Page images
PDF
EPUB

A General View of the Writings of Linnæus. By Richard Pul.

i teney, M. D. F.R.S. 8vo. 75. Payne. THE great genius and comprehensive talents of the cele

brated philosopher, whose writings form the subject of this work, muft render an account of whatever concerns him highly interesting to all the lovers of natural science. We are, therefore, glad to find that the author of the present voJume has intermixed with the General View some memoirs of this illustrious professor. Dr. Pulteney's principal design, however, is to exhibit a detail of Linnæus's writings, in the order in which they were published ; and the biographical anecdotes are introduced only for the sake of connexion, or to relieve the tediousness which would arise from an uninterrupted recital of the author's various publications. For the satisfaction of those who are unacquainted with the history of this immortal Swede, the father of modern botany, we shall present them with a few particulars of his life.

• Charles Von Linnè, the fon of a Swedish divine, was born May 24, 1707;. at Roeshult, in the province of Smaland, in Sweden ; of which place his father had the cure, when this fon was born, but was foon after preferred to the living of Stenbrihult, in the same province, where dying in 174, at the age of 70, he was succeeded in his cure by another fon. We are told, in the commemoration-speech on this celebrated man, delivered in his Swedith majesty's picfence, before the Royal Academy of Sciences at Stockholm, that the ancestors of this family took their firnames of Linnæus, Lindelius, and Tiliander, from a large lime-tree, or linden-tree, yet standing on the farm where Linnæus was born ; and that this origin of firnames, taken from natural objects, is not very uncommon in Sweden.

? This eminent man, whose talents enabled him to reform the whole science of natural history, accumulated, very early in life, some of the highest honours that await the most successful proficients in medical science; fince we find that he was made professor of physic and botany, in the university of Upsal, at the age of thirty-four ; and fix years afterwards, phyfician to his sovereign, the late king Adolphus; who, in the year 1753, honoured him ftill farther, by creating him knight of the order of the Polar Star. His honours did not terminate here, for in 1757, he was ennobled ; and in 1776, the present-king of Sweden accepted the resignation of his office, and rewarded his declining years by doubling his penfion, and by a liberal donation of landed property, fettled on him and his family,

s' It seems probable, that his father's example first gave Lin, sæus a taite for the study of nature; who, as he has himself informed us, cultivated, as his first amusement, a garden plentifully fored with plants. Young Linnæus soon became ac

quainted

quainted with these, as well as the indigenous ones of his neighbourhood. Yet, from the straightness of his father's income, our young naturalist was on the point of being destined to a mechanical employment : fortunately, however, this design was over-ruled. `In 1717, he was sent to school at Wexlio, where, as his opportunities were enlarged, his progress in all his favourite pursuits was proportionably extended.

At this early period he paid attention to other branches of natural history'; particularly to the knowlege of infects : in which, as is manifest froin his oration on the subject, he must very early have made a great proficiency, fince we find that he was not less fuccessful herein, than in that of plants, having given them an arrangement, and established such characters of distinction, as have been universally followed by succeeding entomologists.

• The first part of his academical education, Linnæus received under profeffor Stobæus, at Lund, in Scania, who favoured his inclinations to the study of natural history. After a residence of about a year, he removed, in 1728, to Upfal. Here he soon contracted a close friendship with Artedi, a native of the province of Angermannia, who had already been four years a student in that university, and, like hiinfclf, had a ilrong bent to the study of natural history in general, but particularly to ichthyology. He was moreover well skilled in chemistry, and not unacquainted with botany, having been the inventor of that distinction in umbelliferous plants, arising from the differences of the involucrum. Emulation is the soul of improvement, and, heightened as it was in this instance by friendship, proved a molt powerful incentive. These young men prosecuted their studies together with uncommon vigor, mutually communicating their observations, and laying their plans, so as to assist each other in every branch of natural history and physic.

• Soon after his residence at Upsal, our author was also happy enough to obtain the favour of fereral gentlemen of established character in literature. He was in a particular manner encouTaged in the pursuit of his studies by the patronage of Dr. Olaus Celfius, at that time professor of divinity, and the restorer of natural history in Sweden ; fince so distinguished for oriental learning, and more particularly for his Hierobotanicon, or Crirical Differtations on the Plants mentioned in Scripture. This gentleman is said to have given Linnæus a large share of his esteem, and he was fortunate enough to obtain it very early after his removal to Upfal. He was at that time meditating his Hierobotanicon, and being struck with the diligence of Linnæus, in describing the plants of the Upsal garden, and his extensive knowlege of their names, fortunately for him, at that time involved in difficulties, from the narrow circumstances of his parents, Celfius not only patronized him in a general way, but admitted him to his house, his table, and his library. Una der fuch encouragement, it is not strange that our author made a rapid progress, both in his studies, and the esteem of the profeffors : in fact, we have a very striking proof of his merit and attainments, inasmuch as we find, that after only two years refidence, he was thought fufficiently qualified to give lectures occasionally from the botanic chair, in the room of profefior Rudbeck.'

feffors :

Linnæus was soon afterwards appointed by the Royal Academy of Sciences at' Upsal, to make the tour of Lapland, with the view of exploring the natural history of that arctic region. This tour had been made for the firit time, by the elder Rudbeck, in 1645, at the command of Charles XI. but unfortunately, almost all the observations which that traveller had made, perished in the terrible fire at Upfal, in 1702. Linnæus set out from Upsal, on this journey, about the middle of May, 1732; equally a stranger to the language and to the manners of the Laplanders, and without any associate. He even traversed what is called the Lapland Desert; a tract of territory deftitute of villages, cultivation, or any conveniences, and inhabited only by a few ftraggling people.

• In this district, says the biographer, he ascended a noted mountain called Wallevari, in speaking of which he has given us a pleasant relation of his finding a singular and beautiful new plant ( Andromeda tetragona) when travelling within the arctic circle, with the sun in his view at midnight, in search of a Lapland hut. From hence he crossed the Lapland Alps into Fixmark, and traversed the shores of the North sea as far as Sallero.

"These journies from Lula and Pitha, on the Bothnian gulph, to the north fhore, were made on, foot, and our traveller was attended by two Laplanders; one his interpreter, and the other his guide. He tells us that the vigour and strength of these two men, both old, and fushciently loaded with his baggage, excited his admiration, fince they appeared quite unhurt by their labour, while he himself, although young and robust, was frequently quite exhausted. In this journey he was wont to sleep under the boat with which they forded the rivers, as a defence against rain, and the gnats, which in the Lapland summer are not less teazing than in the torrid zones. In defcending one of these rivers, he narrowly escaped perithing by the oversetting of the boat, and loft many of the natural productions which he had collected.

• Linnæus thus spent the greater part of the summer in examining this arctic region, and those mountains, on which, four years afterwards, the French philosophers secured immortal fame to fir Isaac Newton, At length, after having suffered incredible fatigues and hardships, in climbing precipices, pafling rivers in miserable boats, suffering repeated viciffitudes of extreme heat and cold, and not unfrequently hunger and thirst; he returned to Tornoa in September.'

He

He arrived at Upfal in November, after having performed, and that mostly on foot, a journey of ten degrees of latitude in extent, exclusive of the many deviations which the accomplishment of his design rendered necessary. The result of this journey was not published till several years afterwards; but he loft no time in presenting the Academy with a catalogue of the plants which he had discovered ; which, even so early as that period, he arranged according to the system fince denominated the sexual.

In 1733, we find this great naturalist visiting and examining the several mines in Sweden ; where he formed his first ketch of his System on Mineralogy, which appeared in the early editions of the Systema Nature, but was not exemplified until the year 1768.

The next incident in the history of this celebrated person, was his being sent, with several other naturalists, by the governor of Dalekarlia, into that province, to investigate its natural productions. After accomplishing the purpose of this expedition, he resided some time in the capital of Dalekarlia, where he taught mineralogy, and the docimaltic art, and practised. phyfic. In 1735, he travelled over many other parts of Denmark and Germany, and fixed in Holland, where he chiefly resided until his return to Stockholm, about the year 1739. Soon after he had fixed his residence at this place, he married one of the daughters of Dr. More, a physician at Fahlun, in Dalekarlia, with whom he became acquainted during his stay in that town.

In 1735, the year in which he took the degree of doctor : in physic, he published the first sketch of his Syftema Nature, in the form of tables only. It thence appears, as the biogram pher obferves, that, before he was twenty four years old, he laid the basis of that great structure which he afterwards raised, and which will perpetuate his fame to the latest ages of botanical science,

In 1736, Linnæus visited England, where he formed many friendships with men at that time distinguished for their knowledge in natural history : but though Boerhaave had furniihed him with letters of recommendation to fir Hans Sloane, we are told, that he met not with that reception which he had reason to expect. i For this treatment, Dr. Pulteney, with great probability, assigns the; following cause.

• Dr. Boerhaave's letter to far Hans Sloane, on this occafion, is preserved in the British Museum, i and runs thus" Linnæus qui has tibi dabit Jitexas, est unice dignus te videre, unice dignus a te videri ; qui vos videbit, vimpul, videbit hominum par, eui fimile vit dabit orbis,”This encomium, howsoever quaintly

ex

expressed, yet was in foine ineasure prophetic of Linnæus's future fame and greatness, and proves how intimately Boerhaave had penetrated into the genius and abilities of our author ; and, strained as this parallel might be thought, it is likely however that the opening of the sexual system, so different from Ray's, by which fir Hans Sloane had always known plants, and particularly the innovations, as they were then called, which Linnæus had macie in altering the names of so many genera, were rather the cause of that coolness with which he was received by our excellent naturalist. Probably we have reason to regret this circumstance; for otherwise Linuxus might have obtained an establiment in England, as it has been thought he wilhed to have done ; and doubtless his opportunities in this kingdom would have been much more favourable to his designs, than in those arctic regions where he spent the remainder of his days. In the mean time, we may justly infer the esalted idea that Linnæus had of England, as a land eminently favourable to the improvement of science, from that compliment which, in a letter to a friend, he afterwards paid to London, when, speaking of that city, he called it, “ Punctum faliens in vitello orbis."

In 1738, this great naturalist made an excursion to Paris, where he had the inspecting the Herbaria of the Juffieus, at that time the first botanifts in France ; and also the botanical collections of Surian and Tournefort. He intended going thence to Germany, to visit Ludwig, and the celebrated Haller, with whom he maintained a close correspondence ; but he was obliged to return to Holland without enjoying this pleasure.

Dr. Pulteney then proceeds to give an account of the fevetal scientific productions which Linnæus published previous to this time. These are, the Systema Nature, Fundamenta Botanica, Bibliotheca Botanica, and Genera Plantarum. The last of those is justly considered as the moft valuable of all the works of this celebrated author. What immense application had been bestowed upon it, the reader may easily conceive, on being informed, that, before the publication of the first edition, the author had examined the characters of eight thousand flowers. The last book of Linnæus's composition, published during his stay in Holland, was the Classes Plantarum ; which is a copious illustration of the second part of the Fundamenta.

About the latter end of 1738, or the beginning of the subsequent year, Linnæus returned to his native country where he settled as a physician, at Stockholm. It is said, that at first he met with confiderable opposition, and was oppressed with many difficulties ; but at length he surmounted all, and acquired extensive practice. The intereft of count Tellin, who became his zealous patron, procured him the rank of physician 3

to

3

« PreviousContinue »