Prominent people at Uppsala University

For more than 540 years, prominent people have worked at Uppsala University. Here is a selection.

Emmy Rappe (1835–1896)

In the 19th century it seemed impossible for a woman to lead a higher education. Thanks to her experience from Florence Nightingale's school, Emmy Rappe proved the opposite. Here in Uppsala, she led Sweden's first clinical nursing education, despite the fact that she was strongly opposed by both authorities and doctors. In 1877, Emmy Rappe was awarded H.M. The King's medal for civilian merit.

Portrait of Emmy Rappe

Otto Cars (1946–)

Portrait of Otto Cars

Twenty years ago, when Otto Cars began to spread awareness about the risks of antibiotics, very few people showed interest in the problem. Today, antibiotic resistance has come to be considered a growing public health problem in most parts of the world. In 2017, Otto Cars was appointed as expert in The UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance. Here in Uppsala, Otto Cars is a professor at the Department of Medical Sciences.

Olle Johansson, enrolled in 1477

Sweden's first documented student was Olle Johansson. He was from Gotland and studied at Uppsala University. He enrolled at Uppsala University in 1477 and studied theology and philosophy. Olle Johansson left behind a historical treasure in the form of five years of lecture notes.

Lecture notes and a drawing representing two people who are saying something to eachother

Betty Pettersson (1838–1885)

A portrait of Betty Pettersson wearing a student cap

In early 1870s, women were not allowed to study at Swedish universities. Betty Pettersson, a young woman from Gotland, wrote to the king and asked for exemption. Her request was approved and she became Uppsala University's and Sweden's first female student. She enrolled in 1871. Two years later, the government granted women the right to study some subjects at the universities. After graduating, Betty Petterson broke new ground again, as she became the first female public school teacher in Sweden. 


Torgny Segerstedt was Sweden's first professor of sociology. He was also vice-chancellor of Uppsala University between the eventful years of 1955 and 1978. During these 23 years, more students were enrolled than during the entire University's previous history (1477–1955). Uppsala University's administration building, Segerstedthuset, inaugurated in 2017, is named after Torgny Segerstedt.

A portrait of Torgny Segerstedt

Maria Strömme (1970–)

Portrait of Maria Strömme

One of Maria Strömme's most famous innovations is the ‘impossible’ material Upsalite - which has an area in relation to volume of around 800m2 / gram. Maria Strömme has also developed the environmentally friendly algae battery and contributed with many groundbreaking ideas and innovations. Today, she holds 30 patents in as many as ten different patent families. When Maria Strömme took up the position as professor of nanotechnology at Uppsala University, she became Sweden's youngest chair professor in engineering.

Nils Rosén (1706–1773)

It has not always been obvious that medical experience can be applied clinically. Nils Rosén was particularly groundbreaking in pediatrics and contributed to a reduction of mortality by understanding the impact of hygiene, nutritious food, fluid supply and the constant threat of smallpox. Nils Rosén was also one of the first to realise the importance of a good patient record.

Portrait of Nils Rosén

Gerd Enequist (1903–1989)

Gerd Enequist, wearing a hat with flowers, inspects a cable reel

The first female holder of a regular professorship at Uppsala University was appointed as late as 1949. Gerd Enequist was a professor of social and economic geography. She was also a member of the delegation for road planning 1954–1958 and of the editorial committee for Atlas of Sweden, to which she contributed with maps describing population, buildings and enterprise.

Anders Celsius (1701–1744)

There is no doubt that Anders Celsius is best known for the 100-degree thermometer scale and the unit of measure named after him, ° C. Anders Celsius was also prominent in astronomy and participated in the creation of Sweden's first astronomical observatory in Uppsala. He studied the science of planets, comets and stars and contributed to Sweden's adoption of the Gregorian calendar.

Portrait of Anders Celsius

Eva Åkesson (1961–)

Portrait of Eva Åkesson wearing the vice-chancellor's chain

In 2012, Uppsala University finally got its first female vice-chancellor, Eva Åkesson, professor of chemical physics. In 2017, Eva Åkesson was elected to lead Uppsala University for another six years.

Ellen Fries (1855–1900)

In 1883, Ellen Fries defended her dissertation in history and became the first woman in Sweden to receive a doctorate degree. Many hailed Ellen Fries as a forerunner but others were sceptical. A male academic teacher said: “... she was the first of her kind, but hopefully also the last.” Ellen Fries continued her historical writing and wrote, among other things, the book Strange (Reputable) Women.

Portrait of Ellen Fries

Carl von Linné (1707–1778)

Portrait of a young Carl Linneaus

Carl von Linné is one of Uppsala University's most famous professors of all time. Carl von Linné created the system for classification and naming of species. When he was 30 years old, he published his foundings in the book Systema Naturæ. The system has developed since then, but parts of its foundation are still the same.

Lydia Wahlström (1869–1954)

Women's entrance into the academic world in the late 1800s didn't automatically abolish discriminatory norms. In 1892, Lydia Wahlström founded the radical association Uppsala Female Students. Among other things, the members became the first female students to wear their student caps in public, which was considered extremely inappropriate. A few years later, Lydia Wahlström defended her dissertation in history, as the second Swedish woman ever.

Portrait of Lydia Wahlström

Finn Malmgren (1895–1928)

Finn Malmgren stands on the ice by his hoarfrost measure instrument

Finn Malmgren was only 33 years old when he disappeared on the polar ice in June 1928 to never be found. At the time, Finn Malmgren was one of the youngest and most promising polar researchers in the world. He conducted his research at the meteorological department in Uppsala and was twice awarded the Order of Saint Olav, which was instituted by Oscar I, as a “reward for excellent contributions to the fatherland and humanity”.