Carl Linnaeus is the best-known Uppsala University scientist of all time and the celebration of his memory has been far from a matter for Uppsala alone, or even Sweden. On May 25 and 26, 1807, the centenary of the birth of Linnaeus was celebrated in Uppsala and Växjö. The marking of anniversaries had previously been purely a sacred phenomenon, which made the 1807 Linnaeus festivities a pioneering jubilee, focusing on science. In connection with these celebrations, the Linneanum building was opened in the Botanical Garden and speeches were held by two of Linnaeus’ disciples, the professor of botany, Carl Peter Thunberg, and the botany teacher, Adam Afzelius. The foundation of the edifice had been laid in the presence of king Gustaf III as early as 1787, and even the name marks its monumental purpose. In Växjö a speech was given by yet another disciple, physician Sven A. Hedin, whose speech also was read in Uppsala the same day by a Smolandish student named Pehr Sjöbring, later professor in Orientalistics. Hedin had initiated the celebration in the landscape of Småland, by collecting means for a Linnaeus bust by Jonas Forsslund.
The planning of the festivities were marked by disagreeances on several points. The correct date of Linnaeus' birthday was not yet agreed upon. Adam Afzelius did not approve of the celebration in Småland, but also used the occasion to promote his own academic career. The Smolandish student nation in Uppsala felt abused by Sven Hedin and the Uppsala professors, when their participation was demanded and not asked for. And Carl Peter Thunberg was not altogether sure that his former teacher diserved the attention, since Linnaeus had not donated his collections to to the University.
On October 12, 1829, a statue of Linnaeus by Johan Niclas Byström, donated by the Uppsala students, was unveiled to complement the Linneanum. The historian and poet Erik Gustaf Geijer spoke on the solemn occasion. In 1829 exactly one century had passed since Linnaeus, then a student, met Professor Olof Celsius in the University’s Botanical Garden and thereby found a patron who would enable his early career. This 100th anniversary offered Geijer a pretext to invoke associations to the key relationship between students and their leaders, which he likened to plants flourishing at the foot of an ancient oak. The Student Choir sang about Linnaeus' unveiling of the mysteries of nature. This celebration was initiated by the soon-to-be founded Student Corps of Uppsala.
In 1841 the conferment ceremony for medical doctors became a celebration of the centenary of Linnaeus recieving the chair. Israel Hwasser, also professor of medicine, spoke of Linnaeus as a romantic philosopher of nature, a "seer", well aware of the powers of nature. During the course of the 19th century Linnaeus became a Swedish national monument, the ideal picture of a pious, truth-seeking scientist, more and more frequently supplied with the epithet “the prince of flowers”, coined by the Swedish nationalist poet Carl Snoilsky who, in his Linnean poems, depicted Linnaeus as the young child touched by floral genius.
Great pains were taken to cherish the memory of Linnaeus on the 100th anniversary of his death, in both Uppsala and the rest of Sweden. On January 10, 1878, the University arranged a memorial service for Linnaeus on the centenary of his decease. Two other Linnaeus celebrations took place in Uppsala in 1878. Småland student nation celebrated Linneaus for being its inspektor of many years, and the Student Science Society arranged an academic symposium about the subject of their celebration. Not long after this centenary, the State and the University purchased Linnaeus' summer home, Hammarby, which soon became a museum.
In May 1907 the bicentenary of the birth of Linnaeus was marked in a great many Swedish towns. The 1907 anniversary can be regarded as a culmination, not only of the Linnaeus cult, but also of what the author August Strindberg likened to the “era of assassinations and jubilees.” This time as well, Uppsala was the centre of attention, with its University celebrating its great alumnus on May 23–24. The town was adorned with flags, flowers, and plants, and several members of the royal family were in attendance. The University’s ceremony was carried out in the Grand Auditorium at University Hall, which was filled with guests from near and far. The following day a special Linnaeus conferment ceremony was held in the Cathedral for all four of the University’s faculties. The list of honorary doctors included the English botanist Francis Darwin (son of Charles); the secretary of the Royal Society, Archibald Geikie; the secretary of the Linnean Society of London, Benjamin Daydon Jackson; and its former president, William Carruthers, although the Swedish doctors h.c. outnumbered the foreign ones. Among those receiving honorary doctorates was the Swedish prince and artist Eugen and author Selma Lagerlöf. It was the first time Uppsala University paid tribute to a woman in this way.
During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Linnaeus was portrayed on chocolate bars, bottled water and stamps, and in 1965 he became the first non-royal person to appear on a bank-note. When the Swedish Linnean Society, formed in 1917, celebrated its 50th anniversary, they presented Linnaeus in an exhibition on his international qualities. By then, jubilant celebrations in the spirit of romantic nationalism were hardly the ideal. However, this did not prevent the memory of Linnaeus from being celebrated on January 10, 1978, on the bicentenary of his death. In Uppsala Cathedral a commemorative service was held, followed by a Linnaeus concert. The president of the Swedish Linnaeus Society, Carl-Johan Clemedson, dissociated himself from the panegyrics of the past, stressing in his celebratory lecture that Linnaeus was not an infallible prince of flowers, but “in all his academic greatness” was, on the contrary, a human being with flaws and shortcomings. During the 1978 anniversary an international symposium was held, commencing at the Linnean Society of London and continuing a few days later in Uppsala, at Linnaeus’ Hammarby, and at the Royal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm.
By pondering the forms, proportions, and expressions of the celebration of Linnaeus, it is possible to trace shifts in the image of Linnaeus over time. The Linnaean tradition itself has become an object of study, as has the celebration and description of other scientists such as Darwin, Newton etc. Various ages have highlighted different aspects, aspects which are important for the historical and social understanding of science in its respective time.
Uppsala: Uppsala universitet , 2007. 10-59 p.
Carl von Linné 1707-1778, jubiléer och bemärkelsedagar, historia, universitetshistoria, studenthistoria, Uppsala, statyinvigning, monumentkultur, jubileum, Carl Peter Thunberg, Adam Afzelius, Sven A. Hedin, Pehr Sjöbring, Erik Gustaf Geijer, Johan Niclas Byström, Jonas Forsslund, Israel Hwasser, Carl Snoilsky, Selma Lagerlöf, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton