Linnaeus in Sámi dress, portrait by Martin Hoffman, 1737.
The portrait hangs in the Linnaeus Museum in Uppsala. Photo: Sören
With his boots on
Linnaeus carried out much of his research “with his boots
on”. It was preferable, he felt, to study nature in the
field. This conviction and his scientific curiosity led Linnaeus
to visit several Swedish provinces with the purpose of finding
natural resources that could be developed economically. However,
Linnaeus observed more than just flora, fauna and minerals. He
studied the climate, people’s day-to-day lives, handicraft
and implements among other things. His first expedition was to
Lapland in 1732. With the support of different patrons, Linnaeus
subsequently undertook expeditions to Dalarna (1734), Öland
and Gotland (1741), Västergötland (1746) and Skåne
A new scientific language
Linnaeus collected all his impressions, conclusions and scientific
findings in his accounts of his travels, which were then published.
Linnaeus had an unusually good writing style, using language that
was far from commonplace in the scientific community of the day.
It was earthy and rich when he described the settings and people
he encountered, while maintaining scientific precision. Linnaeus
writes in a simple yet descriptive way, allowing the reader to
Sometimes ha becomes almost poetic, as in the lines: "Night
crept up, deep and dark. The tall conifers appeared as a wall,
twice the height in the darkness, sheet lightning, often soundless,
briefly flashing like phantom fire; horses reared and sent sparks
flying with their shoes on the stones, owls hooted like ghosts
and the European Nightjar trembled like a shingle mill."
Reading Linnaeus’ writings today gives us a picture of the Sweden of his time, as well as of the man Carl Linnaeus – and a of good stylist, later appreciated by August Strindberg, among others.
His life and work
Traveller and writer
and the sexual system
Re-constructed picture of Linnaeus’ expedition to Skåne.
From tercentenary celebrations in Helsingborg. Photo: Ebbe Fogelfors