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Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation

Persons, Collections and Topics

Linnaean Dissertations

There were 186 academic dissertations defended by students of Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778) during the period 1743–1776. Our Strandell Collection of Linnaeana contains a complete set, and the Library is making them accessible online. Unlike the common practice today in which doctoral students write their own theses and defend them, in 18th-century Sweden the respondents typically expounded and defended the ideas of the praeses. Linnaeus served as praeses for 185 of the 186 dissertations, with Carl von Linné filius acting as praeses for the last one, Hellens' Hypericum. Thus what are usually referred to as the Linnaean dissertations are attributed to Linnaeus, even though they are also associated with the respondents who defended them and whose names appear on their title pages.

Perhaps a week before each dissertation was to be defended, copies were printed and circulated. Most were a few dozen pages or less, and they were produced quickly for an immediate and short-term purpose. The paper was often rough, the printing sometimes uneven. The text was in Latin, employed as a universal language of scholarship. Captured in these printed remnants of the academic process were Linnaeus' thoughts on all manner of things. Steeped from boyhood in a love of plants, trained as a medical doctor, reaching to embrace the three realms of nature (animal, vegetable, mineral) in a single comprehensive scientific system, Linnaeus was an exceptional individual who was interested in and had opinions about everything in the natural world. The range of topics was astonishing, given the fact that they all emanated from one individual, and covered botany, zoology, mineralogy, medicine, nutrition and a handful of other subjects.

Original Linnaean Dissertations database

The digitized dissertations have been added as PDF files to our Original Linnaean Dissertations database, which also contains brief bibliographic records compiled from reference sources. Although we don't have full English translations of the dissertations available, we have provided short summary descriptions of nearly all of them. The summaries are included in the database along with short titles, dates of defense, names and dates of the respondents, and Lidén numbers.

Index to Scientific Names in the Linnaean Dissertations database

This database is an index to over 30,000 scientific names as cited in the original Linnaean dissertations.

Other resources

For PDFs of the dissertations, summaries and bibliographic information, see the Original Linnaean Dissertations database.

For a reference resource on these dissertations and the scientific names that appear in them, see the Index to Scientific Names of Organisms Cited in the Linnaean Dissertations database.

For more information about our Linnaean holdings, see our Strandell Collection of Linnaeana.

For a more in-depth look at Linnaeus and his students, see our online exhibition Order from Chaos: Linnaeus Disposes.

For information about portraits of and biographical citations for Linnaeus and his students, see the Hunt Institute Archives Register of Botanical Biography and Iconography database.

Carolus Linnaeus (1707–1778), photograph, 25 × 20 cm, of original painting by Martin Hoffman, 1737, HI Archives portrait no. 36.