Roles as Physician and Teacher

Linnaeus as a Teacher

On October 25, 1741, Linnaeus delivered his inaugural lecture, which dealt with the discoveries that could be made, and the benefits that could be reaped, from scientific journeys throughout Sweden. He now had an opportunity to inform his public of what he himself had been able to contribute in his travels. As mentioned, in 1742 it was decided that Rosén and Linnaeus should swap professorships. Linnaeus’ interests were more in the field of botany, and Rosén’s in anatomy and practical medicine. Lectures were held in the Gustavianum, but so-called private collegiums were also held, and these were in his home. This teaching was economically rewarding. Varying numbers of students (50–60) listened. What attracted the largest audiences were his lectures on diet. The total number of students at Uppsala in that day was 500–600.

The blossoming of natural science, including medicine, at Uppsala may have been the result of the elderly professors having been replaced, and the fact that much of what was being taught had news value. The popularity of the lectures on the art of medicine was also related to the circumstance that there were so few physicians, which entailed that medicinal plants were also used by nature healers. Also in terms of prevention, that is, using science to affect the health of the population by improving living conditions, food, beverages, clothing, and housing, Linnaeus’ instruction was of great benefit. His students took notes and spread this knowledge throughout the country.

Researching Students

Linnaeus had a large number of disciples. They are often called “Linneans,” and those who ventured out into the world beyond the borders of Sweden were referred to as his “apostles.” Both terms obliged them to pursue science and disseminate available knowledge. We might consider Linnaeus’ role as the teacher, the exemplar. We can also discern what seems to have been a certain authoritarian attitude on the part of Linnaeus in relation to his students. What might Linnaeus have taught them? Those who accompanied him in his travels must have been impressed with his ability to interview the local populace – how he approached those who had information and could contribute to answering the core question “to what benefit?” Many of his students became physicians in the provinces, some pharmacists, but others priests. An interesting phenomenon, not least from an educational point of view, was their dissertations.

Last modified: 2022-02-16