Carl Linnaeus

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Carl Linnaeus : biography

23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778

Linnaean collections

At the end of his lifetime the Linnean collection in Uppsala was considered as one of the finest collections of natural history objects in Sweden. Next to his own collection he had also built up a museum for the university of Uppsala, which was supplied by material donated by Carl Gyllenborg (in 1744-1745), crown-prince Adolf Fredrik (in 1745), Erik Petreus (in 1746), Claes Grill (in 1746), Magnus Lagerström (in 1748 and 1750) and Jonas Alströmer (in 1749). The relation between the museum and the private collection was not formalized and the steady flow of material from Linnean pupils were incorporated to the private collection rather than to the museum. Catalogue of type specimens. 4. Linnaean specimens. – pp. [1], 1-128. Uppsala. (Uppsala University, Museum of Evolution, Zoology Section).

In April 1766 parts of the town were destroyed by a fire and the Linnean private collection was subsequently moved to a barn outside the town, and shortly afterwards to a single-room stone building close to his countryhouse at Hammarby near Uppsala. This resulted in a physical separation between the two collections, the museum collection remained in the botanical garden of the university. Some material which needed special care (alcohol specimens) or ample storage space was moved from the private collection to the museum.

In Hammarby the Linnean private collections suffered seriously from damp and the depredations by mice and insects. Carl von Linné’s son (Carl Linnaeus) inherited the collections in 1778 and retained them until his own death in 1783. Shortly after Carl von Linné’s death his son confirmed that mice had caused "horrible damage" to the plants and that also moths and mould had caused considerable damage.Dance, S.P. 1967. Report on the Linnaean shell collection. – Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 178 (1): 1-24, Pl. 1-10. He tried to rescue them from the neglect they had suffered during his father’s later years, and also added further specimens. This last activity however reduced rather than augmented the scientific value of the original material.

In 1784 the botanist James Edward Smith purchased from the inheritants (the widow and daughter of Carl Linnaeus) nearly all of the Linnean private scientific effects and transferred them to London.Jackson, B. D. 1923. Linnaeus (afterwards Carl von Linné), the story of his life. Adapted from the Swedish of Theodor Magnus Fries. – pp. I-XV [= 1-15], 1-416. London. (Witherby). Not all material in Linné’s private collection was transported to England. 33 fish specimens preserved in alcohol were not sent away and were later lost.

In London Smith tended to neglect the zoological parts of the collection, he added some specimens and also gave some specimens away.Examples are evident in the "A catalogue of the Portland Museum, lately the property of the Duchess Dowager of Portland, deceased: Which will be sold by auction by Mr. Skinner and Co. On Monday the 24th of April, 1786, and the thirty-seven following days (…) at her late dwelling-house, in Privy-Garden, Whitehall, by order of the Acting Executrix." – pp. i-viii [= 1-8], 3-194, pl. [1]. [London]. (Skinner). Over the following centuries the Linnean collection in London suffered enormously at the hands of scientists who studied the collection, and in the process disturbed the original arrangement and labels, added specimens that did not belong to the original series and withdrew precious original type material.

Much material which had been intensively studied by Linné in his scientific career belonged to the collection of Queen Lovisa Ulrika (1720-1782) (in the Linnean publications referred to as "Museum Ludovicae Ulricae" or "M. L. U."). This collection was donated by his grandson King Gustav IV Adolf (1778-1837) to the museum in Uppsala in 1804. Another important collection in this respect was that of her husband King Adolf Fredrik (1710-1771) (in the Linnean sources known as "Museum Adolphi Friderici" or "Mus. Ad. Fr."), the wet parts (alcohol collection) of which were later donated to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and is today housed in the Swedish Museum of Natural History at Stockholm. The dry material was transferred to Uppsala.