Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Solander, Daniel Charles

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624479Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 53 — Solander, Daniel Charles1898George Simonds Boulger

SOLANDER, DANIEL CHARLES (1736–1782), botanist, was born in Norrland, Sweden, on 28 Feb. 1736, his father being a clergyman. At an early age he came under the notice of Linné, who obtained his father's consent to his studying botany, ‘cherished him as a son’ under his own roof (Smith, Correspondence of Linnæus, i. 273), entrusted him with the editing of his ‘Elementa Botanica’ (Upsala, 1756, 8vo), recommended him to visit England, and gave him, as his ‘much-loved pupil,’ introductions (ib. p. 123) to John Ellis and Peter Collinson. Having apparently graduated in medicine at Upsala, Solander left for England in April 1759, but, owing to delay caused by illness, did not arrive till July 1760. Pulteney pointed out that ‘his name and the connection he was known to bear as the favourite pupil of the great master … his perfect acquaintance with the whole scheme,’ and ‘the urbanity of his manners,’ were among the material ‘circumstances which accelerated the progress of the’ Linnæan system in England (Sketches of Botany, ii. 359). He soon learnt English, and ‘his instructions made everybody correct and systematic, and introduced Linnæan learning and precision’ (Smith, op. cit. ii. 3). In September 1762 he was, on Linné's suggestion, appointed professor of botany by the Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburg, but, on the advice of Collinson, declined the appointment (ib. i. 57, 158). He was engaged to arrange the Duchess of Portland's museum (ib. p. 65), and subsequently, on Collinson's recommendation, to catalogue the natural history collections in the British Museum. He was appointed assistant librarian at the museum in 1763. In 1768 he was engaged by Joseph (afterwards Sir Joseph) Banks, at a salary of 400l., to accompany him on Cook's voyage in the Endeavour. He was allowed to employ a deputy at the British Museum, and was promised preferment on his return. During this voyage Solander had a narrow escape from death by sleeping in the snow when on Tierra del Fuego. On their return in 1771 Banks established him in his house at Soho Square as his secretary and librarian. In 1772 he visited Iceland with Banks, and in 1773 was made keeper of the Natural History department at the British Museum. Though he ‘had, as it were,’ says Sir J. E. Smith, ‘caught his preceptor's mantle and imbibed, by a sort of inspiration, a peculiar talent for concise and clear definition,’ so that ‘no one ever came so near his great teacher in the specific discrimination of plants’ (op. cit. ii. 478 and 3), the attractions of London society in which his agreeable manners made him popular, and a constitutional indolence prevented his accomplishing much that he might have done. In 1767 Linné writes to Ellis (op. cit. i. 222): ‘Pray persuade Solander to write to his excellent mother, who has not received a letter from her beloved son for several years;’ and after his death several of her letters to him were found unopened. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on 7 June 1764, and received the degree of D.C.L. from the university of Oxford on 21 Nov. 1771. Solander was seized with apoplexy, and, although attended by Blagden, Hunter, Pitcairne, and Heberden, died at Banks's house in Soho Square on 16 May 1782 (European Mag. 1782, i. 395).

After several abortive attempts to commemorate his name, it was finally given by the younger Linnæus to a genus of Atropaceæ (cf. Nichols, Lit. Anecd. viii. 201; Biogr. Universelle, xliii. 1–2). This genus Solandra is represented on a medal struck at the time of his death in Sweden. There are also two Wedgwood medallions of Solander; a full-length oil portrait by an unknown artist at the Linnean Society's rooms, presented by Richard Anthony Salisbury [q. v.], which is engraved in Sir Joseph Hooker's edition of the ‘Journal of Sir Joseph Banks’ (1896), and which has also been lithographed; and an engraving by J. Newton, after J. Sowerby, dated 1784. Solander's name has also been given to two small islands—one in the Mergui Archipelago, and the other south of New Zealand.

Solander published nothing independently. There is a paper by him on Gardenia in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’ (vol. lii.). In addition to editing Linné's ‘Elementa Botanica,’ as already stated, he described the fossils in Gustavus Brander's ‘Fossilia Hantoniensia’ (1766, 4to), and arranged and described the material for John Ellis's ‘Natural History of Zoophytes’ (1786, 4to). Sir James Edward Smith says of him (loc. cit.) that he ‘reduced our garden plants to order, and laid the foundation of the “Hortus Kewensis” of his friend Aiton; but that “abstract principles of classification seem never to have attracted him.”’ His death prevented the publication of the descriptions of the plants collected on the voyage of the Endeavour. Twenty volumes of manuscript (eight in folio and twelve in quarto) are, however, preserved in the botanical department of the British Museum, systematically recording the plants collected in the various countries visited. A useful form of bookbox portfolio designed by him is still known as a Solander case.

[Life, by B. D. Jackson, in Journal of Sir Joseph Banks, 1896; Chalmers's Biogr. Dict.; Rees's Cyclopædia; works cited above.]

G. S. B.