Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

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If he turned to such advantage the observations which he had made in a region but scantily supplied with the forms of animal and vegetable life, how much more profitable, it may be thought, would it have been for himself and for the world, had it been his lot to travel in some equinoctial country, teeming with the wonders of creation! Yet, perhaps the multiplicity of objects which would have forced themselves upon his notice in that richer scene, in an age when natural history was only beginning to emerge from its pristine chaos, would have bewildered the most comprehensive mind; whereas the less abundant stores of Lapland and Sweden presented themselves to him in such a way as to afford time to examine each individually, and to note the common and distinctive characters. It seems indeed more than probable, that if he had been a native of one of the warmer regions of the globe, he would not have attained such distinguished merit as a reformer of science.[Pg 218]


Studies, Adventures, and Travels of Linnæus, from 1733 to 1738.

Linnæus returns to Upsal—Is prevented from lecturing by Rosen, whom he attempts to assassinate—Accompanies some young Men on an Excursion to Fahlun, where he is introduced to the Governor of the Province, with whose Sons he travels to Norway—Returning to Fahlun, he delivers Lectures, falls in Love, is furnished with Money by his Mistress, and prepares to go Abroad for his Degree—He visits Hamburg, detects an Imposture there, and is obliged to make his Escape—Obtains his Degree at Harderwyk—Proceeds to Leyden, where he publishes his Systema Naturæ, and waits upon Boerhaave—Goes to Amsterdam, is kindly received by Burmann, and lodges with him—Is employed by Cliffort, publishes various Botanical Works—Goes to England, visits Sir Hans Sloane, Miller, and Dillenius—Returns to Holland, publishes several Works—Goes to Leyden, and resides with Van Royen—Publishes the Ichthyologia of Artedi, who was drowned in Amsterdam—Becomes melancholy, and falls into a violent Fever—On his Recovery goes to Paris, where he is kindly received by the Jussieus—Returns to Sweden after an Absence of Three Years and a Half.

On returning to Upsal, Linnæus was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences; but this distinction was the only reward which he obtained for having undergone so many fatigues, excepting a small bursary, of which he was soon deprived. Now, however, he expected a more favourable reception in society, and in 1733 began to give public lectures on botany, chemistry, and mineralogy. Unfortunately for his success, he had not yet taken his degree,—a circumstance which legally disqualified[Pg 219] him for such an office; and a rival, Dr Nicholas Rosen, professor of anatomy, instigated, it would appear, by motives of envy, denounced him to the senate of the university. He was summoned to appear before that august body; and, although several of its members were disposed to favour him, he was prohibited from continuing his course.

Fortune then seemed bent upon thwarting him in all his projects. Stimulated by revenge, he laid wait for Rosen, and, assailing him with the utmost fury, attempted to run him through with his sword, when the bystanders interfering, wrested the weapon from his hand. For this offence he would have been expelled, had not Celsius interposed, and got him off with no other punishment than a reprimand. Men of quick tempers seldom cherish hatred; but Linnæus was of a peculiar disposition,—ambitious, confident of superiority, irritable, and obstinate. Moreover, he was in desperate circumstances, utterly destitute of all means of subsistence, and the world seemed to have conspired against him. He was still determined to stab his enemy to the heart, should he ever meet him in the streets. The conflict of his mind, under such excitement, must have been truly painful. He awoke one night from a dream of horror, seriously considered what he was about, and resolved, instead of assassinating Rosen, to expel the demon from his own breast.

An assistant-professorship being vacant in the University of Lund, he endeavoured to procure it, but, although his claims were supported by Stobæus and others, was unsuccessful. Prohibited from lecturing, he was only prevented from falling into despair by the consciousness of superior intellect, by[Pg 220] cherishing a plan of botanical reform, and by still fixing his eyes on the prospect, however distant, of future independence. In the mean time, some of his former pupils, resolving to make an excursion to Norberg, Bipsberg, Afwestadt, Garpesberg, and Fahlun, solicited the benefit of his knowledge and experience in conducting their researches.

At the last-named town, where he occupied himself assiduously in exploring the mines, he was introduced to Baron Reuterholm, governor of the province of Dalecarlia, who was fond of natural history, and especially of mineralogy. Having two sons whom he was desirous of sending upon a journey, for the purpose of improving themselves in that department of science, he resolved to place them under the guidance of Linnæus. They set out in the spring of 1734, and extended their travels as far as the mines of Roraas in Norway.

Returning to Fahlun, he commenced lecturing on mineralogy, under the patronage of the governor, and found himself in all respects more comfortably situated than he had ever been at Upsal. He also obtained some employment in the medical line, and contracted an intimacy with John Browall, the tutor of the baron's children, who afterwards became bishop of Abo. Although he was now in comparatively easy circumstances, his friend advised him to procure a degree, and settle as a regular practitioner. This, however, being impracticable, on account of his want of funds, he turned his thoughts to matrimony, in the hope of being able to accomplish a suitable establishment.

There was a physician at Fahlun named More, or Moræus, who was reputed rich, and in fact was[Pg 221] one of the wealthiest individuals in the district. He had two daughters, of whom the elder, Sarah Elizabeth, was in all respects to the mind of Linnæus, who became a frequent visitor, and soon ingratiated himself with the family. Finding that the object of his choice was not less pleased with his person and manners, he determined to ask her in marriage; and, summoning all his resolution, made known his views to her father, who, although he had no objection to the character of the suitor, was little satisfied either with his fortune or his prospects. However, he promised that, should he succeed in obtaining his diploma, the young lady should be consigned to him after a period of three years.

It was customary at this time for Swedish students to take their degree at some foreign university, where it could be procured at the least expense. Hitherto Linnæus had been unable to qualify himself in this respect for the practice of his profession; but love now came to the aid of ambition. Miss Moræus, who was thrifty as well as handsome, had saved about 100 dollars of the pocket-money which she had received at various times, and offered them to her lover. To this sum he succeeded in adding a little by his own exertions, though the whole did not amount to more than thirty-six Swedish ducats.

After visiting his friends, weeping over the grave of his mother, who had died some months before, preparing his academical dissertations, and arranging his papers, he set out from Fahlun, in April 1735, accompanied by a young man named Sholberg. Travelling through the southern provinces of Sweden, Jutland, and Holstein, he arrived at Hamburg, where he remained for some time, inspecting[Pg 222] the collections and curiosities which that celebrated city contained. In the museum of John von Spreckelsen was a preparation of great value, presenting the appearance of a serpent with seven heads. It had even been pledged for a loan of 10,000 merks, and was in fact considered one of the most remarkable objects in the cabinets of the curious. Linnæus, however, on minutely inspecting the monster, discovered that the heads consisted of the jaws of a small quadruped covered over with the skin of a serpent. The wonder ceased, Spreckelsen nearly became bankrupt, and the stranger was obliged to leave Hamburg in order to avoid the enmities in which his sagacity had involved him.

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