Carl Linnaeus


Carl Linnaeus : biography

23 May 1707 – 10 January 1778


In 1734, Linnaeus led a small group of students to Dalarna. Funded by the Governor of Dalarna, the expedition was to catalogue known natural resources and discover new ones, but also to gather intelligence on Norwegian mining activities at Røros.

European excursions


Back in Uppsala, Linnaeus’ relations with Nils Rosén worsened, and thus he gladly accepted an invitation from the student Claes Sohlberg to spend the Christmas holiday in Falun with Sohlberg’s family. Sohlberg’s father was a mining inspector, and let Linnaeus visit the mines near Falun.Blunt (2001), p. 74. Sohland’s father suggested to Linnaeus he should bring Sohlberg to the Dutch Republic and continue to tutor him there for an annual salary. At that time, the Dutch Republic was one of the most revered places to study natural history and a common place for Swedes to take their doctoral degree; Linnaeus, who was interested in both of these, accepted.Blunt (2001), pp. 78–79.

In April 1735, Linnaeus and Sohlberg set out for the Netherlands, with Linnaeus to take a doctoral degree in medicine at the University of Harderwijk.Stöver (1974), p. 71. On the way, they stopped in Hamburg, where they met the mayor, who proudly showed them a wonder of nature which he possessed: the taxidermied remains of a seven-headed hydra. Linnaeus quickly discovered it was a fake: jaws and clawed feet from weasels and skins from snakes had been glued together. The provenance of the hydra suggested to Linnaeus it had been manufactured by monks to represent the Beast of Revelation. As much as this may have upset the mayor, Linnaeus made his observations public and the mayor’s dreams of selling the hydra for an enormous sum were ruined. Fearing his wrath, Linnaeus and Sohlberg had to leave Hamburg quickly.Anderson (1997), pp. 60–61.Blunt (2004), p. 90.

When Linnaeus returned to Sweden on 28 June 1738, he went to Falun, where he entered into an engagement to Sara Elisabeth Moræa. Three months later, he moved to Stockholm to find employment as a physician, and thus to make it possible to support a family.Stöver (1974), p. 141. Once again, Linnaeus found a patron; he became acquainted with Count Carl Gustav Tessin, who helped him get work as a physician at the Admiralty.Stöver (1974), pp. 146–147.Koerner (1999), p. 16. During this time in Stockholm, Linnaeus helped found the Royal Swedish Academy of Science; he became the first Praeses in the academy by drawing of lots.Koerner (1999), pp. 103–105.

Because his finances had improved and were now sufficient to support a family, he received permission to marry his fiancée, Sara Elisabeth Moræa. Their wedding was held 26 June 1739. Seven months later, Sara gave birth to their first son, Carl. Two years later, a daughter, Elisabeth Christina, was born, and the subsequent year Sara gave birth to Sara Magdalena, who died 15 days old. Sara and Linnaeus would later have four other children: Lovisa, Sara Christina, Johannes and Sophia.Stöver (1974), p. 382.

In May 1741, Linnaeus was appointed Professor of Medicine at Uppsala University, first with responsibility for medicine-related matters. Soon, he changed place with the other Professor of Medicine, Nils Rosén, and thus was responsible for the Botanical Garden (which he would thoroughly reconstruct and expand), botany and natural history, instead. In October that same year, his wife and nine-year-old son followed him to live in Uppsala.Gribbin & Gribbin (2008), pp. 49–50.

Further exploration of Sweden

Öland and Gotland

Ten days after he was appointed Professor, he undertook an expedition to the island provinces of Öland and Gotland with six students from the university, to look for plants useful in medicine. First, they travelled to Öland and stayed there until 21 June, when they sailed to Visby in Gotland. Linnaeus and the students stayed on Gotland for about a month, and then returned to Uppsala. During this expedition, they found 100 previously unrecorded plants. The observations from the expedition were later published in ‘, written in Swedish. Like ‘, it contained both zoological and botanical observations, as well as observations concerning the culture in Öland and Gotland.Koerner (1999), p. 115.Blunt (2004), pp. 137–142.