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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

LINNÉ AND THE LOVE FOR NATURE.[1]
By EDWARD K. PUTNAM

DAVENPORT ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

SPRING, always the delight of the lover and of the poet the world over, becomes more and more so the farther we go into the north. Nowhere are the spring songs so full of feeling as in Scandinavia. When the northern winter, over-dark and over-long, is past; when returning light and warmth inspire sleeping nature with new life; when the blue anemone, close to the fast-retreating snow, looks up into the cheering sun; when the birch puts on its delicate fresh green; when the thrush pours into the fragrant air its love-song, then, as Linné puts it, "love seizes even the plants," and the spirit of spring awakens the heart of man into a new joy. It was when this Swedish spring was at its best that the blomsterkung (king of flowers), Carl von Linné, was born, and in the romantic north, where fancy is still free to roam, it is natural that the good people should imagine some bond between the season and the child. And surely the May child, who in his cradle stopped crying when a flower was placed in his hand, grew up to be a lover of the flowers and of all nature.

This love for nature, which marked the whole life of Linné, was inherited; and he was brought up among the flowers in the garden of Stenbrohult, his father's Smaland parsonage. The flowers were his playthings and their names almost the first words on his lips. Once when hardly four years old he followed his father to a lovely äng, or flower-covered meadow, and overheard him telling his friends the name and properties of each of the plants. After that, he never ceased to ask his father for the name of each plant he met. Once, when rebuked for forgetting and asking again in the childish way, he made up his mind to put his whole energy on keeping in memory all that he was told, for he did not wish to miss hearing about the things that were dearest to him.

Linné never forgot the race of peasants and priests from which he rose, nor did he forget the humble flowers of Stenbrohult. Years afterward when at the height of fame, he visited his early home and wrote in his notes, "To the flowers, my childhood's play-brothers of Stenbrohult on the banks of Mökeln, now I bade farewell," and then he goes on to call the plants and the weeds by name.


  1. An address delivered at Augustana College, Rock Island. Illinois, on the occasion of the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Carl von Linné (Carolus Linnæus).