Linnaeus in Dalarna

Linnaeus was invited to spend the Christmas holidays of 1733 with Claes Sohlberg, a medical student and a close friend, and his family in Falun, Dalarna. The father of the family was an inspector of mines who arranged for Linnaeus to visit a foundry and the copper mine at Falun and the silver mine at Sala. Linnaeus was horrified by the working conditions in the mines.

Linnaeus was commissioned to lead an expedition in Dalarna

Sveden, Sara Lisa’s family home outside Falun.
Eventually she married Linnaeus here.
Oil painting, Linnés Hammarby.

In Falun, Linnaeus made the acquaintance of Johan Browallius. He was the tutor to the sons of Nils Reuterholm, governor of the province. Linnaeus met Reuterholm and described his journey to Lappland. The governor thought that such an expedition should also be made in Dalarna and commissioned Linnaeus to lead one. In the summer of 1734, together with seven of the most able medical students in Uppsala, he explored Dalarna’s natural resources. Mostly on horseback, they covered 800 kms in 45 days, from July 3rd to August 17th.

Bark bread, forests, and mountains

Linnaeus noted how the people worked, grew crops, built houses, made their clothes and cured their sick. He observed that, when there was a shortage of flour, trees were chopped down and the bark ground to eke out the flour. Linnaeus thought the people should grow potatoes instead, but many were still sceptical as to this new-fangled vegetable.

When Linnaeus saw the great forests of Dalarna he suggested that the timber should be brought to the great rivers and floated to the river mouths where it could be sold to build ships etc. In the mountains the expedition studied minerals, wild reindeer and birds. They noted that people could survive on lichen boiled in water and milk when no other victuals remained.

Linnaeus had the opinion that the people of Dalarna lived a sober and healthy life apart from those in Falun connected with the mine. The miners often died of stone dust in their lungs. These miners also used to drink great quantities of ale. A new guest was expected to drink, without pausing, two or three great tankards of ale when he arrived and Linnaeus wrote: “your belly might burst, your head crack open and your health, the joy of all life, be abandoned.”

Linnaeus meets a girl in Falun

In Falun Linnaeus met the daughter of the city physician, 17 year-old Sara Lisa with whom he fell in love. When Linnaeus proposed, she accepted him but her parents required Linnaeus to take his doctor’s degree first and then prove that he could support a family before there was any question of a wedding. Since it was not possible to take a doctor's degree in medicine in Sweden, Linnaeus was now forced to go to Holland.

Last modified: 2021-11-03