Linnaeus’ tea set, adorned with loops of the flower that
bears his name – Linnaea Borealis. Photo: Teddy Thörnlund.
At home with
the Linnaeus family
The house was built in 1693 as the home of the director of the
botanical garden. The architect was the university’s great
reformist, professor of medicine, Olof Rudbeck the Elder. When
Linnaeus moved in, the house had been empty for a number of years,
and was, according to Linnaeus, “more like a robbers’
den and an owl’s nest” than a professor’s residence.
The house was renovated for Linnaeus’ and his family, and
in 1743 they could move in.
Opposite the dwelling, on the other side of the front yard, there
stood farm buildings including a henhouse, brewing house, servants’
quarters and a coach house. A fence separated the more private
sphere from the botanical garden, where there was always a good
deal of hustle and bustle. Linnaeus gave practical lessons in
the garden, where master gardener Nietzel worked with a large
number of assistant gardeners. The garden was not limited to exotic
plants: there were also exotic animals. In the garden’s
vivarium (as it was called) there were hamsters, several species
of ape, parrots, raccoons, and for a short while a small agouti
(a relative of the guinea pig) from South America, over which
both Linnaeus and his wife shed tears when it died.
to have had a warm affection for his animals, and he observed
and described them with great perspicacity. There were animals
in the house too, including a cockatoo which learned to imitate
Linnaeus’ voice, to the confusion of visitors. Linnaeus
also had a dog, but perhaps the best-known story is about the
raccoon, which shamelessly reached into visitors’ pockets in search of
titbits, stole food from the kitchen, and was frequently chased
out by Linnaeus’ wife and the servants.
The house in which Linnaeus lived looks fairly large with its
three storeys and many rooms, but when one considers how much
activity went on there at the same time, it appears fairly cramped
by today’s standards. The large room on the upper floor
was Linnaeus’ private lecture room. It was visited by students
with a particular interest in the subject. In the adjoining rooms,
Linnaeus had a library, a study and his collections, from which
he could quickly fetch any natural object he wished to display.
Linnaeus’ lectures were popular, and occasionally the attendance
was so great that there was a queue on the stairs.
The couple’s children who grew up in the house were four
daughters and one son. Linnaeus and his wife Sara-Lisa had another
two children who died when they were small. Linnaeus had a special
relationship with his youngest daughter, Sophia. When she was
born she was not breathing, but Linnaeus managed to help her with
artificial respiration. The son, Carl Linnaeus the Younger, took
over his father’s professorship but died as early as 1783
of pneumonia. The following incumbent was Carl Peter Thunberg,
who lived in the house for a few years. The entire botanical garden
was eventually moved to its present site below the castle, as
well the director of the garden and the plants. The house then
became the official residence the University’s director
musices, and so remained until 1934, when the composer Hugo Alfvén
retired. The Swedish Linnaeus Society then took over management
of this building, which has so many stories to tell.
More about the museum
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