His Time in Lund (1727–28)

As mentioned above, Linnaeus went to Lund to study medicine. However, the teaching was a shambles. The Faculty of Medicine at Lund consisted of a single individual, Professor Johan Jacob von Döbeln. On top of this the Faculty of Medicine lacked resources to support its students. At that time doctor of medicine Kilian Stobaeus lived and worked in Lund. In 1728 he became temporary professor of Philosofiae Naturalis et Physics Experimentalis and was also a personal physician. The holder of the chair “must be a physician and have knowledge of anatomy, botany, mineralogy, chemistry, and familiarity with natural objects.” Linnaeus found lodging with Stobaeus. He lived there throughout his period of studies at Lund (Storgatan 111). Stobaeus was described as sickly, one-eyed, and clubfooted, and he was plagued by migraines, hypochondria, and backaches, but he was regarded as a genius. Linnaeus gradually developed a very close and trusting relationship with Stobaeus. What started this relationship is described by Linnaeus himself in one of his autobiographies. Linnaeus had no books and no money to purchase any. He became acquainted with Stobaeus’ amanuensis, a German medical student, David Samuel Koylas. Koylas had access to Stobaeus’ library. Linnaeus was allowed to borrow books with the help of the amanuensis, but only if he promised that the books would be back in place the next morning, before Stobaeus got up. Linnaeus thus studied during the night. After a while Professor Stobaeus’ mother, whose room was next to Linnaeus’ chamber, grew concerned that Linnaeus’ room was lit up at night. She was afraid he had fallen asleep with the candle burning. As this was a fire hazard, she reported it to her son, who entered Linnaeus’ room at 1:30 a.m. that night. However, he found his lodger not asleep but studying a collection of books – from his own library. Linnaeus explained the situation, and Stobaeus was deeply moved by sympathy for the poor student who was thirsting so for knowledge. Linnaeus was granted permission to borrow books from the library in the daytime and was urged to sleep at night. The episode also led to Linnaeus getting free meals in the professor’s house, accompanying the professor on his visits to patients, and being treated as a member of the family. Linnaeus’ deep interest and incredible industriousness made a great impression, and there arose between them a mutual admiration and respect.

Linnaeus’ father had now fully realized that his son had no future as a priest. His mother still had her hopes pinned on theology, stating in despair: “All Carl ever did was to paste herbs on paper.” Dr. Rothman advised Carl to give up on Lund and study at Uppsala, which he considered was superior to the instruction at Lund University. Carl had had such thoughts himself and felt reinforced in his decision. His parents consented. Thus, on August 23, 1728, Linnaeus headed for Uppsala, where he arrived on September 5. It took a long time to travel in those days.

Last modified: 2022-02-16