Linnaeus Jubilee Meeting, Uppsala, Sweden, 14-18 May 2007

Logo of the EMA

logo of Uppsala University

This Meeting was generously hosted by the University of Uppsala as part of Sweden's Linnaeus Tercentenary.

Special thanks also to Åke Strid and Svengunnar Ryman for representing our hosts, to Anders Bohlin for organizing the Meeting, to Karin Bohlin for providing organizational support, and to all speakers who participated.

logo of the Linnaeus Tercentenary

Carl Linnaeus, Sweden’s most famous scientist, was born in May 1707 in Råshult, a small village in the county of Småland, in southern Sweden. Forever associated with the town and university of Uppsala, his greatest achievement was to establish a rational system for classifying and naming all living organisms. Without him, modern biology, as we know it, simply would not exist. To celebrate the jubilee of his birth, Sweden organized The Linnaeus Tercentenary with two clear goals: to increase interest in science among children and young people, and to present a full-faceted image of Carl Linnaeus for the general public.

The EMA's was very fortunate to gain a place in this programme to add a mycological dimension to the celebrations. Organization of the meeting was in the very capable hands of Anders Bohlin, Chairman of the European Council for Conservation of Fungi. Thanks to the kind hosting by the University of Uppsala, the timing of the EMA symposium was particularly prestigious: the week leading up to Linnaeus’ birthday. It was a wonderful time to visit Uppsala, with spring in full flow, and mycologists from six countries participated in this truly historic symposium.

There were two themes in the symposium. The first was Sweden’s remarkable and prolific contribution to mycology, from Linnaeus, then Fries, through the present to the future. The second was fungal conservation. Fungi are truly the orphans of the Rio Convention on Biological Diversity, being forgotten and missed from so many conservation plans. Sweden has been a leading light in redressing this omission, and the symposium provided a unique, on-site opportunity to learn how this country is dealing with that problem. The programme was as set out below.

Monday, May 14 Arrival; registration; ice-breaker reception.
Tuesday, May 15 Anders Bohlin – Welcome address. Linnaeus and the Fungi.
Åke Strid – Elias Fries – the Man and the Mycologist.
Ove Eriksson – Fungi of Sweden, Ascomycota.
Svengunnar Ryman - visit to the Herbarium of the University of Uppsala.
Anders Bohlin - visit to the Linnean garden and museum.
Wednesday, May 16 Anders Dahlberg – Fungal conservation in Sweden.
Anders Dahlberg – IUCN criteria for a European Red list.
Henrik Lantz - Rhytismatales - a new look at this order using molecular data.
Erik Danell - The KarlJohan Foundation, and its purpose to support holistic scientific research and education on edible and medicinal mushrooms.
Svengunnar Ryman - excursion on one of the Linnaeus pathways in the surroundings of Uppsala.
Thursday, May 17 Visit to Linnaeus’ country house at Hammarby.
Informal meeting of EMA Members present.
Friday, May 18 Departure

Anders Bohlin provides valuable quotations from the works of Linnaeus

Åke Strid describes the life of Fries

Ove Eriksson outlines his work on the ascomycetes

Above: Henrik Lantz calls for the rediscovery of a rare species

Left: Erik Danell speaks about the work of the KarlJohan Foundation

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Linnaeus tercentenary celebrations were ruffling Uppsala's normally placid countenance. There were Linnaeus 'buses running every hour to take visitors to all the historic Linnaeus sites; there were special (and rather good) Linnaeus cookies in the shops; there were signposted paths following his favourite walks; there were Linnaeus waistcoats on sale; there was a show at the local theatre exploring Linnaeus and sex... There were even bemused mycologists wandering around looking slightly lost.

The mycologists were, in fact, well looked-after during a very good-natured and civilized meeting which began with a stimulating series of talks provided by our various Swedish hosts. Anders Bohlin started the proceedings with a review of the Linnaeus Tercentenary celebrations followed up by a look at the impact of Linnaeus' work on mycology, causing some smiles when he quoted Linnaeus as saying "mushrooms are a bad invention" and "Agaricus salicis smells good, is used by bachelors to achieve love from the girls and to be accepted of them". It is maybe not so well known outside Sweden, but Anders and his wife Karin do a rather good act as impersonators of Linnaeus and his wife. So good, in fact, that their photos in this capacity appear on the Linnaeus Tercentenary promotional material.

After Anders, Åke Strid provided participants with a very erudite account of the life of Elias Fries, the father of mycology, and Ove Eriksson demonstrated a series of profoundly impressive fungal websites, showing that Sweden's mycologists are facing the 21st century and its technologies with confidence. The morning's lectures were followed by a tour of Uppsala University's fungal reference collection (and how cheering it was to see a properly-funded institution for systematic mycology!) with an additional viewing of a small part of the herbarium.

It's probably heresy in Sweden, but for mycologists the association of Uppsala with Fries was at least as exciting as the commemoration of Linnaeus. There were queues to be photographed next to a bust of the great man, and it was great at the end of the morning session to be able to walk into Uppsala and pass Fries' house. Mycologist participants quickly also found where Fries is buried, to pay homage to the founder of our science.

Left: Swedish mycologists then and now - Åke Strid, Anders Bohlin, Svengunnar Ryman and Nils Lundqvist line up in front of their illustrious predecessors

The Tuesday afternoon was taken up with a delightful visit to Linnaeus' Botanic Garden in the centre of Uppsala, together with a tour of his house which overlooks the garden. The morning of Wednesday saw us back in the lecture theatre, starting with an excellent presentation from Anders Dahlberg, looking at fungal conservation in Sweden and examining how IUCN criteria, designed for animals and plants, can be adapted to evaluate the conservation status of fungi. He was followed by Henrik Lantz with a stimulating account of how molecular studies are changing the face of one ascomycete order. The morning concluded with an eye-opening account from Erik Danell about plans for a self-funding institution to support holistic scientific research and education on edible and medicinal mushrooms. One could only wish him success. Despite worries about weather - unjustified as it happily turned out - we set out in the afternoon for a walk along one of the designated Linnaeus pathways. Uppsala is truly a wonderful place for a biologist, with splendid woodland and meadows only a short walk from the city centre. Under the genial leadership of Svengunnar Ryman these biological treasures were explored, ending at a remarkable series of rocks with ancient runic inscriptions carved by some early graffiti specialist - remarkable for foreign visitors, although locals assured us that there were many such examples.

Fries' house in the centre of Uppsala

Linnaeus' country cottage at Hammarby

Mycologists gather at Fries' grave to pay homage

Thursday was devoted to a whole day visit to Hammarby, the country estate of Linnaeus. Participants were treated to a superb tour of Linnaeus' country house, enjoying the sight of of one room with a patchwork of botanical illustrations which Linnaeus himself had removed from books sent to him and pasted on the walls. There was also time for a leisurely wander around the grounds, including formal gardens and some mixed woodland and a path rising to a small viewpoint with a stone building which Linnaeus had constructed to house his reference collections well away from the danger of fire.

In conclusion, the meeting was not only educational and enjoyable, but also seminal and stimulatory for development of the EMA. Mycologists were unable to find any public memorial to Fries, and the suggestion was made that perhaps some plaque might be organized to be put on an appropriate exterior wall in the town, drawing attention to Fries and his scientific importance. This is something which the Association may consider doing.

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