24 January 2016

This man found Atlantis. In Sweden.

This week I browsed through an interesting biography of Olof Rudbeck, a seventeenth-century physician in Sweden.  He was undoubtedly a brilliant man and one of the discoverers of the existence of the lymphatic system.  The book focuses on his forays into archaeology and ancient history.  He became convinced that the area of Old Uppsala was the location of the fabled Atlantis.
Between 1679 and 1702, Rudbeck dedicated himself to contributions in historical-linguistics patriotism, writing a 3,000-page treatise in four volumes called Atlantica (Atland eller Manheim in Swedish) where he purported to prove that Sweden was Atlantis, the cradle of civilization, and Swedish the original language of Adam from which Latin and Hebrew had evolved. His work was criticized by several Scandinavian authors, including the Danish professor Ludvig Holberg, and the Swedish author and physician Andreas Kempe, both of whom wrote satires based on Rudbeck's writings. His work was later used by Denis Diderot in the article "Etymologie" in Encyclopédie as a cautionary example of deceptive linking of etymology with mythical history.
It is an interesting book.  I have not flagged it for inclusion in TYWKIWDBI's subcategory of recommended books, but it would probably be an enjoyable read for those with a prior interest in archaeology, history, or Sweden.

Rudbeck has, however, left us one lasting legacy.  Linnaeus applied the name Rudbeckia to a genus of sunflowers, in honor of his botany teacher at Uppsala (Olof's son).  Here are some black-eyed Susans photographed during a butterfly hike last summer.


  1. thanks for the flowers in the middle of the snow and blow that happened here - refreshing!


  2. As it happens, I went to grade school about half a kilometre from Högarna in Old Uppsala - the swedish name for the hills under which are buried at least six swedish Viking chiefs, one of which is presumed to have been a woman. There is a musem there today dedicated to the hills, the foundations of the thirty-odd holehouses that would have formed the largest known concentration of such buildings anywhere in Europe at the time, the thousands of smaller graves dotting the area and what is presumed to be the site of the golden-chained and burning Hedningatempel, the Sistine Chapel of Norse religion. I would recommend the wikipedia article [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temple_at_Uppsala] on the temple as a teaser. The church currently presiding over the area dates from the 1270's, was rebuilt in the 1400's to its current form and is apart from being the burial site of my own line up to my grandfather and grandmother, who moved to from Västerbotten in the north to Uppsala in their youth due to a fascination with Viking history coinciding with a job offer for my grandfather, also houses Anders Celsius (1701-1744) in the church proper. Olof Rudbeck is a familiar name, and Carl von Linné offers excellent gardens outside what used to be his office to this day, but I had not heard of this treatise and I thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    1. It's been over 30 years since I visited Uppsala. My memories are of a thoroughly modern city that my family and I zoomed through on our way from Gavle to Stockholm. I would love to go back to explore it in depth.

      I am sure you will totally enjoy reading this book.

  3. I am currently on a tour of southern Sweden (Skåne County) by reading a series of Henning Mankell books. I keep a map handy as I was only in the Helsingborg area for a very short time. Interesting that Rudbeck would think of Sweden as Atlantis. Love the black-eyed Susans.

  4. Interesting! I guess now I will always remember this story when I see the abundant and beautiful wildflower. Truly, you learn something everyday.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...