Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

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The affair was brought before the Diet in 1741, when it was decided that Linnæus should be preferred to the vacant place. War having broken out between Sweden and Russia, he was apprehensive of being obliged to officiate as physician to the fleet; and finding that the government had resolved upon sending persons to explore the least-known parts of the Swedish provinces, for the purpose of promoting domestic manufactures, he made application for this office also, which was granted to him. Accompanied by six of his friends, to each of whom was assigned a separate department, he accordingly examined the islands of Oeland and Gothland, with the view of discovering any earth that might answer for the making of porcelain, and of bringing to light such ingredients, mineral or vegetable, as might be useful in medicine, dyeing, and domestic economy. The expenses of the journey were defrayed by the Board of Manufactures. In the course of this expedition, he narrowly escaped breaking his leg while descending into an alum-pit; was nearly suffocated among the snow in the vicinity of Blakulla; and experienced great danger from a violent storm while crossing from Gothland to Upsal. Although he was unable to accomplish the chief object of his mission, he[Pg 239] made numerous observations on the antiquities of those islands, their natural productions, fisheries, and the manners of their inhabitants. The States gave him a public acknowledgment of their satisfaction, and the narrative of his tour was published four years afterwards.

On arriving at Upsal in September, he made a sincere peace with his old antagonist Rosen, proposing to him a mutual oblivion of the past. In October, he assumed his professional duty as successor to Roberg; on which occasion he delivered a discourse on the advantages of examining the interior of the country,—De Peregrinationum intra Patriam Necessitate. Towards the end of the year, Rosen and he entered into an amicable negotiation, the result of which was an interchange of offices; the former taking the chair of anatomy and physiology, and resigning to the latter that of materia medica, botany, dietetics, and natural history.

No man of eminence, in any department of science or literature, has been without enemies. Linnæus could not, therefore, expect to become an exception to the general rule. It is doubtful whether Haller manifested more kindness or enmity towards him; or it may be said that though he remained his friend, he yet took many opportunities of uttering censure. A more violent opponent appeared in Heister, professor at Helmstadt, who, imagining himself a great botanist, was offended by the pretensions of the Swedish naturalist, and stirred up one of his pupils, Dr Siegesbeck, a man of even less knowledge than his master, to fight his battle for him. The representations of this last had, for a time, considerable influence over the fortunes of Linnæus, and Heister[Pg 240] secretly rejoiced at his success; while he excited partisans every where to wage war against the sexual system. Other adversaries started up in Germany, France, and various parts of Europe. The only open antagonist whom he had in his own country was the celebrated Wallerius, the mineralogist; in order to counteract whose unfair criticisms he published a pamphlet entitled Orbis Eruditi Judicium de Car. Linnæi, M.D. Scriptis,—The Judgment of the Learned World on the Writings of Charles Linnæus, M.D. This is the only defence that he ever made of himself, and the only work which he published anonymously. It contained merely a short sketch of his life, a list of the books published by him, and testimonials and opinions of celebrated individuals respecting his merits. Whatever vexation these attacks may have given him, they had no permanent influence, and he had the happiness of triumphing over all opposition. With reference to the attacks of Siegesbeck, he thus writes from Hartecamp to Haller:—

"I have received from a friend Professor Siegesbeck's Verioris Botanosophiæ Specimen, with his Epicrisis on my writings. This author has been very hard upon me. I wish he had written these things when I was first about publishing. I might have learned when young, what I am forced to learn at a more advanced age, to abstain from writing, to observe others, and to hold my tongue. What a fool have I been, to waste so much time, to spend my days and nights in a study which yields no better fruit, and makes me the laughing-stock of all the world! His arguments are nothing; but his book is filled with exclamations, such as I never[Pg 241] before met with. Whether I answer him or keep silence, my reputation must suffer. He cannot understand argument. He denies the sexes of plants. He charges my system with indelicacy; and yet I have not written more about the polygamy of plants than Swammerdam has about bees. He laughs at my characters, and calls upon all the world to say if any body understands them. I am said to be ignorant of scientific terms. He judges me by the principles of Rivinus, and hundreds of the vilest scribblers. Inasmuch as the man humbles me, so do you, whose learning and sense have been made sufficiently evident, exalt me. It distresses me to read the commendations you are pleased to heap upon so unworthy an object. I wish there might ever be any reason to expect that I could evince my gratitude and regard for you. I hope life will be granted me, to give some proof of my not being quite unworthy."

Linnæus was now, however, in his proper element, and commenced his academical career with great ardour. The botanical garden, founded by the celebrated Olaus Rudbeck about fifty years before, was entirely destroyed by the dreadful fire which, as already mentioned, had, in 1702, converted the greater part of Upsal into a heap of ruins, and now served no more important purpose than that of pasturing a few cows. His first efforts were directed towards its renovation, which he soon succeeded in accomplishing. Count Gyllenborg, who was then chancellor of the university, was a man of considerable scientific attainments, and had a special love for botany. This circumstance, as well as his interest in the prosperity of the institution, induced him to lend a ready ear to[Pg 242] the solicitations of the professor, and to give his important aid to the undertaking. Baron Harlemann, the king's architect, furnished the plan. Hothouses were erected, walks formed, ponds dug, plots furnished with plants; in short, the garden soon assumed a most promising appearance. A house was also built for the accommodation of the teacher, who had no longer any cause to complain of the neglect of his countrymen. In the early part of this year his wife presented him with a son; so that in all respects he was a happy man.

At this point ends the more romantic portion of this illustrious individual's life. His continued struggles for subsistence, for the acquisition of knowledge, for fame, for an honourable independence, were now crowned with success. His rivals had shrunk from the contest, his calumniators had fallen into deserved obscurity, his merits had been acknowledged at home and abroad, his perseverance, his ardour, and his acuteness of observation, were duly estimated. While yet in the vigour of manhood, he had attained the honour and emolument that are often deferred to cheer only the declining years of the votary of science. On the other hand, how many individuals have toiled through a life of continued misery, without ever reaching that haven into which the gentle breezes of prosperity had already wafted our ardent adventurer.[Pg 243]


Commencement of Linnæus's Academical Career.

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