Carl Peter Thunberg bigraphy, stories - Swedish naturalist

Carl Peter Thunberg : biography

11 November 1743 - 8 August 1828

Carl Peter Thunberg, also known as Carl Pehr Thunberg or Carl Per Thunberg (11 November 1743 – 8 August 1828), was a Swedish naturalist and an apostle of Carl Linnaeus. He has been called "the father of South African botany" and the "Japanese Linnaeus".

Early life

Thunberg was born in Jönköping, and became a pupil of Carolus Linnaeus at Uppsala University. There he studied natural philosophy and medicine, and took his degree in 1767. In 1770, he left Sweden for Paris, to continue his studies in medicine and natural history.

In 1771, during a stay in Amsterdam and Leiden, he studied their botanical gardens and musea. He was commissioned by Johannes Burman and his son Nicolaas to visit the Dutch colonies and Japan to collect specimens for Dutch botanical gardens. He left in December 1771, as the ship's surgeon in the Dutch East India Company. After his arrival at Cape Town, Cape Colony, he stayed there for three years in order to learn the Dutch language and to be able to pass himself off as a Dutchman, as Japan at that time was only open to Protestant Dutch merchants. In September 1772, in the company of Johan Andreas Auge, the superintendent of the Company garden, he set out north to Saldanha Bay, east along the Breede Valley through the Langkloof as far as the Gamtoos River and returning by way of the Little Karoo. Shortly after returning he met Francis Masson, a Scots gardener come to the Cape to collect plants for the Royal Gardens at Kew. They were immediately drawn together by their shared interests. On one of their trips they were joined by Robert Jacob Gordon, on leave from his regiment in the Netherlands. During his three expeditions in the interior, Thunberg collected a significant number of specimens of both flora and fauna. He also became a doctor of medicine.

Thunberg then sailed to Java in March 1775. He stayed in Batavia for two months.

Thunbergia, thunbergii

A genus of tropical plants (Thunbergia, family Acanthaceae), which are cultivated as evergreen climbers, is named after him.

Thunberg is cited in naming some 254 species of both plants and animals (though significantly more plants than animals). Notable examples of plants referencing Thunberg in their specific epithets include:-

  • Amaranthus thunbergii      
  • Berberis thunbergii
  • Geranium thunbergii
  • Lespedeza thunbergii      
  • Pinus thunbergii
  • Spiraea thunbergii

Selected publications

  • Flora Japonica (1784)
  • Edo travel accompaniment.
  • Prodromus Plantarum Capensium (Uppsala, vol. 1: 1794, vol. 2: 1800) Prodromus Plantarum Capensium at Biodiversity Heritage Library. (see External links below).
  • Flora Capensis (1807, 1811, 1813, 1818, 1820, 1823)
  • Voyages de C.P. Thunberg au Japon par le Cap de Bonne-Espérance, les Isles de la Sonde, etc.
  • Icones plantarum japonicarum (1805)
  • Donationis Thunbergianae 1785 continuatio I. Museum naturalium Academiae Upsaliensis, pars III, 33–42 pp. (1787).
  • Dissertatio Entomologica Novas Insectorum species sistens, cujus partem quintam. Publico examini subjicit Johannes Olai Noraeus, Uplandus. Upsaliae, pp. 85–106, pl. 5. (1789).
  • D. D. Dissertatio entomologica sistens Insecta Suecica. Exam. Jonas Kullberg. Upsaliae, pp. 99–104 (1794).


Image:Flora Japonica.cropped.jpg|Flora Japonica Image:Prodromus Plantarum.rendered.jpg|Prodromus Plantarum


In August 1775, he arrived at the Dutch factory of the V.O.C. (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) at Dejima, a small artificial island (120 m by 75 m) in the Bay of Nagasaki, connected to the city by a single small bridge. He was appointed head surgeon (1775–1776) of this trading-post. But, like the Dutch, he was hardly allowed to leave the island. Nevertheless, he was one of the few to be allowed to conduct some botanical research ashore.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine