Linnaeus : nature and nation


Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999


Koerner, Lisbet

Number of Pages




Publication Year


Original Language


Categories and Tags

Hardcover, Dust Jacket, Linnaeus

Dewey Subjects

Biography > Biography; History By Place > Botany > Natural sciences and mathematics > Plants


Drawing on letters, poems, notebooks, and secret diaries, Lisbet Koerner tells the moving story of one of the most famous naturalists, the Swedish-born botanist and systematiser Carl Linnaeus. The first scholarly biography of this great Enlightenment scientist in almost one hundred years, Linnaeus also recounts for the first time Linnaeus’ grand and bizarre economic projects: to “teach” tea, saffron, and rice to grow on the Arctic tundra and to domesticate buffaloes, guinea pigs, and elks as Swedish farm animals.

Linnaeus hoped to reproduce the economy of empire and colony within the borders of his family home by growing cash crops in Northern Europe. Koerner shows us the often surprising ways he embarked on this project. Her narrative goes against the grain of Linnaean scholarship, old and new, by analysing not how modern Linnaeus was but how he understood science in his time. At the same time, his attempts to organise a state economy according to principles of science prefigured an idea that has become one of the defining features of modernity. Meticulously researched and based on archival data, Linnaeus will be of compelling interest to historians of the Enlightenment, economics, and science historians. But general readers will also value this engaging, often funny, and sometimes tragic portrait of a great man.



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