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The author Doctor Nils-Erik Landell

New Book release - Doctor Carl Linnaeus Physician

30th May 2008

DOCTOR CARL LINNAEUS PHYSICIAN is a scholarly tour of the less known side as a practising scientific medical man of a universal genius. It has been researched and written by the Swedish physician and author Nils-Erik Landell. Born in Stockholm in 1935, Landell has published nearly fifty books in the field of natural and cultural history in addition to many scientific papers over a range of medical disciplines. He has been a committee member of the Swedish Linnaeus Society and is reckoned among today's greatest experts on Linnaeus.

The book is beautifully illustrated and enriched by a large number of authentic quotations from Linnaeus' own writings, most of them never originally intended for publication. As no. III in the MUNDUS LINNÆI Series, it is of international importance to our understanding Linnaeus as a man, no less than to our understanding of the development of pharmaceutical and medical history. The Series as a whole incorporates new themes, forgotten stories, facsimile prints and original research by leading experts in general culture, the arts and natural history – all presented in beautiful and scholarly publications.

Most people know that CARL LINNAEUS (1707-1778) is world-famous for the system of nomenclature he developed, still used by botanists and zoologists to this day. He is also known for his travels throughout Sweden and descriptions of the Swedish landscape, and for having inspired worldwide travel for scientific purposes by the chosen few who came to be known as the Linnaeus 'apostles'. But it may be less well known that for most of his life he was a practising doctor of medicine.

This book tells the extraordinary story of this son of a Swedish country clergyman who had already written when still a schoolboy an advanced Notebook (untitled but generally known as "÷rtabok" or The Book of Plants) in which, in compact handwriting and mainly in Latin and Swedish, he described his own and others' reflections not only on nature in general, but on medicinal cures and the use of plants in alleviating sickness.

Carl Linnaeus qualified as a Doctor of Medicine in 1735 in the Netherlands with a thesis on malaria. His doctorate qualified him to teach Medicine, make professional visits to patients, write prescriptions and practise medicine everywhere. During this his only period outside Sweden he also took advantage of the opportunity to visit Europe's leading medical and botanical gardens, including Amsterdam's Hortum Medicum and London's Chelsea Physic Garden.

In 1738 he returned to Sweden to resume his official career as a practising physician, and in 1741 was appointed Professor of Practical Medicine in the University of Uppsala. He thus also became responsible for the botanical garden in Uppsala which he was able to use as the centre for his botanical research and teaching; plants of medicinal value were sent to this garden from every corner of the world.

The eighteenth century was an age poised between the ancient traditions of folk medicine and the tentative attempts of a new enlightenment at a more scientific approach to medical art. Epidemics still threatened to destroy whole populations in both town and countryside, and even a healthy person could die from a simple infection - a different world from our own even if so few generations away from us. It is in this context that the comments Carl Linnaeus noted down are still valuable in helping us who have come after him to understand mankind's eternal battle against illness, injury and death. His world, and its now forgotten specialist knowledge, still has something to teach us today.


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