An Unrequited Botanical Love Story

By Nicole Tarnowsky

Feb 5 2020

The love of botany is responsible for both fostering and hindering this love story, filled with many of the influential characters of early botanical studies.

It starts with Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, who developed the binomial system of scientifically naming species in Latin. A dynamic and popular professor of botany in Uppsala, Sweden, Linnaeus often had his students live with him for part of their studies. He called several of these devoted students "apostles", many of whom would go on to travel the world promoting Linnaeus' system of classification.

One such student was Daniel Solander. In his time studying and living with Linnaeus and his family he fell in love with Linnaeus' eldest daughter Elisabeth Christina von Linné, known as Lisa Stina. Women were not encouraged to have a formal education at this time, but Lisa participated in many botanical lessons taught by her father. At the age of 19 she published a paper in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on an optic phenomenon in nasturtium flowers, which show small bursts of light in twilight. The love that Daniel Solander and Lisa Stina had both for botany and for each other was reportedly mutual—Solander referring to her in his letters to Linnaeus as "my sweetest mamselle Lisa Stina".

As one of Linnaeus' apostles, Solander moved to London upon graduating in 1760, to promote the new Linnean system of classification. He catalogued much of the British Museum's natural history collections. It was here that he met Joseph Banks and struck up a botanical friendship that would last the rest of his life. 

Solander was heartbroken to learn in 1764 that Lisa Stina had married someone else. Four years later, Banks and Solander set out on their famous voyage with Captain James Cook on the HMS Endeavor, traveling the world and returning with an extensive collection of around 30,000 plant specimens many of which had never been seen by western scientists.

Solander was a bachelor for the rest of his life, dying in his friend Banks' home of a stroke at the early age of 49. Lisa Stina returned to her parents' home after several years of an abusive marriage, and died at the early age of 39.

A Closer Look


Australian Dictionary of Biography 29 Jan 2020.

Daniel Solander: a Linnaean disciple on HMS Endeavour, Retrieved 29 Jan 2020.

Daniel Solander: The Botanist and Nature's Argonaut, Retrieved 29 Jan 2020.

Wikipedia Elisabeth Christina von Linné, Retrieved 29 Jan 2020.