Vivat Germania latina, Vivat Latinitas teutonica!

Ann-Mari Jönsson

The Reception of Linnæus's Works in Germany with Particular Reference to his Conflict with Siegesbeck


1. Linnæus's Scientific Correspondents

Carl Linnæus (1707-1778), ennobled Carl von Linné, devoted himself to many sciences, not only botany and medicine, but also pharmacology, economy, mineralogy, geology and theology. He never doubted his own importance. He corresponded, in his own words, with the most learned and remarkable people in Europe, who informed him of new discoveries and sent him books and plants. In the third of his autobiographies, Vita III, from the 1760's, Linnæus writes that this valuable collection of letters ought to be made public as it contains many hundreds of letters encompassing all that was extraordinary from 1735 to his death. [1] Thousands of letters were sent to Linnæus from Europe, America, Asia and Africa by colleagues, admirers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau and his own disciples, who reported home to their professor at Uppsala from scientific expeditions all over the world, sometimes so dangerous that they never returned alive. The number of correspondents grew constantly. When Linnæus died more than 170 Swedes and 400 foreigners had corresponded with him over a period of fifty years. Of these correspondents around 80 were Germans (see the appendix).

The history of Linnæus's ideas has been written many times, but the majority of his letters has still to be published. No doubt the recently started project to publish all Linnæus's letters on the web will cast new light over many things. [2]

2. The Reception of Linnæus's Works.

Linnæus's fame rests upon his reform of natural history. By introducing the binomial nomenclature in Systema naturae (1735), finally adopted in Species plantarum (1753), he created order in a period when there was great confusion in naming animals and plants. No uniform system existed. Every botanist gave names according to his own method. Linnæus standardised the terminology for 8,000 plants and 6,000 animals. His reform consists essentially of giving a one-word name such as Rhododendron or Equus to a genus and a two-word name as Rhododendron ponticum or Equus caballus to an individual species within this genus. [3] In Systema naturae Linnæus also gives a full account of his sexual system for the classification of plants, which was founded on the organs of reproduction, i.e., the stamens and pistils. These ideas were refined in Fundamenta botanica (1736), Genera plantarum (1737) and Critica botanica (1737). His Classes plantarum (1738) shows the main division of the sexual system into 24 classes on the basis of the number of stamens, their relative length, their distinctiveness or fusion and their presence or absence in certain flowers. [4] However, Linnæus's sexual system met with hard resistance from many botanists. A few years earlier Lorenz Heister (1683-1758), professor of botany at Helmstädt, had written a dissertation with his 17-year old son, Friedrich Heister, as respondent, Dissertatio botanica de foliorum utilitate in constituendis plantarum generibus iisdemque facile cognoscendis (1732), where he had advocated the division of plants into genera on the basis of leaves, thus disregarding flowers and fruits. In his first edition of Systema naturae (1735), ("Observationes", mom. 4) Linnæus gives an account of all the botanists who have used the fructification as the basis of their systems and ends by saying that the fructification as a means of classification cannot be denied by any "metodicus", except perhaps by Heister alone. In Bibliotheca botanica, (4 "Institutores", p. 123) Linnæus calls Heister's Programma de studio rei herbariae emendando (1732) a "schediasma", i.e., a draft. Furthermore, in the following table of systematics (p. 124) Heister is mentioned among the "heterodoxi". Heister was deeply offended by Linnæus's remarks. From a letter dated 11 June 1736 we learn that Linnæus had sent Heister his Fundamenta botanica. [5] Heister comments that the characters of plants cannot be based on fructification alone. However, he will reserve judgement until he sees what results Linnæus achieves in this matter. In the end of 1736 Linnæus writes to his old benefactor Olof Celsius the Elder (1670-1756), professor of theology at Uppsala, saying that Heister is really angry with him. But Heister dares not say too much, since he asks him every day for plants. [6] In the 1740's Heister had apparently got all the plants he needed, for Linnæus was indeed judged. Thus on 16 August 1741 Heister published his study Meditationes et animadversiones in novum systema botanicum sexuale Linnæi, where he considers Linnæus's sexual method totally useless, because it would be too difficult to discern and count the stamens. Not only the cryptogames but also a lot of other plants have genital organs which cannot be discerned by the naked eye and often the number of the stamens is not constant.

Another botanist who was not easily persuaded was Christian Gottlieb Ludwig (1709-1773), physician and later professor of medicine at Leipzig, who became involved in a debate with Linnæus about the genera of plants during the years 1736-1737. [7] The correspondence with Ludwig is an interesting contribution to the knowledge of Linnæus's early classification system, because it shows the ardent debate over the system of names, the characterizations of plants and their taxonomy which followed immediately after the publication of Genera plantarum. Through Ludwig's letter, we can see the rapid impact of Linnæus's work. Ludwig reveals how Linnæus's new botanical ideas were received, vividly depicting their perceived advantages and disadvantages. We are provided with a unique view of the doubts some German botanists had regarding the young Linnæus. In a letter to Linnæus on 30 April 1737 Ludwig predicted that Linnæus would have difficulties in Germany. He truly believes that very few German botanists will adhere to Linnæus because of the subtlety of his method, the insecurity of the characteristics used to determine the various classes, the new genera and finally the changing of well-established names. Ludwig emphasises that he cannot help Linnæus to succeed in Germany, even if he wanted to. But Ludwig was to prove himself a very poor prophet, a fact that he also finally realised himself. In 1739 Ludwig published his Observationes in methodum plantarum sexualem Cel. Linnæi, a work based on the criticism forwarded in his letters to Linnæus. But later Ludwig was to claim that he wrote this work in an attempt to refute his German countrymen, who, although they hardly knew the German plants, dared to criticise Linnæus. [8] After these initial misunderstandings there was a very fruitful correspondence. The last letter from Ludwig that we know of dates from 1761. [9]

As we shall see other critics were to follow in Heister's and Ludwig's steps: Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777), professor of medicine and botany at Göttingen, and Heister's disciple, Johann Georg Siegesbeck (1686-1755), demonstrator of the botanical garden in St. Petersburg. [10] All Linnæus's critics found his sexual system unnatural or even repugnant. But it should be said, though, that Linnæus was himself fully aware of the artificiality of the sexual system and simply regarded it as the mere scaffolding to serve during the construction of a more natural one, where closely related genera could be placed together. As early as 1737 Linnæus commented on the criticism directed towards him by these Germans, stating: Homines creati sumus, ut dissentiamus, quo dissensu tandem veritas elucescat. Vivimus Botanici in republica libera. Cuique ratum est statuere quod ipsi placeat dicere, quid sentiat. Solus dies nos judicabit. [11] But there was a long way to go. The Pope forbade the introduction of Linnæus's works in the Vatican and it was not until 1774 that a botanices professor was appointed in Rome to lecture according to the new system. [12]

Not all Germans were critical of Linnæus. In 1736 Andreas Elias Büchner (1701-1769), secretary of the Leopoldinisch-Carolinische Akademie der Naturforscher, founded in 1652 in Schweinfurt, writes to congratulate Linnæus on having been elected a member of this distinguished academy. [13] In the diploma conferring the membership Linnæus is saluted as the new Dioscorides. [14] Johann Gottlieb Gleditsch (1714-1786) was one of the first in Germany to accept Linnæus's sexual system and he also takes the opportunity to reveal many intriguing details regarding botany at numerous German universities. [15] Georg Dionysius Ehret (1708-1770) corresponded with Linnæus about the illustrations of the 24 classes of Linnæus's sexual system. Johann Georg Gmelin (1709-1755) entreats Linnæus to help him with the classifications of the plants in his Flora Sibirica (1747-1769). Linnæus gladly helps Gmelin, since the Siberian flora interested him very much. This correspondence gives us a vivid picture of a lively exchange of ideas, seeds, boxes with living plants, books and dissertations between St. Petersburg and Uppsala. The letters are full of taxonomic discussions about genera and species, and Linnæus is not slow to try to persuade Gmelin to use his own new botanical ideas. Incidentally, Gmelin has a strange idea, as he says, that he wishes to discuss with Linnæus: many American plants now grow in Siberia, which makes him believe that Siberia once adhered to America. [16] Furthermore, Gmelin constantly keeps Linnæus informed of the dreadful conditions German botanists endure in Imperial St. Petersburg.

3. Siegesbeck's Criticism of Linnæus from a Theological Point of View

There is another type of criticism besides the one based on botanical grounds. Linnæus, the son of a minister, was namely of the opinion that through botany you could see into God's Creation. A person who really took these words ad notam was Johann Georg Siegesbeck.

The common opinion of Siegesbeck is that he was a poor botanist. In fact he is mentioned in the history of botany only for having criticised the famous Linnæus, because of which he has been considered something of a fool. In fact Siegesbeck turns out to be the real object of hatred in the whole Linnean correspondence. Always Linnæus asks: Quid agit Siegesbeckius ("What is Siegesbeck up to?"). And one must wonder why Linnæus spent time hating Siegesbeck so intensively his whole life. The answer lies in the fact that Siegesbeck is interesting from a point of view other than that of a pure botanist. Linnæus had stated himself that his study of nature is based on his deep religious beliefs, and he really believed that God had revealed his secrets to him and given him the clavis naturae, the key to the plan for the creation. In 1760 Linnæus concludes in one of his autobiographies: God himself has guided him [sc. Linnæus] with his own all-mighty hand .... He has let him look into his secrets and let him see more of his created works than any mortal man before him. He has given him the greatest insight into natural history, greater than anyone else has enjoyed. God has been with him, wherever he has gone, and has eradicated all his enemies for him and made him a great name, as great as those of the greatest men on earth .... Nobody has been a greater botanist or zoologist .... [17]

Linnæus asserted that the species are constant and serve God's purposes. [18] There is an order in Nature, which goes back to God. God is present everywhere. The Creation is the glory of God. Nothing has therefore been created at random. It is up to the botanists to show this divine order and the Creator's hand behind it all. [19] Linnæus says himself in Systema naturae that he saw the eternal, omniscient and almighty God "on his back" and he was amazed. He saw the footsteps of God in nature and noticed everywhere an eternal wisdom, an incredible perfection. Linnæus believed that he was guided by God himself and that he had a mission to reveal God's plan for the Creation. Everything comes from the egg (omne vivum ex ovo). As a consequence of this, plants too were thought to come from the egg, i.e., the seed. [20]

However, in December 1737 Siegesbeck published Epicrisis in clar. Linnæi nuperrime evulgatum systema plantarum sexuale, et huic superstructam methodum botanicam. In this works he strongly questions Linnæus's new system: According to the Bible, God created all plants on the third day. God did not think of seeds, but created complete plants with flowers and fruits. Animals have different sexes, but from this fact we cannot conclude that the same can be applied to the vegetable kingdom. Siegesbeck admits that the research of, e.g., John Ray (1627-1705), Rudolf Jacob Camerarius, (1665-1721), Sébastien Vaillant (1669-1722) and Adriaan van Royen (1704-1779) show that it is true that plants do have some sort of sex, but all the same we cannot talk of stamens and pistils as male and female organs respectively by which the plants can reproduce themselves. But, what really made Siegesbeck so upset was, as he puts it, the immorality of the Linnean system:

Et quales enim mirabiles, absoni et Naturae penitus contrarii ordines et classes, ex ficto illo vegetabilium matrimonio, in Methodo tali supponi necessum habent? Quum e. gr. Mariti octo, novem, decem, duodecim, immo viginti et plures in eodem cum una foemina thalamo hic deprehendantur.... [21]

Siegesbeck mocks Linnæus asking whether God would allow twenty men or more (i.e., the stamens) to have one wife in common (i.e., the pistil) or the wedded man, apart from his legitimate wife, to have adjacent flowers as concubines. It seems fair to say that what Siegesbeck does is only to draw certain conclusions from Linnæus's own statements. Siegesbeck tries to see God's plan behind the sexual system, but fails totally, when he becomes aware of the strange moral consequences. Thus Siegesbeck concludes that God would never allow such an abominable lack of chastity among his innocent plants, his dearest little creations. Such a method could never be proposed to young, innocent students!

Initially Linnæus and Siegesbeck had been on friendly terms. There are four very ingratiating letters from Siegesbeck to Linnæus between 1735-1737. [22] But there seems to have been some irritation under the surface. In Hortus Cliffortianus, printed as early as in the summer of 1737, Linnæus had named a newly found plant Siegesbeckia! Now, what sort of a plant is this? It is a small, stinking European weed (Sw. Klibbfrö). Linnæus had probably been warned about Siegesbeck's attack and thus sought to castigate him. One of Linnæus's ideas in Critica botanica (1737, pp. 78-81) is that there should be a link between the plant and the botanist whom it was named after. For example, Magnolia, Linnæus says, has very handsome leaves and flowers, which recall the splendid botanist Magnol. But Dorstenia has insignificant flowers, faded and past their prime, like the works of Dorsten!

4. The Effects of Siegesbeck's Criticism

After Siegesbeck's attack on Linnæus's sexual system the situation drastically changed for Linnæus and he was forced to realise that Siegesbeck's criticism had had serious consequences. When Linnæus came back to Sweden in 1738 after three years in Holland, he found that the whole of Stockholm was in fact laughing at him - not at Siegesbeck. This tells us something about how Linnæus's new ideas were received. From a theological point of view people seemed to strongly favour Siegesbeck. Linnæus tells us that he could not even find one servant who wanted to work for him. Actually in one of his biographies he states that nobody dared to send him his dog to be cured. And he, Linnæus, who had been honoured everywhere abroad as a Princeps botanicorum, was in Sweden like a man from the nether world. If he had not been in love, he would have left Sweden again! Another botanist that got involved in the problems of the sexual system was, as mentioned, Albrecht von Haller in Göttingen. Both Linnæus and Haller were botanical giants. Posterity was to remember them as the Caesar and Pompey of Botany. Intellectually the many-sided genius Haller was on a high botanical level. But since he refused to adopt the binomial system of nomenclature, he made no lasting impact on the classification of European flora. Linnæus's relationship with Haller neither started nor ended well. In the beginning of 1737 rumour had it that Haller was going to criticise Linnæus's sexual system. Linnæus felt his peace of mind threatened and on 3 April 1737 he wrote a letter to Haller formulated in eleven points, in order to discourage all kinds of hostility. [23] He told Haller that a big tree does not reach its greatest height the first year; it sprouts. Linnæus emphasised that it was not beneficial either for Haller nor any other professor to get involved in scientific fights. A professor's and teacher's first obligation should be to acquire the confidence and respect of the listeners. If the students see that their professor is attacked, there will be a great loss of respect. Linnæus will not start a fight, because it does not matter whether he wins or loses. In either case there will be a stain on his character. Nobody has ever won a battle without being wounded. May there be peace between Linnæus and Haller!

However, in a letter to Albrecht von Haller on 23 January 1738 Linnæus says that Siegesbeck will never provoke an angry word from him, though he has poured out thousands on Linnæus's blessed head." Linnæus is deeply depressed, complaining that if Siegesbeck had only written this earlier, Linnæus might have learnt, when young, what he is now forced to learn at a more advanced age, to abstain from writing, to observe others and to hold his tongue. What foolery to have wasted so much time, to have spent so many days and nights in a study that yields such fruits, that he becomes a laughing-stock all over the world. Siegesbeck offers no substantial evidence, but Linnæus, whether answering or keeping silent , will be stained, because Siegesbeck does not understand arguments.

On 12 September 1739 (o. s.) Linnæus continues his complaints in a letter to Haller saying that he was very poor when he returned to Sweden. He had settled down at Stockholm but was despised by everyone. Nobody knew how many sleepless nights he had endured and how much he had worked, but everyone just said with one voice that he had been annihilated by Siegesbeck. Nobody wanted to send even their servants to be cured by him. He did not want to work with Flora. He decided a thousand times to bury all his collected notes and swore that he would never answer Siegesbeck.

In 1745 Linnæus's friendship with Haller began to break down. In Flora Suecica (1745) Linnæus had ventured to criticise some of Haller's species and reduced them to mere varieties. Haller was taken by complete surprise and felt betrayed and misunderstood. On 8 April 1746 Haller replied bitterly that the distinguished Linnæus should believe him when he says that Linnæus made his enemies, who were neither few nor powerless, rejoice, when he thus attacks his friends. From now on the hostility was only to grow. Haller concludes that Linnæus has considered himself to be a second Adam who has given names to all animals after their characteristics without paying attention to his predecessors. Linnæus, Haller goes on, can hardly keep himself from making the monkey a human being and the human being a monkey. [24] It was Linnæus who gave man the epithet homo sapiens and tried to divide the human being into races. [25] The wounds that these two men inflicted on each other were not to be healed in their lifetime. In 1750-1753 Haller made his son, Gottlieb Emanuel, publish no less than five works, all critical of Linnæus. After that the friendship with Haller was definitely over.

5.Linnæus's Defence against Siegesbeck's Criticism

In a letter of 13 September 1748 (o.s.) Linnæus confides to Haller that he had promised Hermann Boerhaave (1668-1738), the foremost professor of medicine in those days, never to engage in scientific quarrels. All the same Linnæus was forced to defend himself against Siegesbeck's attack. But he kept his promise in so far that he did not answer Siegesbeck's thesis in his own name. Linnæus writes to his friend Carl-Fredrik Mennander (1712-1786), a theologian and scientist, who later became Archbishop of Uppsala, to ask his opinions about the Systema naturae. He also begs him to find out what another theologian, Johan Browallius (1707-1755), thinks of his sexual system. At this time Browallius was professor of physics in Åbo. In 1740 he became doctor of theology and in 1749 Bishop of Åbo. Linnæus promises them to write his own defence, if they are willing to lend him their names, just as Pierre-Jean Baptiste Chomel lent Joseph Pitton de Tournefort his name. [26] We should remember that at this early period the sexual system had not yet got its break through. It is obvious that Linnæus realised the seriousness of the situation. Also Johann Amman (1707-1741), professor of botany at St. Petersburg, told Linnæus that surely he could not mean that the laws of nature were sanctioned by God. He tries to save Linnæus by stating that he takes for granted that Linnæus is speaking metaphorically. [27] Linnæus is frightened. He must win this fight or else his whole system will go down with him. His system must now be defended from a theological point of view. In some way he must combine science and theology. In 1739 Browallius finally undertook the defence publishing his Examen epicriseos in Systema plantarum sexuale Cl. Linnæi, Anno 1737 Petropoli evulgatae, auctore Jo. Georgio Siegesbeck. The future archbishop, to say nothing of Linnæus, handles the situation very carefully. Through the wisdom of God all creations, including plants, have sexes. The seed is the fundament for life and holds the characteristics of the plant. Browallius cites Genesis, 12-13: Protulit terra germen, herbam seminificantem semen secundum speciem suam et Arborem facientem fructum, cujus semen ejus in ea, secundum speciem suam, which, he states, says exactly the same as Linnæus. [28] Furthermore, morals can only be talked about when we deal with the laws imposed by God on man. In nature we have other laws, which, though sanctioned by God, cannot be classified by us as moral or immoral. Plants do reproduce themselves the way Linnæus says. But this has nothing to do with lasciviousness.

Quae inter homines unius maris et unius foeminae conjunctionem, quam conjugium vocamus, optimam esse demonstrant circumstantiae; illae in aliis viventium speciebus aliae polygamiam suadent (p. 19).

Circumstances show that matrimony is something good for people, and circumstances likewise justify polygamy for plants and animals. Furthermore, quadrupeds and birds are bound to female polygamy (polygamia feminina), otherwise farmers would have to keep just as many cocks as hens. And what about bees who practise a sort of a male polygamy (polygamia masculina)? Siegesbeck's criticism is thus absurd and must be totally refuted. Browallius's work was well received and Linnæus rewarded Browallius by naming Browallia after him in Species plantarum (1753). [29]

> In 1740 Gleditsch published Consideratio epicriseos Siegesbeckianae in Linnæi systema plantarum sexuale et methodum botanicam huic superstructam, to refute Siegesbeck. However, even in this case, it was Linnæus who had written most of the work. The real criticism that could be made against Linnæus's sexual system, was that widely different plants are brought together within the same class. Unrelated plants could have, e.g., five stamens, yet they would be brought to the same class. But Gleditsch means that this criticism can be attributed to every artificial system and cannot be avoided until a true natural system is discovered. Linnæus's system still contained more natural classes than did its precedessors. In 1741 Siegesbeck published another work, Vaniloquentiae botanicae specimen, where he says that he does not know whether Linnæus is competing with botanists or poets or orators, since he calls the seeds ovaries and talks of matrimony, happiness and love of the plants. Really, he says, Linnæus's sexual method should be called the lascivious method (p. 20). There is a great difference between polygamy and associations with prostitutes. The one is sanctioned in the Old Testament, the other not! (p. 38 sq.). However, it must be admitted that Siegesbeck puts his finger on some weak points in Linnæus's way of looking at things. Linnæus had collected a lot of facts and unfortunately Siegesbeck had drawn the theological conclusions.

Through Linnæus's correspondence with the Austrian naturalist Joseph von Rathgeb, imperial ambassador in Venice, we see that Linnæus became more cautious in the future regarding theological matters. [30] At the end of the 1740's Linnæus published his two classical works De curiositate naturali (1748) and Oeconomia naturae (1749). In the first work Linnæus discusses the purpose and beauty of the Creation. God is seen in his Creation. Everything that God has created has a purpose that must be shown. In the second work Linnæus emphasises the importance of balance in nature. God has decided that everything in nature must follow each other as links in a chain ("nature makes no jumps"). Everything living must seek to reproduce itself to ensure the continued existence of the species. However, God's creation is not only to the glory of himself and the benefit of man. The divine order means that animals, for example, also have a purpose in the food chain; the plant louse lives on plants but is itself eaten by the flea. Every living creation aids other living creations, so that every species can exist. However, sometime in 1748, when Linnæus was about to publish De curiositate naturali he became concerned about how it would be received. Therefore, he asked Rathgeb to let three theologians read the work. [31] Rathgeb has three famous theologians in Venice examine Linnæus's work and sends over three reports to Linnæus, among them one by a theologian of the Order of St. Francis. All three letters certify that there is nothing in Linnæus's work that conflicts with piety or Christian religion. It must be considered quite sensational that Linnæus seeks the opinions of Catholic theologians. Rathgeb also gives Linnæus a piece of good advice: He should always avoid everything that can create a theological debate and remember the fate of the philosopher Christian Wolff (1679-1754), who had to leave Prussia after being accused of heresy. There are people everywhere, who should be greatly feared, because they are accustomed to drawing unwarranted conclusions from what they have misconstrued. [32] They are called consequentiarii. [33]

6. Linnæus's Little Mischief

We know from the correspondence with Johann Georg Gmelin that Linnæus became almost obsessed with Siegesbeck. In response to Gmelin's initial letter of 17 February 1744 (o.s.), Linnæus replied on 4 April 1744 (o. s.) that Siegesbeck's friendship was as short-lived as his botanical principles, but the friendship of Johann Amman was as trustworthy as his research. Through Gmelin, Linnæus was able to follow the goings-on at the Imperial Academy at St. Petersburg. Obviously Linnæus was pleased with the reports he got, because he writes to Gmelin that his friendship with Gmelin outweighed the enmity of a hundred Siegesbecks. Another time he thanks Gmelin for a letter, which, though very short, is said to contain more botanical learning than the whole of Siegesbeck's very heavy scull!

The hostility between Linnæus and Siegesbeck was intensified in the 1740's through a series of coincidences. Linnæus found a seed packet with some fruits of Siegesbeckia orientalis in the University Botanical Garden at Uppsala and could not restrain himself. All his bitterness towards Siegesbeck burst out anew. He re-labelled the packet with the name Cuculus ingratus ("the ungrateful cuckoo"). This would not have caused such embarrassment, if the packet had not ended up at St. Petersburg and finally found its way to Siegesbeck himself. These were the unfortunate circumstances: in 1744 Count Sten Carl Bielke (1709-1753) together with Linnæus's future disciple, Pehr Kalm (1716-1779), journeyed to Russia to collect plants. A rich collection of dried plants, seeds and more than 200 sorts of herbs, all Siberian, was brought back to Uppsala. However, at St. Petersburg Bielke happened to trade the packet by chance for Russian seeds. Thus it eventually came into Siegesbeck's own hands. He sowed the seeds with great curiosity and harvested - a Siegesbeckia. Naturally enough Siegesbeck was absolutely furious. Linnæus's little mischief was to have damaging effects on the botanical interchange as Siegesbeck now stopped all exchange of herbs with Uppsala. This was a severe blow to Linnæus, who was very interested in the Siberian flora, as its plants were ideal for the soil of Uppsala. Bielke repeatedly tried to put things right by urging Linnæus to send an apology to Siegesbeck, offering the excuse that it was the gardener who had written the label. On 18 March 1744 Kalm writes to Linnæus saying that Bielke would like Linnæus to propose Siegesbeck as a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. [34] As a last resort Bielke also tried to persuade Linnæus by offering an unlimited number of Siberian plants in return, reminding Linnæus that Georg Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746), who sailed with Vitus Bering (1681-1741), would soon return with great collections from Kamchatka (in those days this comprised the whole of the Russian far East). [35] Thus Bielke writes to Linnæus and asks him to reconcile himself with Siegesbeck. However, on 24 April 1745 (o. s.) Linnæus answers Bielke, stating that a reconciliation with Siegesbeck, now degraded to an ingratissimus cuculus et nebulo ( "a most ungrateful cuckoo and a wretch")is totally out of the question, now and for ever:

With regards to your last letter I must say with Pilate, 'What is written is written'. Siegesbeck shows himself to be cruel; death and cruelty will always have some cause. Nobody has ever been able to give me a rarer gift than your gift of Siberian herbs, but if someone told me: 'apologise to Siegesbeck, and I will give you an equally extensive and rare collection', I must admit that it would be impossible for me to accept, because of a public malice without reason. The more he writes, the more he rages, the better it is. If you, dear Count, writes to him, you should urge him to open forthwith all his stores of wickedness and rush forward as an example to posterity of an ingratissimus cuculus et nebulo. Let him also know that I will never forgive him his roguery, but also that I do not meet wickedness with wickedness, but smile at the idiot and fool, who pretends to be a botanicus, something that he will never become.... [36]

Bielke spared no efforts to persuade Linnæus to improve his relations with Siegesbeck and the Imperial Academy. But he was without success and instead Linnæus accused him of being a friend of Siegesbeck's.

7. Siegesbeck's Criticism of Linnæus from a botanical point of view

In the 1740's Siegesbeck launched a second attack on Linnæus – this time from a strictly botanical point of view. Russian botanists had discovered a strange composite plant in Siberia. This plant was said to be without stamens and was consequently named Anandria. Siegesbeck rejoiced. He thought that he finally had found a fundamental piece of evidence against Linnæus's sexual system, which stated that plants reproduced themselves through stamens and pistils. But Linnæus was convinced that the plant did have stamens. On 9 August 1745 (o.s.) Gmelin writes to Linnæus that he impatiently looks forward to hear what Linnæus thinks of Anandria Sigesbeckioides. Bielke was constantly urged to try to get hold of some seeds of Anandria. Eventually he succeeded and the seeds were immediately forwarded to Uppsala. To begin with Linnæus could not make them blossom, but when they finally did so he was certain of his diagnosis. In a thesis, De Anandria (1745), he settles his account with Siegesbeck. The plant definitely had stamens, though difficult to see, and was found to belong to the genus of Tussilago.

8. Epilogue

Linnæus had many critics. But in the 1760's his works had long been accepted and he allows himself to make an assessment of contemporary botanists. He lists all the "officers of Flora". [37] No less than thirty-three contemporary botanists are listed and given various ranks. Although Haller was a stubborn critic, to Linnæus's credit he lists him as the third botanist in rank and thus places him among the colonels ("öfwerstar"). The second botanist is professor Bernhard Jussieu of Paris. Ludwig comes as number ten with the grade of lieutenant-colonel ("Öfwerst Leutenant"), probably a fair place. Heister comes as the last but one as "rumormästare". [38] Not surprisingly Siegesbeck was listed at the absolute bottom of the list with the grade of sergeant major ("fältväbel"). In accordance with his title of omnium seculi sui botanicorum princeps Linnæus placed himself at the top of the list as the general. [39]

Linnæus's German correspondents: [40]

Agnethler, Michael Gottlieb (1719-1752). Doctor of medicine, botanist, numismatist, Helmstädt.

Amman, Johann (1707-1741). Swiss botanist, professor of botany at the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg.

Bagge, Ehregott Nicolaus (1725-1796). Doctor of theology. Superintendent, Coburg.

Baldinger, Ernst Gottfried (1738-1804). Professor of medicine at Jena, later at Marburg.

Bauder, Johann Friedrich (1713-1791). Wine-merchant and palaeontologist.

Beckman, Johann (1739-1811). Professor of economy, Göttingen.

Behnisch, C. F. (?-?). Prussian secretary at Stockholm.

Bergen, Carl August von (1704-1759). Doctor of medicine. Professor of botany and anatomy, later of pathology and therapy, Frankfurt/Oder.

Bergstrasser, Andreas Benjamin (1732-1812). Entomologist.

Bolten, Joachim Friedrich (1718-1792). Doctor of medicine, Hamburg.

Breyne, Johann Philip (1680-1764). Zoologist and physician, Danzig.

Brückmann, Franciscus Ernst (1697-1753). Naturalist and collector. Physician at Helmstädt, later at Brunswick and Wolfenbüttel.

Brümmers, Otto F. G. (?-1752). Marshal of the court, Wismar.

Büchner, Andreas Elias (1701-1769). Professor of medicine in Erfurt, later Halle.

Burghardt, Gottfried Heinrich (1705-1776). Physician, Breslau and Brieg.

Caroline-Louise von Baden-Durlach (1751-1783). Margravine of Baden. Amateur botanist.

Cuno, Johann Christian (1708-1783). Poet, botanist and merchant.

Dietrich, Adam (1711-1782). Botanist, Ziegenhain near Jena.

Du Roi, Johann Philip (1741-1785). Doctor of medicine, Braunschweig.

Duvernoy (du Vernoi), Johann (1691-1759). Professor of anatomy, Tübingen. Albrecht von Haller's teacher.

Ehret, Georg Dionysius (1708-1770). Botanist and illustrator of Linnæus's works.

Erxleben, Johann Christopher Polycarpus (1744-1777). Professor of philosophy, Göttingen.

Fahrenheit, Daniel Gabriel (1686-1736). Physicist. Constructor of scientific instruments, e.g., the mercury thermometer.

Formey, Jean-Henri-Samuel (1711-1797). Journalist and publisher, professor of eloquence, later of philosophy, at Berlin.

Forster, Johann Reinhold (1729-1798). Naturalist and voyager.

Genzmer, Gottlob Burchart (1716?-1771). Pastor at Mecklenburg.

Georgi, Johann Gottlieb (1729-1802). Chemist, St. Petersburg.

Gesner, Johann Albrecht (1694-1761). Physician-in-ordinary of the Duke of Würtenberg .

Giseke, Paul Dietrich (1741-1796). Physician, Hamburg.

Gleditsch, Johann Gottlieb (1714-1786). Botanist and sylviculturist in Berlin, professor at the Collegium Medico-Chirurgicum in 1746.

Gmelin, Johann Georg (1709-1755). Voyager, botanist and chemist. At the initiative of Empress Anna of Russia he spent ten years (1733-1743) exploring Siberia. In 1749 he became professor of botany and chemistry at Tübingen.

Gmelin, Samuel Gottlieb (1745-1774). Professor of botany at the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Completed his uncle's Johann Georg Gmelin's Flora Sibirica (1747-1769).

Grimm, Johann Friedrich Carl (1737-1821). Personal physician to the duke of Saxe-Gotha.

Haller, Albrecht von (1708-1777). Swiss naturalist and poet, professor of medicine, botany, anatomy and surgery at Göttingen 1736-1753.

Haller, Gottlieb Emanuel von (1735-1786). Historian. Son of Albrecht von Haller and Marianne Wyss.

Hannaeus, Georg (1705-1750). Doctor of medicine, physician.

Hanovius, Michael Christopher (1695-1773). Professor of philosophy and librarian, Danzig.

Hauber, Eberhard David (1695-1765). Pastor in Copenhagen.

Hebenstreit, Johann Ernst (1703-1757). Anatomist and explorer. Professor of medicine in Leipzig. Travelled in North Africa 1731-1735.

Heinzelmann, Johann Gottfried (?-?). Botanist. Travelled in eastern Russia.

Heister, Elias Friedrich (1715-1740). Botanist. Son of Lorenz Heister.

Heister, Lorenz (1683-1758). Anatomist and surgeon, considered the father of German surgery. Professor of anatomy, surgery, theoretical medicine and botany at Helmstädt.

Herrmann, Johann (1738-1800). Botanist and chemist. Professor of medicine at Strasbourg.

Heucher, Johann Heinrich von (1677-1747). Botanist and physician, professor of botany at Wittenberg, later at Dresden. Physician-in-ordinary to August II of Poland-Saxony.

Jampert, Christian Friedrich (1727-1758). Associate professor of medicine at Halle.

Jänisch, Gottfried Jacob (?-1784). Doctor of medicine, Hamburg.

Klefeker, Johann Matthias (1698-1775). Lawyer and bibliographer, Hamburg.

Klein, Jacob Theodor (1685-1759). Naturalist, Dresden and Danzig. Director of the Danziger Naturforscher- Gesellschaft.

Kohl, Johann Peter (1698-1778). Professor of ecclesiastical history at St. Petersburg. Later author and journalist in Hamburg.

Kölpin, Alexander Bernhard (1739-1801). Professor of medicine and natural history at Greifswald. Later royal medical counsellor of Prussia and town physician of Stettin.

Lange, Johann Joachim (1698-1765). Mathematician and mineralogist, professor at Halle.

Lehmann, Johann Gottlieb (?-1767). Mineralogist. Professor of chemistry and director of the Natural History Museum of St. Petersburg.

Lerche, Johann Jacob (1703-1780). Naturalist. Military physician in Russian service at Astrakan. Travelled in Persia.

Leske, Nathanael Gottfried (1751-1786). Professor of economy at Leipzig, later of natural history at Marburg.

Lesser, Friedrich Christian (1692-1754). Naturalist, clergyman, Nordhausen.

Leysser, Friedrich Wilhelm von (1731-1815). Counsellor to the King of Prussia.

Ludolff, Michael Matthias (1696-1756). Professor of botany and medicine, Berlin.

Ludwig, Christian Gottlieb (1709-1773). Physician. Professor of medicine in Leipzig.

Mayer, Andreas (1716-1782). Astronomer. Professor of physics and mathematics at Greifswald.

Mencken, Friedrich Otto (1708-1754). Professor of history, Leipzig.

Michaëlis, Johann (1606-1667). Professor of medicine, Leipzig.

Michaëlis, Johann David (1717-1791). Professor of Oriental languages, Göttingen.

Miller (Müller), John (Johann Sebastian) (1715-1780). Painter and engraver.

Moehring, Paul Heinrich Gerhard (1710-1792). East Frisian ornithologist, practising physician at Jever (Oldenburg).

Münchhausen, Otto von (1716-1774). Chancellor of Göttingen University.

Oetinger, Ferdinand Christ. (1719-1772). Professor of medicine, Tübingen.

Pallas, Peter Simon (1741-1811). Naturalist and explorer, Berlin.

Pott, Johann Friedrich (1738-1805). Personal physician to the Duke of Brunswick.

Schmidel, Casimir Christopher (1718-1792). Professor of medicine, Erlangen.

Scholler, Friedrich Adam (1718-1795). Botanist. Teacher at the community of Moravian Brethren at Barby.

Schreber, Johann Christian Daniel von (1739-1810). Physician and botanist. Professor of botany and director of the botanical garden of Erlangen.

Siegesbeck, Johann Georg (1686-1755). Prussian botanist, doctor of medicine at Wittenberg, physician and director of the botanical garden at St. Petersburg 1735-1747.

Spreckelsen, Johann Heinrich von (?-1764). Collector of natural history specimens, Hamburg.

Taube, Johann (1727-1799). Court physician, Celle.

Vogel, Zacharias (1708-1772). Doctor of medicine and surgery.

Wagner, Peter Christian (1703-1764). Physician, Bayreuth.

Weigel, Christian Ehrenfried (1748-1831). Doctor of medicine. Director of the botanical garden of Greifswald. Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Weinmann, Johann Wilhelm (1683-1741). Pharmacist and botanist.

Zinn, Johann Gottfried (1727-1759). Physician and botanist, director of the botanical garden of Göttingen.

[1] Vita Caroli Linnæi. Carl von Linnés självbiografier. På uppdrag av Uppsala universitet utgivna av E. Malmeström & A. Hj. Uggla, (Uppsala 1957), p. 141. Linnæus wrote five autobiographies (in the third person), one, Vita V, in Latin, the other four in Swedish.

[2] Linnæus's correspondence, manuscripts, books and herbarium were sold by Linnæus's widow to the English naturalist James Edward Smith. In 1829 the collections were transferred to the Linnæan Society of London, where they still remain. Through a collaboration between the Swedish Linnæan Society, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Uppsala University and its library, the Linnæan Society of London and the c18 programme of the Centre international d'étude du XVIIIe siècle of Ferney-Voltaire all letters to and from Linnæus, ca. 5,500, will now be published at The publication will be finished in 2007 as a present to Linnæus on his 300th birthday. The project is funded by the research foundation of the Swedish National Bank.

[3] W. T. Stearne, Carl Linnæus. A Bicentuary Guide to the Career and Achievements of Linnæus and the Collections of the Linnean Society (London 1978), p. 4.

[4] F. A., Stafleu, Linnæus and the Linnæans. The spreading of their ideas in systematic botany, 1735-1789 (Utrecht 1971), pp. 118 sqq.

[5] The five letters from Heister to Linnæus are published by me at; those of Linnæus have not yet come down to us.

[6] Bref och skrifvelser af och till Carl von Linné. Utgifna [...] af Th. M. Fries & J. M. Hulth & A. Hj. Uggla. Afd. I:1-8, Afd. II:1-2 (Stockholm 1907-1943), I:5, 1172, p. 257.

[7] Ludwig's letter's to Linnæus are published by me at

[8] See Ludwig to Linnæus, 14 January [1740] n.s. at

[9] See A-M. Jönsson, "The Early Correspondence between Linnæus and Ludwig: An Example of an Early German Criticism", Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift (1996-1997), 131-178.

[10] See my publications of these correspondences at

[11] "We are created human beings in order to dissent, so that through this dissension truth will finally appear! We botanists live in a free republic. It is granted to everyone to decide what he wants to say, what he thinks. Time alone will judge us". Ludwig, 14 August (and 7 September) 1737 n.s., to Linnæus, published at

[12] Th. M. Fries, Linné, Lefnadsteckning (Stockholm 1903), II, p. 277.

[13] See G. Schmid, & H. Freund, "Linné und Academia naturae curiosorum", Svenska Linnésällskapets Årsskrift 13 (1930), 124-152. Büchner's letter to Linnæus, 1 October 1736 n.s., is published at

[14] Printed in Bref och skrifvelser, II:2, p. 16 sq.

[15] In a letter to Linnæus on 21 March 1739 n.s. Gleditsch describes the deplorable state of botany in Germany. Botanists quarrel about the more conspicuous exotic plants and out of absurd pride trample on and despise the indigenous plants, ferns, Algae, Fungi and mosses which they consider to be Nature's waste products. The professors cannot even identify one single little herb. Excursions are rejected. Gleditsch's letters to Linnæus are published by me at; those of Linnæus have not come down to us.

[16] Multas esse rationes audio, quae cogant credere cohesisse olim Sibiriam Americae (Gmelin to Linnæus, 7 February 1746 o.s.). Gmelin's letters to Linnæus and Linnæus's to Gmelin are published by me at

[17] Vita Caroli Linnæi, p. 146 (my translation of the Swedish).

[18] Linnæus became confused, when he found the Peloria, because he believed it to be a hybridization. However, it is just an epigenetic mutation, which has changed the symmetry of the flower from bilateral to radial. See B. G. Gardiner, "Linnæus's species concept and his views on evolution", The Linnean 17 (2001), 28.

[19] Linnæus was an adherent of the Aristotelian idea about a catena naturae. Everything can be arranged hierarchically from angels, people, animals and plants to the dead materia.

[20] Linnæus, Fundamenta botanica (Amsterdam 1736), Aph. no. 133 sq.: Vegetabilia, sensatione licet destituantur, aeque tamen ac Animalia vivere probat ortus, nutritio, aetas, motus, propulsio, morbus, mors, Anatomia, organismus. (134) Omne vivum ex ovo provenire datur; per consequens etiam Vegetabilia; quorum semina esse ova; docet eorum finis, subolem parentibus conformem producens.

[21] "For what strange, discordant orders and classes, totally contrary to Nature, is it not necessary to subordinate in such a Method because of this fictitious matrimony of plants, e.g. when eight, nine, ten, twelve, even twenty or more husbands are found here in the same [bridal] chamber together with one woman" (p. 49).

[22] Siegesbeck's letters are published by me at; those by Linnæus have not come down to us.

[23] The letters from Haller to Linnæus are published by me and those by Linnæus to Haller by Brita Larsson at

[24] Göttische Zeitungen von Gelehrten Sachen, 1746, p. 670. Cf., Linnæus to Gmelin on 14 February 1747: Non placet, quod Hominem inter ant<h>ropomorpha collocaverim, sed homo noscit se ipsum. Removeamus vocabula. Mihi perinde erit, quo nomine utamur. Sed quaero a Te et Toto orbe differentiam genericam inter hominem et Simiam, quae ex principiis Historiae naturalis. Ego certissime nullam novi. Utinam aliquis mihi unicam diceret! Si vocassem hominem simiam vel vice versa omnes in me conjecissem theologos. Debuissem forte ex lege artis ( ).

[25] G. Broberg , "Homo sapiens. Linnæus's Classification of Man" (in: Linnæus. The Man and His Work) Uppsala Studies in History of Science, 18, pp. 156 sqq.

[26] See Linnæus to Mennander, 1 December 1738 o.s., 12 December 1738 n.s., at

[27] See Amman to Linnæus, 15 November 1737 n.s., at

[28] And God said, 'Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.' And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good (Gen.: 1:11 sq., The Revised Standard Version).

[29] In 1740 Browallius was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Society of Sciences in Stockholm and became its president in 1747. When stepping down as president on 23 May 1747 he read a paper, "Tal om känningen af Guds försyn vid nyttiga vetenskapers främjande", on gaining knowledge of the providence of God through the promotion of useful sciences.

[30] See my edition of Rathgeb's letters to Linnæus at

[31] Linnæus's letter has not come down to us.

[32] Homines ubivis terrarum maxime timendi, qu<u>m soleant male intellecta per falsas consequentias in pravum sensum detorquere.

[33] Quod autem ad illam attinet, quam de Curiositate naturali inscripsisti, ut morem tibi gererem Trium Theologorum, qui in hac urbe magni nominis habentur, de ea sententiam exquisivi. Tu ipse ex his adjectis tribus schedulis sub No. 1, 2, 3, quae mihi rescripserunt, uberius accipe, et quamvis duo eorundem paucissima aliqua notarint, quae minus doctis offensioni esse possint, convenere tamen omnes nihil in eadem invenisse, quod aut pietati in Deum aut Christinae Religionis praeceptis adversetur. Hinc est, quod mihi etiam valde placeat, quod in Schedula No. 2, quae insignis Theologi est ex Ordine Sancti Francisci, subjunctum: Nihil offensionis legentibus creare posse videntur, legentibus, inquam, non quibuscunque, sed in hujusmodi rebus exercitatis (see Rathgeb's letter to Linnæus, 13 September 1748 n.s., at ).
These three theologians are not mentioned by name. Their reports have not come down to us.

[34] Bref och skrifvelser, I:8, no. 1587, pp. 8 sq. Siegesbeck was never elected. In another letter to Linnæus on 3 May 1744, Bref och skrifvelser, I:8, no. 1589, pp. 12 sq., Kalm assures Linnæus that he has not been affected by Siegesbeck's absurd principles in any way. But Siegesbeck has treated him very well and admitted that he has been too hard on Linnæus and confessed that some things are his fault. He now wants to become Linnæus's friend.

[35] Steller was shipwrecked together with Bering at the island, which got its name after him. Bering died there in 1741, but Steller was saved. However, when he tried to return home he was arrested in Siberia and died in November 1746. Some of Steller's collections were saved by the Russian nobleman Gregorij Demidoff, who had founded a botanical garden in Solikamsk near the Ural mountains. He realised the value of the material and also sent duplicates to Linnæus.

[36] Bref och skrifvelser, I:3, no. 561, pp. 194 sq. (my translation of the Swedish; I have retained Linnæus's Latin).

[37] Vita Caroli Linnæi, pp. 153 sq.

[38] The title goes back to the Thirty Years' War, when the "rumormästare", a sort of head of logistics, was in charge of order in the camp. Cf., however, the present day meaning of this word "turbulent fellow".

[39] Posterity was to show that Linnæus was right in considering himself the general. He was the only one among his contemporaries who worked on a world-wide survey of the plant kingdom. His works were to win him permanent recognition.

In November 1998 The Independent published an article by Michael McCarthy with the title "Scientists reclassify all plants" and asserted that Linnæus now definitely belonged to the past ("botany upturned - A rose is still a rose, but everything else in botany is turned on its head"). The article caused such a sensation that CNN decided immediately to make a programme about Linnæus. However, Linnæus can never be just a man of the past. He laid the foundation for comprehensive research that is in constant progress. The binomial system is still used today. The sexual system, however, is a thing of the past. But Linnæus knew himself that this system of counting pistils and stamens was artificial and did not quite reflect nature. During the last ten years computers and the new DNA technique have become important tools in describing the relationships of plants. The survey of genera would open new possibilities and answer questions that Linnæus asked but never could answer. The thoughts about the genera of organisms have constantly fascinated people and many new systems have been suggested. During the last decade powerful computers and the new DNA-technique have become important tools in determining the genera of plants. In the 1950's phylogenetic reconstruction was introduced, which enabled plants through their family trees to be brought together to natural groups. This method has in later years revolutionised botany, since scientists now are able to perform so called cladistic analyses based on comprehensive rDNA-sequences, which show the true relationships of plants. These analyses have resulted in a new system called the The Angiosperm Phylogeny Group System (the APG system) which 29 botanists created. This system constitutes an ordinal classification for the families of flowering plants with 462 families of plants. It can thus be proved that certain plant families really are related, and thereby form natural groups, which have not been known before. So the broadleaved decidous trees belong, for example, to the Rosideae and Linnæus's own plant, Linnea borealis, is nowadays found in a group of its own, Linnaeaceae.

[40] A list of all the letters to and fro Linnæus will be published by Eva Nyström at

Autor (author): Ann-Mari Jönsson
Dokument erstellt (document created): 2002-08-13
Dokument geändert (last update): 2002-08-27
WWW-Redaktion (conversion into HTML): Manuela Kahle & Stephan Halder
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