Linnaeus’ apostles

Already as a young student, Linnaeus had shown himself to be an unusual and captivating speaker. As a professor he continued to fascinate and inspire others through unconventional methods. He often assembled his students for relaxed walks in nature in the Uppsala area. It developed into a rewarding form of in-the-field lectures which on occation attracted hundreds of students.

Linnaeus’ ideas in the world
Some students became extremely important to Linnaeus and for the spreading of his system – he called them his “apostles”. They were given the opportunity and the responsibility to pass on Linnaeus’ ideas around the world on scientific expeditions to other continents. 

The main purpose was to gather plants, seeds and other living organisms that could be included in his Systema Naturae. In the spirit of Linnaeus, the apostles were also to be attentive to everything they encountered on their journey and meticulously report their observations.

Among the 17 apostles were Pehr Kalm, who travelled around North America, Daniel Solander who travelled with Cook on his first circumnavigation, Anders Sparrman who took part in Cook’s second circumnavigation and Carl Peter Thunberg, who travelled in southern Africa, Japan, Java and Ceylon – present-day Sri Lanka.

His apostles travelled further out in the world than practically any other Swedes had done. They spread Linnaeus’ science and in the spirit of Linnaeus and they collected plants and animals from all over the world. In several cases, their names live on in the countries they visited. Some of the apostles never returned to Sweden, dying far from home on their travels. Their notes and collected material were saved however.