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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Persons, Collections and Topics

Strandell Collection

Curated by the Library, the Strandell Collection of Linnaeana includes nearly all published works, in almost every known edition and translation, by the great Swedish naturalist-physician Carolus Linnaeus as well as works by a number of his students and a considerable amount of commentary about Linnaeus and his natural history students, as published up to the late 1960s.

This is one of the largest assemblages of such materials outside Uppsala, Sweden, and it includes approximately 3,000 volumes. The Institute acquired the collection in 1968 from Birger Strandell (1901–1993), a Stockholm physician and descendant of Linnaeus who had built a private collection of Linnaean materials over most of his lifetime. Strandell first acquired an existing collection developed by Emil Lindell (1854–1941) in 1936 and then systematically began to fill in gaps. Before we acquired the Strandell Collection of Linnaeana, it was kept at Strandell's home in Stockholm. As he noted in a 1976 Taxon article, "It was quite obvious that one should not dispose of such a collection. But space requirements for its shelving and care became increasingly demanding, and few private homes could accommodate it properly. With its increasing value, and the responsibility of maintaining it, there arose the difficult question of where it should be permanently housed" (Strandell 1976, p. 5). As then-Hunt Institute director Gilbert S. Daniels (assistant director, 1967–1970; director, 1970–1977) reported in the introduction to the 1976 Taxon article, "For secondary material such as biographical works, pamphlets, broadsides, reviews, announcements, and several thousand clippings about Linnaeus and his students, the Strandell Collection has no equal" (Strandell 1976, p. 3). To celebrate the opening of this collection, Linnaean scholars from all over the world were invited to come to Pittsburgh on 2–3 June 1973 to present a series of papers in a special Linnaean Symposium. The papers were reproduced in Taxon in 1976.

The collection includes publications by Linnaeus (first and later editions and reprints and translations), the 186 student dissertations that he supervised, publications by a number of his students, a considerable amount of secondary literature discussing his impact on the natural sciences and medicine, and a large collection of clippings relating to him and his scientific and cultural impact, primarily connected with Sweden.

The Strandell Collection is fully catalogued and available for use by researchers. At present the catalogue records for this collection are accessible only on-site in the form of a printed catalogue, but eventually the Institute hopes to make them available online as well. Contact the Library for additional information or to arrange for a visit.

Carolus Linnaeus

Carolus Linnaeus (also Carl von Linné; 1707–1778) is generally credited with ushering in the era of modern biology. His work in classification, nomenclature and descriptive method and terminology covered all the species of plants and animals then known to the Western world and comprehensively correlated almost all of the biological information that had been published previously in Europe. In this manner he brought order out of the chaos of what was an information explosion in the natural sciences.

In 1732 when Linnaeus was 25 years old, he received a grant from the Royal Society of Science to travel north to Lapland. His goal was to study Lapland's natural history, mineral resources and people, seeking ways to benefit Sweden's economic and security interests. All his life he retained a deep impression from his time there, occasionally wearing Lapp clothing on special occasions. During the trip he made drawings and recorded observations in a journal, later published. He later made similar journeys to Dalarna and the Falun copper mines, Öland, Gotland, Västergötland and Skåne and recorded his observations. He is often cited as a pioneering ethnobotanist based on these travels and his documentation of them.

After Linnaeus returned to Uppsala, in June 1735 he went to Holland to enroll at the University of Harderwijk, a well-known diploma mill for medical degrees, where he passed an exam, presented and defended a thesis and gained a degree in short order. He was in Holland for three years, also making brief trips to Paris and London. In all three places he met and impressed naturalists and influential and wealthy sponsors who would remain important contacts. He was hired in Holland to supervise and catalogue George Clifford's extensive garden of exotic plants. Working with Clifford's plant collection gave him critical exposure to plants from other parts of the world that would help to fuel his thinking about classification. Also while there he published ten works, most of which he brought with him in manuscript from Uppsala, also writing a few others in Holland. The first was Systema Naturae, presenting his early classification of "the three realms of nature"—animal, vegetable and mineral—in 12 pages. He returned to Uppsala not only as a doctor but also as a published author in natural history with important, international connections. He was already thinking about using floral reproductive structures to classify plants. He was ready to put his ideas into practice on the widest possible scale.

Linnaeus, a natural classifier, first published a comprehensive system of classification for all animals, plants and minerals in Systema Naturae. His subsequent Species Plantarum, originally published in 1753, was the first work to account for all plants then known in the West, to classify them according to a simple system by which they could be easily identified and to provide for each a name of only two words. The binomial system of nomenclature did not originate with Linnaeus, nor was it the main purpose of his publication, but the comprehensive use of unique, easy-to-remember binomial names alongside the traditional diagnostic polynomials (which he still regarded as the "true" names of plants) eventually led to the designation of Species Plantarum as the starting point for modern botanical nomenclature. The binomial system is used to this day in zoology as well as in botany, and modern zoological nomenclature dates from the 1758 edition of Systema Naturae.

Linnaeus divided the plant kingdom into 24 classes, based on the number and disposition of stamens, and 67 orders, based on the number and disposition of pistils. This expedient but botanically simplistic classification by reproductive organs was controversial and not widely accepted at first. Many botanists were searching for a natural classification, and Linnaeus' scheme was artificial, grouping plants by what seemed to be arbitrarily chosen characters. Some took exception to what they perceived as scandalous allusions to sexual reproduction in plants, an idea that many at the time found difficult to believe or tolerate. In fact Linnaeus' lasting fame rests not on his classification itself but on his contributions in nomenclature and description and on his having provided a comprehensive and effective information system for burgeoning knowledge about the world's biota.

Although his ideas as published in the various editions of Systema Naturae and Species Plantarum figure as Linnaeus' most significant work, they are by no means his only published output. He published several books in relation to his travels and to Clifford's garden, a number of works laying out his philosophy and method, a flora of Sweden, observations on materia medica, a catalogue of plants in the Uppsala University botanical garden and others. Beyond these, as a professor he also was instrumental in the production of 186 dissertations (185 presided over by him, the last presided over by his son), most of which were about plants but also covering other topics.

According to Birger Strandell, "As regards Linnaeus's original works, later editions of his works, and other works edited by him, [my collection] is almost complete. Only very few of these works are missing from the collection, and many are represented by more than one copy, to show even small differences." In a 1976 Taxon article Strandell noted that the collection lacks the 1732 Florula Lapponica, pars prior, and that is still the case. On the other hand, the Amoenitates Academicae are an example of the depth of the Strandell Collection. After the original dissertations were produced and defended, they began to be republished in collected editions, many under the title Amoenitates Academicae, which in some editions had selected dissertations being edited by Linnaeus for republication while others were left unchanged. In addition to all 186 Linnaean dissertations, we also have most of the editions of the Amoenitates Academicae. The Strandell Collection includes the Camper edition, Linnaeus edition, Wetstenius issue of the Linnaeus edition, Linnaeus revised edition (vols. 2–3), Schreber edition (ed. 1 in microfilm, ed. 3 in original volumes), and Hoepfner edition; we also have partial, published collections selected by F. J. Brand (bound photocopy only), Benjamin Stillingfleet, Leopold Gottlieb von Biwald and Jean Emmanuel Gilibert, along with Richard Pulteney's English summaries of many of the dissertations, in two editions plus a French translation.

Another point to consider regarding Linnaeus' work is his impact on the many students who studied with him. Of the 331 Linnaean students identified by Sven-Erik Sandermann Olsen, quite a few focused on some aspect of natural history or medicine, while others were studying religion, economics, history and other topics. Of those natural history students, there were 17 who felt inspired by Linnaeus to travel to faraway places on their own or as part of organized expeditions, to study and document nature and culture during the second half of the 18th century, often sharing their findings with their teacher. Many new plants and animals were named and described by students of Linnaeus or by Linnaeus based on their work. Linnaeus referred to them as his apostles. The Strandell Collection includes published work by or about most of the apostles as well as by or about a number of Linnaeus's other students, in some cases including dissertations they supervised.

It is difficult to overstate Linnaeus' importance in the history of science. The essence of Linnaeus' achievement is that he succeeded in regularizing the way plants and animals were studied. He made systematics systematic, through a system of uniform description, classification and nomenclature, which in turn simplified and facilitated identification. The magnitude, utility and comprehensiveness of his system made it unique and influenced the way that his colleagues and successors would approach their work. Modern systematic biology began with his mid-18th-century publications.


Strandell, B. 1976. Linnaean Symposium at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. Taxon 25(1): 3–8.

Other resources

For more information about the 186 student dissertations that Linnaeus supervised, see our Linnaean Dissertations.

For PDFs of the dissertations, summaries and bibliographic information, see the Original Linnaean Dissertations database.

For a reference resource on these dissertations and the scientific names that appear in them, see the Index to Scientific Names of Organisms Cited in the Linnaean Dissertations database.

For a more in-depth look at Linnaeus and his students, see our online exhibition Order from Chaos: Linnaeus Disposes.

For information about portraits of and biographical citations for Linnaeus and his students, see the Hunt Institute Archives Register of Botanical Biography and Iconography database.

In addition to the Strandell Collection of Linnaeana, there are a number of other collections of Linnaean material of possible interest to researchers.

The library of the Linnean Society of London holds Linnaeus' own collections of plant and animal (fish, insects, shells) specimens as well as his personal library (books, manuscripts, correspondence).

The Institut de France, Paris, holds the plant specimens that Linnaeus collected in Lapland.

The Natural History Museum in London holds several collections of plant specimens and drawings consulted by Linnaeus.

The Museum of Evolution at Uppsala University in Sweden contains plant specimens consulted by Linnaeus.

The University Libraries at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, Kansas, hold the Mackenzie Linnaeana collection, formerly at the New York Horticultural Society, which consists of books and dissertations.

Information on the Linnaean herbarium at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, is available.

The Linnaeus Link Project is an international collaboration among libraries with significant holdings of Linnaean material. Its primary activity is Linnaeus Link, a comprehensive, online Union Catalogue of Linnaean publications, facilitating research for scholars worldwide. Linnaeus Link is funded, maintained and coordinated by the Linnean Society of London. Hunt Institute has been a partner in Linnaeus Link since the project's beginnings in 1999.

The Linnaean Society of New York was founded in 1878 as a natural history society and serves interested amateurs and professional scientists. Their public lectures, meetings and membership are open to persons with an active interest in ornithology, natural science and conservation, with a focus on the northeast United States. In the spirit of the society's namesake Carl Linnaeus, they maintain several funds promoting fieldwork and scientific research and also grant awards.

Strandell Room, Hunt Institute, photograph by Frank A. Reynolds.
 A corner of the Library was remodeled to create the room in 1972 to house the collection, reproduced by permission of the photographer.

Selected Artworks

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