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It is stated, that about this period he made an important discovery relative to the formation of pearls in the river-mussel (Unio margaritifera), a shell of common occurrence in the northern parts of Europe as well as in our own country, and from which are obtained all our indigenous pearls, which not[Pg 248] many years ago were held in considerable estimation. By injuring the shell, probably by means of puncture or perforation, it is supposed that he succeeded in causing a deposition of the pearly matter, so that one might procure a certain quantity at pleasure. The precise method, however, is still uncertain, nor is it believed to have been generally successful; at all events the secret has been entirely lost.
At this period, says Linnæus, botany was cultivated at Upsal with unparalleled ardour. Frequent excursions were made for the purpose of collecting plants, insects, and birds. Every Wednesday and Saturday herbarizations took place, which continued from dawn to night. The pupils, having their hats covered with flowers, returned to the town, and preceded by musical instruments accompanied their professor to the garden.
But amid all this success he was harassed by the malice of his enemies. A decree of the senate appeared, which prevented any native of Sweden from publishing a work in a foreign country. This was evidently directed against him alone, for, as he says, it could apply to no other person. In a fit of bad humour he flung his pen from him, and swore that he would never write another book. At this period also a person named Fick endeavoured, by disgraceful calumnies, to injure him in the esteem of his fellow-citizens. This conduct he felt so much the more severely, because the slanderer was one of his familiar friends, which was also the case with respect to Halenius, who openly censured one of his dissertations, although he had approved of it[Pg 249] before it was sent to press. About the same time he received a letter from Haerlem, which he says nearly cost him his life, and prevented him from sleeping for two months. The purport of this communication has not been disclosed; but, surely, if he had not placed too much value on the opinion of the world, he would have allowed the malice of his enemies to vent itself in impotent rage.
His self-love, however, was soon gratified by the arrival of a pupil from Paris, the first who had come to him from a foreign country, and by the presence of several persons of distinction at his excursions. This year he had a hundred and forty students at his lectures.
The following year, after publishing a work on Materia Medica, he was directed by the Diet to make a journey to Scania or Schonen, the most northern of the Swedish provinces, for the purpose of examining its natural productions. This was the sixth and last tour which he made in his native land. On returning he visited his brother Samuel at Stenbrohult. During his absence he was appointed rector of the university, and towards the end of the year entered upon the duties of his new office.
In 1750, he continued his lectures with his wonted energy and success. The king and queen had commenced a collection of objects belonging to natural history, which were kept at Ulrichsdahl or Drottningholm, about eight Swedish miles from Upsal. Thither he used to repair during the summer and winter vacations, for the purpose of arranging and describing the various specimens. But a violent[Pg 250] attack of gout obliged him to relinquish for a time all his occupations.
On his recovery he laboured at his Philosophia Botanica, which appeared in the following season, together with an account of his journey to Scania. During this and the preceding year, he sent out several of his most distinguished pupils to travel in various parts of the world.[Pg 251]
Enthusiasm excited by the Lectures of Linnæus—Ternstroem dies on his Voyage to China—Hasselquist, after travelling in Egypt, Arabia, and Palestine, dies at Smyrna—Forskal perishes in Arabia; Lœfling in South America; Falk in Tartary—Kalm sent to Canada; Rolander to Surinam; Toren to Malabar; Osbeck to China—Sparrmann travels in the Cape, and accompanies Cook on his second Voyage—Thunberg visits Japan, Ceylon, and other Countries—Various parts of Europe visited by Pupils of Linnæus—Remarks on the Accumulation of Facts produced by their Exertions.
The enthusiasm excited by the lectures and demonstrations of Linnæus, seems to have exceeded that produced by the efforts of any other professor. The fervour of the teacher, his ardent love of nature, his eloquence, and the kindliness of his disposition, made an indelible impression upon his pupils, many of whom were anxious to devote their lives to the extension of their favourite science. Upsal became the centre of botanical, if not of zoological knowledge; and while students flocked to it from all parts of Europe, there were proceeding from it those whom we may call the devoted heroes of science, and who were resolved to enlarge its boundaries, by exploring regions previously unknown to the natural historian. An account of these men belongs in some measure to the life of their master, in which it will form an interesting episode.[Pg 252]
The first of his pupils that embraced the opportunity presented by the Swedish East India Company, was a young man named Ternstroem, who in 1745 embarked for China. He died, however, at Pulicandor, before reaching the place of which he had intended to describe the productions, and thereby to secure for himself a scientific immortality.
In the summer of 1749, Frederick Hasselquist, another of his students, was induced by his representations to undertake a voyage to Smyrna, for the purpose of examining the natural treasures of Palestine. Private contributions were made to defray the expense of his journey, and a free passage was given in an East Indiaman. Next year he continued his course to Egypt, where he remained nine months, surveying the pyramids and other remarkable objects, and collecting all the information that he could obtain respecting minerals, plants, and animals. He communicated the result of his labours to his friends at home, and was admitted a member of the Royal Society of Upsal, and of the Stockholm Academy of Sciences. In March 1751, he left Cairo, and taking the route of Jaffa, travelled with a caravan of pilgrims to Jerusalem, where he remained some time. He then visited the river Jordan, Mount Tabor, Jericho, Bethlehem, Tyre, and Sidon, and embarked for Smyrna, where he arrived with a great variety of specimens illustrative of natural history, as also with a valuable selection of Arabic manuscripts, coins, and mummies. He was preparing to return to his native country, to enjoy the fruit of his toils, when he was seized with a violent affection of the lungs, the predisposition to which existed before he left Sweden, and[Pg 253] of which the symptoms had been aggravated by the fatigues and privations he endured in crossing the sandy deserts. The disease quickly assumed an alarming character, and he finally sunk under it on the 9th February 1752, in the thirtieth year of his age.
Hasselquist having contracted debts at Smyrna, his creditors seized his collections, and would have exposed them to sale, had they not been prevented by the Swedish consul, who sent home an account of the circumstances under which the youth had died. The queen, Louisa Ulrica, gave orders to redeem his property, which was accordingly transmitted to her, and deposited in the palace of Drottningholm, where she usually resided. Duplicates of the various articles were given to Linnæus, together with all the manuscripts, which were published in the Swedish language under the title of Iter Palæstinum. This work was afterwards translated into German, English, and French. It consists of two parts, the first of which contains the journal of the traveller and his correspondence; while the second is devoted to observations on mineralogy, botany, and zoology, as well as to many interesting subjects relating to the diseases, commerce, and arts, of the countries which had been visited. A Flora of Palestine, made up from the papers and specimens of Hasselquist, was afterwards published in the fourth volume of the Amænitates Academicæ.