Olof Swartz  

Olof Swartz ( 1760 - 1818 )

Since the time of Linnaeus few swedish botanists have enojoyed a greater degree of fame than Olof Swartz . This cannot be attibuted to the length of time during which he worked in the cause of science , for he died at a relatively early age, or to the number and comprehensive nature of his publications .Rather , it was mainly due to those publications being devoted to extensive tribes of plants which had but little attracted the attention of botanists , such as the Orchidaceae , the ferns, and the mosses . Imparting knowledge and distributing materials freely, Swartz,delighted in seeing science promoted by others as well as himself , and all authors on the subject of botany had him screen their work before committing them to print . The orchids were of prime interest to him. Upon certain fixed principles , he formed new genera , published many illustrations , and added numerous unusual and novel species . By these efforts and interests Swartz became known as " the first orchid specialist" .

Olof Swartz was born on 21 September 1760 , at Nordkoping , Sweden. Situated on the Motola River , Nordkoping was a famous shipping port. One of its local manufacturing establishments belonged to Olof's father.

In 1778 he was sent to the University of Upsala . Under the instruction of Linnaeu's son(the famed " father of modern botany" had died the year Swartz entered his formal studies),Swartz gained great proficiency in the various branches of natural history , as he did also in the study of medicine . During the summer months of 1779-1782 ,awat from studies ,he made excursions in the provinces of Sweden . Familiarizing himself with the natural entities of his native land , he traversed the districts bounded on the west by the Gulf of Bothnia , Lapland , as far as Lulea , Finland , and the island of Oeland and Gothland.

At the age of twenty -three Swarts felt the desire to visit distant and tropical regions . After spending the winter studying and arranging the collection he had already formed (having already written his Dissertatio dd Methodo Muscorum , his histroy of Gentiana -pulchella , and his inaugural treatise to the Faculty of Medicine), he left Sweden in 1783. He wetn to North America , where he spend a year., and then to Jamaica, Santo Domingo , other islands of the West Indies ,and to the shores of South America . At each place he liligently collected the native flora. In 1786 he went to England ,where he studied and examined the vast collection of material in the Banksian Herbarium , comparing the plants that he had himself brought home with this and other collections .

In 1789 he returned to Sweden , where he was immediating made a member of the Acadamy of Stockholm . Again he made exploratory journels through various parts of the Swedish dominions , particularly the northern provinces , the Norwegian alps , and part of Lapland . In 1790 he was named president of the Academy at Stockholm , and in 1791 professor at the Belgian Agricultural institution . At about that time he was married to the daughter of Dr. Bergius ,of Upsala . Unfortunately , she lived only until 1797 , leaving Swartz a son and a daughter .

Dr.Swartz's time became increasingly devoted to botany , the rich collections he had amassed leading him to enter into correspondence and exchange with the naturalists of other countries . His botanical fame was well founded by then ; his published works spoke well for him . His Prodromus Descriptionum Vegetabilium .....in Indian Occidentalem , including seven genera of orchids, following the Linnean system of binominal classification . His Florae Indiae Occidentales (1797-1806) was an amplification of the earlier work, but recognizing thirteen genera and twenty-seven species of orchids. Discreptions of the genera were limited to floral parts , followed by a discussion of the essential characteristics and the relative position of the genus . The species were the object of rather lengthy descriptions , including the roots, bulbs or stems, leaves , inflorescences , flowers , and fruiting bodies. Synoynmous and habitat were also given , often accompanied by notes on the flowering season or a short phrase distinguishing the plant from a related species . These two works were distined to become the foundation for all the later contemporary treatises on the orchids of the West Indies .

In 1800 Dr. Swartz published a series of articles which were probably the first devoted exclussively to orchids -Orchidernes Sla gter ach Arter Upstallde (Groups of Orchids ad Species Described ) . These appeated in Kongl.Vetenskaps Academiens Nya Handlinger , volume 21. Detailed ddiagonses of the floral parts were given , and each of the twenty -five genera included were divided into orchids with one anther (twenty -four genera ) and those with two anthers (one genus ,Cypripedium ). This division was apparantly the first formal recognition of the two great divisions of the Orchid Family which were added , especially West Indian ones ,in the Genera et species Orchidearum , systematice coordinatarum , 1806.

Swartz was presented with the orders of Wasa and teh Polar Star in recognation of his work , and in 1811 he was made secretary of the Academy of Science . In 1813 he was offered a prefessorship in the Carolinian Institution .

Dr.Swarz had always pursed his numerous studies and avocations with great zeal , oftern to the detriment of his health . His constitution had never vigorous in the first place, and the attacks of illness which he sustained might have been avoided had he given more attention to his person . He labored in his various tasks and employments until Spetember of 1818 , when , after an illness of eleven days , he died of a " nervous fever."


Dillon , Gordon W. 1956. Some Principles and Family Background -Understanding the orchid family -I.Amer .Orch .soc . Bull . 25 , no . 11.

Journal of Botany . Brief Memories of the Life of Olof Swartz, with Extracts from his letters .Vol. 2 .






Cant find what you are looking for ? Search for it here :-

Web www.orchids.co.in