Science in Sweden: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1739–1989

Science in Sweden: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, 1739–1989

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Frängsmyr, Tore, ed., 1989, viii + 291pp., Illus.


Although closely associated with the Nobel prizes for physics and chemistry (and the special prize for economics), establishment of the royal Swedish Academy of Sciences considerably predates Nobel's magnificent donation.
In 1739 Carl Linnaeus and five other men decided to establish an academy similar to those which existed elsewhere in Europe. These men were both scientists and politicians and they shared the vision of science as the key to Sweden's future glory and prosperity. From its inception until the 1780s, the academy was the center of the country's flourishing scientific activity. Among its leading members were many scientists of international repute including, besides Linnaeus, the astronomers Anders Celsius, and Pehr Wilhelm Wargentin, the chemists Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Torben Bergman, and J.G. Wallerius, as well as the physicists Samuel Klingenstierna and Johan Carl Wilcke.
During his tenure as a permanent secretary (1818–48), the noted chemist Jacob Berzeliius brought new distinction to the academy through his contacts with Europe's scientific elite. He received students from many countries and issued impressive annual reports, which were translated into many languages. Today the world's interest focuses upon the academy when the Nobel prize-winners are announced.
In ten chapters Swedish historians of science describe and analyse the history and varied activities of the academy. It is the story of how a scientific society in a small northern European country can attain international significance. It is told here for the first time in English.


“ . . . .a useful point of departure for any general study of the history of science in Sweden in the modern period. The chapters are topical, covering various aspects of the Academy’s growth, internal functioning, interaction with government and society, and the changing role of the scientific community. They are organized more or less chronologically, permitting the book to be read from beginning to end without historically dislocating the reader . . . recommended for general collections as well as research libraries.” —Scand. Stud.

“Mi è capitato recentemente di richiamare in Italia l’attenzione sull’importanza dell’evoluzione storica della scienza in Svezia. Mi pare che Science in Sweden giunga a confermare la validità di questo richiamo e soprattutto quanto scritto nel 1956 da Michael Roberts: ‘the man who finds Swedish history dull had better not read history at all.'” —Arch. Int. Hist. Sci.