Linnaeus acquires many friends… and is sold for a book!

The old university at Leiden.
Behind the walls is the Botanical
Garden of the 1590’s.
Photo: H. Odöö.

During his three years in Holland Linnaeus stayed mostly in Amsterdam, Leiden and at the country house Hartecamp (20 km north of Leiden) and he got to know many scientists. Linnaeus had a pleasant manner and easily made new friends, which was important, not least economically. Linnaeus was penniless, but his friends supported him in different ways so that he was given well-paid scientific commissions.

Johannes Burman in Amsterdam

Johannes Burman was a botanist, professor and responsible for the botanical garden in Amsterdam. Linnaeus was employed by Burman to complete a flora of the plants of Ceylon.

Herman Boerhave – an important contact

Herman Boerhave was at this time one of the most famous physicians in Europe and a professor of medicine. Linnaeus became his friend and learnt a great deal from the old professor. Moreover Boerhave introduced Linnaeus to other important people, both in Holland and abroad.

Johan Gronovius and Isaac Lawson paid for printing the thesis

The two doctors Johan Gronovius Jr and Isaac Lawson paid for the printing of Systema naturae (first edition 1735), a book which made Linnaeus famous overnight among the learned.

Adriaan van Royen in the botanical garden in Leiden

The bust of Linnaeus in the Botanical Garden at Leiden.
The garden was founded in the 1590's by Clusius and the
plants were arranged according to Linnaeus' sexual system
during his stay in Holland.

Adriaan van Royen was responsible for the famous botanical garden in Leiden and by and by wanted to arrange the plants there according to the sexual system he had read about in Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae. Today Linnaeus is honoured with a bust in the garden close to the systematic quarter.

Exotic animals and plants at George Clifford's mansion

When Linnaeus worked for Burman they both visited the financier George Clifford at his mansion Hartecamp. Linnaeus was impressed by the great botanical and zoological gardens. Clifford needed a competent person to be responsible for all the exotic animals and plants and for the herbarium. Moreover Clifford was a hypochondriac and required a medical doctor in constant attendance. We can all see how suited Linnaeus was for the job but Burman wanted to keep Linnaeus. So then Clifford showed him a fantastic book. It was not in Burman’s collections and Clifford said he could have it in exchange for Linnaeus. Burman accepted and you could say Linnaeus was sold for a book! Clifford was now to become Linnaeus’ great benefactor, always ready to help him.

When Linnaeus’ great friend and collaborator, Peter Artedi, drowned in one of Amsterdam’s canals, it was Clifford who paid Artedi’s debt to his landlord. The landlord had threatened to sell his possessions at an auction sale but now, thanks to Clifford, Linnaeus acquired his things and could fulfil his promise: to print Artedi’s unpublished manuscript on fishes.

Last modified: 2023-06-19