Growing Botany

Olaus Rudbeck

Alright, as promised, here's the second remarkable story about Olaus Rudbeck. One I hope you'll carry with you and share with others, primarily if you teach horticulture in some fashion or work with kids in horticulture.
When Rudbeck was first appointed assistant professor of medicine at the University of Upsala, Rudbeck was quite intent on sharing everything he had learned about botany. He prepared a public display of his collection, and he had put together a lecture about the collection of new seeds and roots he had brought with from his travels abroad.
But the students at the time thought botany was a topic for old ladies or apothecaries or pharmacists, and they derided anyone with interest in the subject by calling them " a grass reader." Rudbeck, who was clearly out of touch with the perception of botany, expected to find his lecture room filled. It says he waited "hour after hour," but not one person showed up.
Then Rowan wrote this about Rudbeck, and it is just so incredibly moving to me:
"His disappointment was great; for once, the brave spirit gave way, and he burst into tears. But, recovering from his momentary weakness, he determined, in spite of the existing indifference, to do for botany what he had done for anatomy.
He instantly set about converting a piece of ground which he possessed in Upsala into a botanical garden, with hot-houses, and bowers, and shady walks, and parterres resplendent with the variegated hues of the newly imported plants, to attract by beauty those whom science lacked charms to lure. And when his task was completed, and knots of admiring visitors gathered round him in his garden, he would assume the character of a peripatetic lecturer, and instill knowledge into them, even against their will: thus breaking the ground for Linnaeus, whose fame was to outshine his own in the annals of botany, and laying the foundations of the very garden, the renown of which was to become world-wide under his great successor."

This post was featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

helping gardeners find their roots,
one story at a time
Olaus Rudbeck
Olaus Rudbeck

Leave a Comment