcel with carefully packed seeds. He wrote in the covering letter, which was addressed to Johann Siegesbeck, that he sent seeds of a new very rare kind of plant “Cuculus ingratus” never seen by anybody else. “Cuculus ingratus” can be translated from Latin as “ungrateful cuckoo”.

Naturally, Johann Siegesbeck hurried to grow the plant at the best place of his botanical garden and started to wait for the first sprouts. Imagination showed the gardener an absolutely extraordinary plant with splendid flowers. Pretty soon the first sprouts came out, but the more the plant grew, the clearer the scientist realized that the plant occupying his garden was pure and simple “Siegesbekia orientalis”, which washad been called by Carl Linnaeus in the honor of Johann Siegesbeck before..