-Search for letters
-Search in texts






Link: • Johan Ernst Gunnerus to Carl Linnaeus, 29 February 1772 n.s.
Dated 29 Febr. 1772. Sent from København (Denmark) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in Danish.


Johan Ernst GunnerusGunnerus, Johan Ernst
(1718-1773). Norwegian. Bishop of
Trondheim. Together with Gerhard
Schøning and Peter Friederich
Suhm he founded in 1760 Det Kongelige
Norske Videnskabers Selskab [The Royal
Norwegian Society of Sciences and
Letters]. Author of Flora
(1766-1776). Correspondent
of Linnaeus.
assures Linnaeus that he has received his two letters [Linnaeus to Gunnerus, 26 October 1771Letter L4551 and 20 January 1772Letter L5960]. There has been an arrangement regarding Johan Gerhard KönigKönig, Johan Gerhard
(1728-1785). Danish. Physician, born in
Polish Livonia. Private pupil of
Linnaeus in 1757. Visited Iceland. Went
to Tranquebar in India, to Thailand and
Ceylon. He died on his way to Tibet.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
. König now receives 180 Danish Riksdaler from the King’s [Christian VII, King of DenmarkChristian VII, King of Denmark
(1749-1808). Danish. Reigned 1766-1808.
] private money and another 300 Riksdaler of the money intended for the missionaries. In Linnaeus’s new Mantissa [Mantissa plantarum altera, 2nd ed.Linnaeus, Carl Mantissa
plantarum altera
(1766), 2nd ed.
(Stockholm 1771). Soulsby no. 312.
], which Edinger [Peder Wilhelm EdingEding, Peder Wilhelm
(1746-1808). Danish. Student of
Linnaeus (private studies) in 1771.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
] and Hans TislefTislef, Hans (1732-1788).
Danish. Botanist in Norway. Linnaeus’s
student in 1771. Correspondent of
have brought with them, Gunnerus sees many specimens that come from König’s discoveries. Gunnerus will now leave for Norway again. He will leave a letter for König regarding membership of the Society of Trondheim [the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters, Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers SelskabDet Kongelige Norske Videnskabers
Selskab, The Royal Norwegian Society of
Sciences and Letters
Founded in 1760 by Johan Ernst Gunnerus,
Gerhard Schøning Peter Friederich
Suhm as the Trondhiemske Selskab (the
Trondheim Society). It received Royal
affirmation of its statues in 1767 and
became the Kongelige Norske Videnskabers
Selskab (the Royal Norwegian Society of
Sciences and Letters). Its publications
are Det Trondhiemske Selskabs
, 1-3 (1761-1765) and Det
Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskabs
, 4-5 (1768-1774).
]. Gunnerus also tells Linnaeus to ask König to behave well towards the missionaries in Tranquebar, whose physician he is. There are constant complaints to the College of Missionaries. Gunnerus does not know König personally. However, Johan Christian FabriciusFabricius, Johan Christian
(1745-1808). Danish. Professor of
economy and natural history in
Copenhagen. Linnaeus’s pupil 1762-1764.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, whom Gunnerus trusts, tells him that König is not too good-humoured. But the missionaries might use too much authority and be too critical. There are errors on both sides.

There will not be a university in Norway, no matter how much Gunnerus has worked to achieve it. Gunnerus was called to Copenhagen to improve Copenhagen University. He does not know, though, whether his plan will be followed or not. Most of the professors probably prefer things to stay the way they have always been. Before the change of the Ministry of the 17th of January, they wanted to have Gunnerus as Vice-Chancellor and Chairman of the Consistorium, which was to send all propositions directly to the King and Cabinet, and finally Professor Primarius of Theology. However, Gunnerus turned down the offer deliberately, because he realized that the disastrous government of Johann Friedrich StruenseeStruensee, Johann Friedrich
(1737-1772). German. Physician in
ordinary to the Danish King, Christian
VII. Appointed Privy Cabinet minister
in 1771. Condemned to death and
decapitated in 1772.
could not last long. Struensee was a despot, who despised all traditional customs. There would most certainly have been a rebellion, if God had not removed Struensee and Enevold BrandtBrandt, Enevold (1738-1772).
German. Count, friend of Johann
Friedrich Struensee. Arrested and
decapitated in 1772.
and placed the King in security out of the reach of their conspiracy. Gunnerus has no wish to remain in Copenhagen. Although he has many friends, there are also many who would prefer him to go back to Norway. Gunnerus is pleased that people realize that he has behaved honourably during the critical time. Almost all of the professors are content with the way Gunnerus has acted. There was a risk that the salaries of the clergy would be diminished. Furthermore, the ministry wanted to use Gunnerus as a Bishop. Gunnerus considered this very unethical and wanted to have nothing to do with it. The dangers were thus avoided.

Gunnerus grieves the fate of Johan ZoëgaZoëga, Johan (1742-1788).
Danish. Botanist and economist.
Linnaeus’s student 1762-1764.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
, whom he wanted to have as Professor of Botany. Zoëga is now a secretary at the treasurer’s office. Zoëga is very displeased as he has no interest in his job.

Gunnerus is forced to go to Trondheim in two or three weeks. He is sorry that he cannot go to Uppsala to see Linnaeus.


a. original holograph (LS, VI, 75-76).


1. “Af Linnés brevvexling” (1871), p. 500-502   p.500  p.501  p.502.
2. Brevveksling (1976), p. 140-141 .