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Link: • Henrik Gahn to Carl Linnaeus, 8 May 1772 n.s.
Dated 8 Maij 1772. Sent from London (Great Britain) to Uppsala (Sweden). Written in Swedish.


Gahn Henrik GahnGahn, Henrik (1747-1816).
Swedish. Physician. Linnaeus’s student.
Founder of the Swedish Society of
Medical Sciences in 1807. Correspondent
of Linnaeus. Son of hans Jacob Gahn and
brother of Hans Jacob Gahn the Younger.
writes that he has sent a box to Linnaeus, through Gahn’s brother [Walther GahnGahn, Walther (1749-1776).
Swedish. Bergsman.
] in Stockholm, with Captain DicksonDickson, Swedish. Skipper. , who left London that very day. Gahn complains about his poor economic situation, and that he is forced to devote all his time to his practice with little time for natural history. Gahn lists the contents of the box, mentioning once again Johann Reinhold ForsterForster, Johann Reinhold
(1729-1798). German. Naturalist and
voyager. Visited St Petersburg, Moscow,
Saratov and Constantinople before he
went to England. In 1772 he took part in
Cook’s second voyage. Moved to Halle in
1780 to become director of the botanical
garden. Father of Johan Georg Adam
Forster. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and reminding Linnaeus not to believe everything Forster writes. A smaller package is also included, containing pieces from young John Coakley LettsomLettsom, John Coakley
(1744-1815). British. Physician,
London. Born on the Little van Dyke
island in the West Indies. Correspondent
of Linnaeus.
, and a letter from the same person is enclosed in the envelope to the gentlemen Grill [Carlos & Claes Grill]. He is a Quaker, a good-natured fellow and has exceptional knowledge of natural history. He is greatly favoured by John FothergillFothergill, John (1712-1780).
British. Physician and collector of
natural history objects. Studied in
Holland, France and Germany. His cabinet
of zoological and mineralogical
specimens as well as his botanical
garden at Upton were well known.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and John EllisEllis, John (1711-1776).
British. Merchant and naturalist, expert
on zoophytes. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and it was upon their request that Gahn accepted the package. Gahn makes Linnaeus aware that when opening Lettsom’s package he should note that on p. 36 of the little octavo book, Gahn had placed an incomplete specimen of Casuarina equisetifol. It was the best that Gahn could obtain – he even had to steal it. Gahn has also sent a collection of Brownea flowers that Ellis had given him, placed in a bottle of schnapps. The seedpods were placed in a separate lacquered package. The latter package also contained a few seeds of two Casuarinae specimens that Ellis had assured Gahn were healthy, as well as seeds of Crotalaria retusa, Rheum ribes and Indigo. In a small paper envelope with Gumbo written on it is a powder of Sassafrass leaves that is used to make jelly for fish or rice pudding. It is mixed with meat broth, onion, spinach, pepper, etc. A tea spoon is sufficient for a quart of water. Some cold water is first added and allowed to stand for 10-12 hours. Then it is poured from one pan into another, mixed with one quart of meat broth and boiled for not quite 15 minutes. In another envelope sent by Gahn there is some red rubber , that Joseph BanksBanks, Joseph (1743-1820).
British. Naturalist, president of the
Royal Society. Together with Daniel
Solander he took part in Cook’s first
voyage. Correspondent of Linnaeus.
and Daniel SolanderSolander, Daniel (1733-1782).
Swedish. Naturalist, explorer. Student
in Uppsala under Linnaeus and Johan
Gottschalk Wallerius. Went to London in
1760. Curator of natural history
collections at the British Museum.
Botanist on Cook’s first voyage
1768-1771. Joseph Bank’s librarian.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
took from a tree on New Zealand, the name of which Gahn did not know. It has some similarity with Sangv. Draconis but differs clearly from it. In yet another separate package Gahn has sent a small bottle made of Elastica resina cautchouc, which is starting to be used in London for all types of injections of ill persons, with pipes fastened to it in the same way as Gahn attached a piece of a tobacco pipe.

That, writes Gahn, is his present to Linnaeus, at the same time wishing he could do better next time. Philip MillerMiller, Philip (1691-1771).
British. Gardener of the Chelsea Physic
Garden. Corresponded with many
botanists. His rich herbarium was sold
to Joseph Banks. Correspondent of
has given his paintings to Solander to be sent through the Swedish minister; Thomas PennantPennant, Thomas (1726-1798).
British. Naturalist, best known for his
works on zoology. Correspondent of
has done the same with his synopsis, and Gahn had been promised Quadrupedium and a new edition of Martin ListerLister, Martin (1638-1712).
British. Naturalist.
from Oxford. Gahn has now been informed that nothing can be expected from Solander as the government has banned the export of their collections. However, Gahn is convinced that Solander will send Linnaeus something, at least specimens of the Indians’ clothes and utensils. That, at least had also been promised to Gahn. Ellis was currently occupied with writing a discussion on Gorgoniae and how they grow. In that respect Ellis was in conflict with Linnaeus’s thoughts and believes that they cannot obtain the least nutrition through the root or bark, but that it occurs in another way. He appears to speak strongly against Peter Simon PallasPallas, Peter Simon
(1741-1811). German. Naturalist and
explorer. Pallas studied at the
universities of Göttingen and
Leiden. In 1768 he was called to Russia
to take part in an expedition to
Siberia, the aim of which was to study
the passage of Venus. Pallas remained in
Russia for the greater part of his life.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
in this book, but Linnaeus is always mentioned with respect and love, as required by their friendship. Gahn wished that Linnaeus had printed something on Animalcula infusoria. Gahn had seen under Ellis’s microscope the most remarkable forms of them. Recently he had obtained one from Russian bast-fibre mats, which in a moment could change its shape and appeared to turn itself inside-out [the ”animals” are illustrated]. Another opened its entire length and swallowed the largest of the others, and therefore has been called voracissimus. Others Gahn found impossible to describe. Gahn recalled that he had already mentioned a tincture of fresh Geranium Zonale was capable of killing most variants almost instantaneously, even those that are obtained from the same plant, when they rot. One of the animals, almost of this shape [the ”animal” is illustrated] when alive, when killed by the tincture develops rays that stick out of the body [this is also illustrated] . Ellis himself has stated that Otto von MünchhausenPallas, Peter Simon
(1741-1811). German. Naturalist and
explorer. Pallas studied at the
universities of Göttingen and
Leiden. In 1768 he was called to Russia
to take part in an expedition to
Siberia, the aim of which was to study
the passage of Venus. Pallas remained in
Russia for the greater part of his life.
Correspondent of Linnaeus.
had made an error, and Gahn felt semi-convinced of that, having seen all this through Ellis’s microscope.

Once again, the shortage of paper forces Gahn to close, with conventional phrases of respect.

P. S. If Linnaeus will keep this letter until the box arrives , it will serve as some kind of explanation to the contents.


a. (LS, IV, 353). [1] [2]


1. Bref och skrifvelser (1912), vol. I:6, p. 192-194   p.192  p.193  p.194.