The man who wrote about cats, nights and Linnaeus

16 juni 2020

Gunnar Broberg, Professor Emeritus in Science History at Lund University, received the Linnaeus medal in gold in Uppsala in January. The following week he was awarded a grant of EUR 10,000 from The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland. He is also the author of the recent comprehensive biography of Carl Linnaeus, Mannen som ordnade naturen.

Gunnar Broberg was awarded his docto-
ral degree at Uppsala University in 1975
with the thesis Homo sapiens L. Studier i
Carl von Linnés naturuppfattning och
Photo: Åsa Sjöström

How did you feel receiving these two awards?
“I felt very happy and honoured, of course. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the ceremony in Helsinki, but it was really nice to get these two very fine awards for my work with the Linnaeus biography.”

How did the book come about?
“When my previous book,”Nattens historia” (History of the Night), was published in 2016, my editor asked me if I could write a biography on Carl Linnaeus. It was great to get back to and re-analyse the material I have collected and studied for most part of my adult life and form it into a readable book. It took me a couple of years.”

You have been studying Carl Linnaeus from the start of your career until now. You were e. g. editor of the Swedish Linnaean Society’s Yearly Review for forty years. How did you get interested in the Flower King, apart from the part that he is the most internationally renowned Swede ever, and the biggest scientist born in this country?
“I grew up in Södermanland, and have a strong interest in natural and cultural history since I was young. My father was a priest in Lerbo parish, later Saint Nicolai parish in Nyköping, and my mother was very interested in plants and history.”

What do you think Linnaeus would have thought about the covid-19 crisis? Would he perhaps think of it as a punishment from our Creator, for our mismanagement of his Creation?
“Yes, I think he might have thought something like that. In his older days he wrote extensively about Nemesis Divina, or God’s Revenge, and he would perhaps question the fact that the human population listened so little to the science he and other prominent scholars of the Enlightenment period laid the foundations to. See also my book Tsunamin i Lissabon from 2005 about the big earthquake in Lissabon 1755, which was commented on by Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the latter was one of Linnaeus admirers.”

What do you think about ”your” universities’ tendency to dwell on which of the two is the biggest, the best or the most beautiful?
“It’s nonsense, of course. Both universities are excellent. Lund is bigger when it comes to students, while Uppsala is the oldest, but there is so much good research and education at both universities.”

Looking back, do you want to mention any other important or interesting works that you have produced?
“I’m really proud of Gyllene äpplen, a reader/anthology on science history for which I was awarded the August Prize in 1992. I would also like to mention Nattens historia from 2016, Kattens historia from 2004 as well as my works about race biology and compulsory sterilizations in Sweden.”

Will the Linnaeus biography be translated to other languages?
Yes, it’s currently being translated into English, Dutch and Norwegian.”

Rickard Sundin Jooste

Prenumerera på Uppsala universitets nyhetsbrev

Senast uppdaterad: 2022-12-22