The old house and gardens of Carl von Linné, located about 15 km southwest of Uppsala, still captivate visitors 233 years after the death of the great naturalist, one of Sweden’s national heroes, referred to as the "Prince of Flowers".
Carolus Linnaeus was born in 1707 in the small village of Råshult, in the historical southern Swedish province of Småland. He studied initially in Lund, Scania, and later attended Uppsala University where he earned degrees in Medicine and Botany. He taught both disciplines at Uppsala and in 1750 he became the Rector of the prestigious University. He founded in 1739 the influential Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1757 Linnaeus was granted nobility by Swedish King Adolf Frederick and took the name Carl von Linné.
Although his position at Uppsala came with an official residence and he could develop a large botanical garden at the University, Linné much preferred the peace and tranquility of his own state near Uppsala which he purchased in 1758 and named “Hammarby”. The name derives from the old Swedish word “hammar” which means “a rocky, wooded slope”. Here, Linnaeus built several houses for himself and his family, wife Sara Lisa and four daughters, to house his books and botany collections, and also to lodge botany students who came in the summer to study with him. Additional buildings in the east wing of the complex served as a bakery and a brewery.
Linnaeus' Hammarby. The botanist commissioned several houses for himself and his family, for the servants, to house his books and botany collections, and also to lodge botany students who came in the summer to study with him.
In addition to the research gardens, he cultivated extensive orchard fields and meadows, plus a kitchen garden and flower beds in a charming courtyard in from of the main house. More than two centuries later, about 40 of the plants planted at the gardens by Linnaeus still remain at Hammarby, some of them growing at the same spot were the botanist planted them.
The main house at Hammarby. The front of the main house is decorated with flower beds at each side of the door. They were recreated from a diagram drawn by Linnaeus himself in the 1760s, showing which plants were grown at this location and how they were arranged in the beds.
Plants and flowers in Linnaeus' flower beds near the entrance to the main house at Hammarby.
Linnaeus is best known for his great ability as a field naturalist and his unrelenting eagerness for organization.
Cover of the first edition of Systema Naturae (1935). This edition had only 11 pages. Further editions of the work were regularly updated; the 13th edition published in 1770, had about 3000 pages.
He developed the binomial nomenclature for naming and classifying all living things, a Latin-based method of hierarchical classification known as Linnaean taxonomy that he described in 1735 in his publication “Systema Naturae”. Linnaeus was the first naturalist that described humans within a system of biological classification just as he defined any other living organisms, plant or animal. He named humans as Homo sapiens placing the species under Mammalian Primates.
Linneaus was a keen traveller and collector. In the course of his life he identified and named 9000 plants, 2100 insects, 828 mollusks and 477 fish. He was also an accomplished geologist and classified many rocks and minerals. Linnaeus, who during his lifetime was recognized as one of the most important European scientists, died in 1778 at Hammarby. He was buried in the ancient (XIII Century) Uppsala Cathedral.
In 1935, the main buildings and the surrounding park at Hammarby were included in the list of Sweden’s historical sites and, more recently in 2007, the surrounding agricultural lands and forest became a Cultural Reserve. The house and gardens are open for visits from May to September.
The formal Botanical Garden at the University of Uppsala are also open to visitors, but the personal legacy of the famous naturalist can best be appreciated at his summer state, the old houses and the beautiful natural paths and gardens of Hammarby.