Daniel Solander
The Botanist and Nature´s Argonaut

Daniel Solander (1733-1782) was born on 19 February 1733 in Old Piteå Town (Öjebyn) as the son of the headmaster at Piteå trivialschool, later vicar of Piteå parish Carl Solander (1699-1760) and his wife Magdalena Bostadia Solander (1713-1789). He had the siblings Sophia Christina (1732-1733), Anna Magdalena (1735-1807) and Carl Bernard (1739-1739).

The young Daniel passed local school with excellent grades and was at 17 years of age enrolled at Uppsala University, where he studied natural history under the famous " princeps botanicorum " Carl von Linné or Linneaeus (1707-1778). He knew Solander´s parents since he had lived for two nights with the Solander family in June 1732 during his own Iter Lapponicum. During his years of study in Uppsala the young man from Piteå lived with his uncle and namesake, the professor of law Daniel Solander (1707-1785) but went " as child in the house " with his teacher and fell in love with Linnaeus´s eldest daughter Elizabeth Christina, whom he later in many letters to Linnaeus fondly referred to as " my sweetest mamselle Lisa Stina ". During the summers and other lengthy holidays he visited his parrents´ home in Piteå.Demonstrably he came home for botanical excursions in the summer of 1753, when he crossed the mountains and went to Rörstad on the Atlantic coast of Norway, and in the summer of 1755, when he botanized at Lake Torneträsk. In January 1756 he attended a child´s baptism in Piteå.

Two prominent naturalists in England - Peter Collinson (1694-1769) and John Ellis (1710?-1776) prevailed upon Linnaeus to send one of his foremost pupils to England to spread the gospel of " Systema naturae ", Linnaeus´s revolutionizing system for classification of plants, animals and minerals. For that mission the young promising son of a priest from Piteå was chosen. In April 1759 Solander departed overland southward to Skåne from where he hoped to find a berth on a ship to London. On 30 May 1759 Linnaeus wrote to Ellis presuming that his " beloved pupil " had already arrived and commended Solander into Ellis´s protection as " if he had been my own son ". However in the meantime Solander had fallen ill with malaria and been obliged to lodge with a cousin of his, who was married to a clergyman in Skåne. After several relapses into malaria it was not until 29 June 1760 that Solander finally arrived in London. There he soon received the news that his father Carl Solander had died back home in Piteå on 27 May 1760.

Solander was outgoing and made friends easily. Linguistically talented he soon learned to speak and write English very well. Already in 1762 he attended meetings in Royal Society, of which learned society he became a fullfledged member (F.R.S.) two years later. Through Collinson he got a position at the British Museum in February 1763, were he catalogued plants from all corners of the growing British empire. Among his numerous friends from this period should be mentioned the North American scientist and later statesman Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), with whom Solander performed various experiments. At the latest in 1764 he was acquainted with a young, wealthy landlord´s son Joseph Banks (1743-1820), an acquaintance that was to grow into a lifelong deep friendship.

With royal support Royal Society decided to send a ship to the South Seas in order to observe i June 1769 the transit of the planet Venus in front of the sun disc and also to search for the mythical continent believed to be found in the vast southern ocean balancing the land masses of the nothern hemisphere. Since ancient times such a continent was known as Terra Australis Nondum Cognita. Lieutenant James Cook (1728-1779) was appointed commander of the ship H.M. Bark Endeavour and Banks succeeded in obtaining the permission to join the expedition with scientists, draughtsmen and seervants at his own expense. In spite of being a foreigner Solander was allowed to be the ace in Banks´s suite.

From 26 August 1768 to 12 July 1771 Endeavour sailed around the earth along the route Plymouth - Maderia - Rio de Janeiro - Tierra del Fuego/Patagonia - Tuamotu Islands - Society Islands - New Zeeland - New Holland - New Guinea - Dutch East Indies - St Helena - Deal in the 2 years, 9 months and 14 days. Out of a crew of 94 that left 38 never returned having succumbed in different misfortunes, hardships and diseases. During this epic voyage Solander became - together with Cook, Banks and the rest of the crew - the first Europeans to sight 1769 on 7 April Ravahere in the Tuamotus, on 14 July Tetiaroa in the windward group of the Societies and the same day Huahine in the leeward group of the Societies, on the 16 July Raiatea and Tahaa in hte leeward group of the Societies, on the 14 Agust Rurutu in the Austral Islands, on hte 7 October yhe northeastern coast of New Zealand with a landing on the following day in Poverty Bay, followed up by a circumnavigation of six months of both North and South Islands sailing through Cook´s Strait [the Dutchman Abel Tasman had in 1642 seen a short strech of the western coast without landing]; 1770 on 19 April the eastern coast of New Holland (later Australia) with subsequent landing in Botany Bay 28 April and a sail of four months along the eastern coast with several landings and final passage through the sound between Cape York and New Guinea, that the Spaniard Torres had sailed through but not charted in 1606. Since apart from Solander there was also another Swede on board, Hermann Diedrich Spöring the younger (173?-1771) from Åbo in Finland, then part of Sweden, it can be assumed that the Swedish language was spoken in New Zealand and eastern Australia just as early as the English tongue. When the ship returned to England it brought roughly 30 300 specimen of plants in which 3 607 species were represented. About 110 genera and about 1 400 species were new to science. Lots of fish, birds, conches and other molluscs were also brought back home. During the circumnavigation Solander had prepared floras of the new worlds and other to science most valuable documents - among them the very first scientific report on the kangaroo - but the facts that these were not published in his lifetime and that he was in the remainder of his life " lionized " gave him a most unfair reputation of being too sociable and even downright lazy. It is only in our time that this myth has been crushed and substituted with unreserved recognition of Solander´s great importance as botanist and zoologist.

The English press paid homage to Solander and Banks even more than to Cook, whose incontestable greatness as a seafarer was not publicly recognized until after the second circumnavigation 1772-1775. For example Public Advertiser wrote on 22 July 1771 about " Dr. Solander and the other Gentlemen, who lately sailed around the world in the Endeavour bark, spent four Months at George´s Land, one of the new discovered Islands.---Dr. Solander and his Company touched at near forty other undiscovered Islands, not known to other Europeans, but which have plenty of Inhabitants; and have brought over with them about a thousand different Species of Plants, none of which were known in Europe before ".

King George III received Banks and Solander in audience one week before Cook and Oxford University honoured the Swede with a Doctorate of Law. Banks and Solander were also to join Cook during his second circimnavigation on the Resolution but Banks´s row with the admiralty on hte fitting out of the ship resulted in Banks´s defection and always loyal ti his friend and patron Solander followed suit. Instead they sailed in the summer of 1772 on the brig Sir Lawrence to the Hebrides, Iceland and the Orkneys climbing the Hecla volcano on Iceland and producing more scientific manuscripts like the " Flora Islandica ".

Solander never returned to Sweden. Extraordinarily well liked in social life he preferred to work in the British Museum and declined offers of the Chair of Botany at the University of St Petersburg and even hints to come home and become the successor of Linnaeus in Uppsala. At 49 years of age he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage on 8 May 1782, that five days later ended his life. At his deathbed was present Carl von Linne´the younger (1741-1783), who had succeeded his father in Uppsala.

In the Anglosaxon world Solander´s name is by far a greater name than in his native country. His name will for ever be associated with the flora and fauna of the pacific. At the Terra Australis conference in Sydney in August 1988 Solander were named the Father of Pacific Botany like his friends Joseph Banks and Benjamin Franklin earlier were named the Father of Australia respectively the Father of the United States. Since 1914 a Solander Monument in Swedish granite is to be found in Botany Bay south of Sydney where in 1770 Cook named one of the headlands Point Solander, nowadays Cape Solander. In New Zealand there are Big and Little Solander Islands south Island. Outside Vancouver in Canada there is also a Solander Island as well as there was still in the beginning of this century also a Solander island off the coast of Burma. King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden inaugurated on 31 March 1982 the bust of Solander, that the municipality of Piteå had given to Solander Garden in Botanical Garden in Sydney while at the same time princess Christina of Sweden opened a Solander exhibition in Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney named " My Dear Friend Daniel Solander ". British Museum in London held on 28 March 1983 a " Daniel Solander Symposium " while in the same spring Sutherland Shire Historical Society in New South Wales in Australia organized a " Daniel Solander Heritage Week " on 10-17 April 1983. Apart from Sweden six other countries participated in late June 1983 in Piteå in the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Solander´s birth the most numerous foreign delegation being the one from New Zealand headed by the Minister of Tourism Rob Talbot. At the same jubilee in Piteå a scientific symposium was organized by the Royal Skyttean Society and the University of Umeå in Solander´s honour. A Solander exhibition at the University library in Aucjkland on 19 February 1986 and a Solander lecture in Royal Society in Wellington five days later ought also to be mentioned. Busts of Solander are to be found in Auckland, Sydney and London apart from the one at Uddmansgatan in Piteå. Many countries with New Zealand and Australia in the lead - so far regrettably not his native country - have issued stamps connected to Solander. In 1995 Solander´s collected Correspondence 1753-1782 (188 letters) was published by Melbourne University Press in Australia [ISBN 0 522 84636 X]. A biography of Solander, titled " Nature´s Argonaut " and written by the Sydney historian Dr Edward Duyker, who visited Piteå in 1992 has been published in 1998. This biography is the very first on Solander in book form. Previously inter alia the North American Roy Raushenberg has written " Daniel Carl Solander, naturalist on the Endeavour " (1968). In recent years Solander´s role as the very first Swede to circumnavigate the globe has been stressed by yachtsmen in Sweden. Thus since 1980 Piteå Yacht Club, of which he has posthumously been made an honorary member, is awarding a much coveted Solander Plaquette to yachtsmen, not necessarily members of the club, who during the year have performed an extraordinary long distance sail.

An abundant literature on Solander´s life and circumnavigation was produced in Piteå in the years 1978-1996. It is listed separately.

Per Tingbrand

Writings by Per Tingbrand