The Swedish Linnaeus Society was founded at Linnaeus’ estate Hammarby on 23 May 1917, on the 210th anniversary of the birth of Linnaeus. It was upon the initiative of court dentist and book collector Elof Förberg. Those invited to the first meeting included several of the leading Linnaeus researches of the day, such as Ernst Almquist, botanist, Carl Forsstrand, author, Robert Fries, botanist, Olof Hult, doctor and medical historian, Markus Hulth, head librarian, Rutger Sernander, plant biologist and Tycho Tullberg, zoologist and descendant of Linnaeus.
The Society’s mission
Elof Förberg saw the need for a Linnaeus society for several reasons: one was the lack of a forum for Linnaean studies, a forum where new scientific findings could be published regarding the editions and variations of Linnaeus’ writings. The Society would also safeguard Linnaeus’ letters from destruction or ending up abroad. Other important tasks were to produce an inventory of all known Linnaeus monuments and mementos, and a complete Linnaean library. The Society would also be able to support continued Linnaean research by publishing works by and about Linnaeus and his followers.
The first meeting
The first members’ meeting was held in November 1917 at Strand Hotel in Stockholm. The Crown Prince and consort, and as well as the painter and member of the royal family Prince Eugen, added to the status of the meeting, which was attended by no less than 280 members. At the meeting the idea was put forward for the first time to turn Linnaeus’ home in Uppsala into a museum – the home of the director of the botanical garden (now the Linnaeus Museum), and to restore Linnaeus’ botanical garden (now the Linnaeus Garden) to its original appearance.
In the early years, the Society worked intensively to achieve the set goals. The main objectives were meetings with lectures, a yearbook and to begin the publication of Linnaeus’ works, as well as to restore and tend the places where had lived and worked.
Elof Förberg was the driving force. He was the Society’s first treasurer and main organiser. Of particular importance was his successful and skilfully planned recruitment of members, not least those from wealthy and influential circles. He introduced multi-tier membership (supporting members paid 1,200 SEK), enlisted the founders of a Linnaeus Museum and started subscriptions. In this way the economic wherewithal was assembled to buy objects from the Linnaeus family and private collectors. The Society could therefore at an early date acquire furniture, household items (porcelain, glass, silver), textiles and art that had belonged to the Linnaeus family.