Star Pupil of Linnaeus
Today is the birthday of the Swedish-English botanist and star pupil of Carl Linnaeus, Daniel Solander.
More than his protégé, Linnaeus had hopes that Solander might become a future son-in-law. From there, Linnaeus hoped he had found his successor as Professor of Botany at Uppsala.
Linnaeus had a daughter named Lisa Stina. Although Solander had fallen for her, Linnaeus lined up an opportunity for Solander to be the chair of botany at St Petersburg in Russia. Linnaeus was putting Solander through the same gauntlet he had experienced before getting married: go out and establish yourself, and then come back here and settle down.
Solander took Linnaeus completely aback when he wrote that he would be staying in England. Solander's letters to Linnaeus became less frequent, and Lisa Stina ended up unhappily married to a grandson of Rudbeck - the family name, after which Rudbeckia or Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are named.
Although Solander dashed Linnaeus's hopes, he became a champion of botanical exploration and left his own considerable mark in the field of botany.
After some time in London, Solander met Joseph Banks at the British Museum, where he was working as an Assistant Librarian. The two decided to partner-up in Captain James Cook's first circumnavigation of the globe. People often assume that Solander was younger than Banks since he was Bank's assistant. In truth, Banks was seven years younger than Solander. When the Endeavour sailed from Plymouth on August 25, 1768, Banks was 25 and Solander 32. The two botanists worked well together. Together, they collected some 800 new plants.
Captain Cook honored the two men by christening Botany Bay after 'the great quantity of plants Mr. Banks and Dr. Solander found in this place.' The outer ends of the bay are Cape Solander in the southwest and Cape Bank in the Northeast. From Botany Bay alone, Solander and Banks found Acacias (uh-KAY-shahs), Eucalyptus, Grevilleas ("gruh-VILL-ee-ah"), Mimosa, and Banksia (which was, of course, named after Joseph Banks).
Unlike many botanists of his time, during his three-year trip around the world, Solander did not send a single one of his discovered specimens to Linnaeus. Solander's sole devotion was to Banks. As for Linnaeus, he could often be heard referring to Solander - the pupil that got away - as "the ungrateful Solander."
When the Endeavor returned to England, most people forget that half of the original crew - some 32 people - had died on the historic voyage. Miraculously, both Solander and Banks survived, and they would go on to explore Iceland together on another voyage.
At home in England, Solander became Banks' secretary and librarian. In 1780, Solander agreed to help the Duchess of Portland with her enormous collections. Sadly, his work was cut short when he died from a brain aneurysm in 1782 at the age of 46.