Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Daniel Carl Solander

page 18

Daniel Carl Solander

Daniel Carl Solander was born in Piteå, a remote town in northern Sweden, in February 1733. He was christened Daniel Solander, but later took his father's name Carl (or "Carlsson" — son of Carl) as his middle name, to avoid being confused with his uncle, with whom he stayed while at university. He spent his first seventeen years in this frontier town, with its difficult terrain and harsh climate, where winter can occupy nine months of the year. His father, who had been headmaster of the secondary school at Pitea, was well educated in natural science, mathematics and the humanities, and well qualified to tutor his son for entry to the University of Uppsala. When Daniel Solander first entered Uppsala University in 1750, he studied law, languages and the humanities. After studying natural science with Linnaeus, his interests changed and he studied towards a Doctor of Medicine degree. Carl Linnaeus was so impressed with Solander that he asked him to be his eventual successor as professor of botany, and had plans too, it seems, that Daniel would marry his eldest daughter. In fact, Linnaeus's own son eventually succeeded him at Uppsala after Solander had turned the offer down. Solander, gentle, good humoured, reserved, never married.

During the 1750s he made two botanical trips to Lapland and assisted Linnaeus in cataloguing several natural history collections. He was keen to go abroad, and when Linnaeus received a request to send a student to England to help establish his system of classification there, plans were made for Solander to go, with financial assistance from Sweden. He arrived in England in June 1760 and soon made the acquaintance of notable naturalists and horticulturists around London, including Philip Miller. He was soon sending plants to Linnaeus. For a time he was short of money and Linnaeus, assuming the role of parent after his father's death in 1760, sent funds.

Originally Daniel Solander had planned to return to Sweden within a year or two, but he liked life in England, with its wealth and interest in natural science. He turned down the offer of a chair of botany at St Petersburg (Leningrad) and, in September 1762, obtained the position he sought on the staff of the British Museum. From then until the start of the voyage he did much fruitful work.

page 19

Rauschenberg (1968) has shown that although Solander's publications were few, he was not lazy as has sometimes been suggested. He contributed to many publications of others, and was the first to describe and catalogue the natural history collections at the British Museum. He became a fellow of the Royal Society and was an active member until his death. By 1768 he had become a close friend of Joseph Banks. The two remained the best of friends, even in the cramped quarters of the Endeavour, and, as Banks later wrote, "we never had an exchange of words which even for a second became heated. We often disagreed with each other's opinion of many things; but these disputes ended, as they had started, good humouredly."