Olof Swartz

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Olof Swartz
Olof Peter Swartz00.jpg
Olof Swartz
Born 21 September 1760
Died 19 September 1818 (1818-09-20) (aged 57)
Nationality Sweden
Alma mater University of Uppsala
Known for pteridophytes
Scientific career
Fields botany
Doctoral advisor Carolus Linnaeus the Younger
Author abbrev. (botany) Sw.

Olof Peter Swartz (21 September 1760 – 19 September 1818) was a Swedish botanist and taxonomist. He is best known for his taxonomic work and studies into pteridophytes. He attended the University of Uppsala where he studied under Carolus Linnaeus the Younger and received his doctorate in 1781.

He first traveled in 1780, to Lapland in the company of several other botanists.[1] In 1783 he sailed for North America and the West Indies, primarily in the area of Jamaica and Hispaniola, to collect botanical specimens.[2] His botanical collection, of an impressive 6000 specimens, is now held by the Swedish Museum of Natural History, as part of the Regnellian herbarium.[3] By 1786 he left for London to prepare his collection. There he met Joseph Banks, who was impressed with his knowledge of Botany. He was offered a position with the British East India Company as a travelling physician, but turned it down, and returned to Sweden in 1787. Ten years later he proposed to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (of which he became a member in 1789) the idea of a permanent travel grant, based on the methods he had seen employed by Banks within the British Empire. In 1791 he became Professor Bergianus at the Academy of Sciences at Stockholm.[4] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1805.[5]

Dr. Olof Swartz: drawing of Malaxis umbelliflora

Swartz was the first specialist of orchid taxonomy, who published a critical review of orchid literature and classified the 25 genera that he recognized through his own work. He was also the first to realize that most orchids have one stamen, while slipper orchids have two.[6]

The genus Swartzia (Caesalpiniaceae, Fabaceae or Leguminosae) was named in his honor by Schreber.


  • Nova genera et species plantarum seu prodromus, 1788
  • Observationes botanicae, 1791
  • Icones plantarum incognitarum, illustrating the rare plants of the West Indies (Upsala, 1794-1800)
  • Flora Indiae occidentalis, (3 vols., 1797-1806)
  • Synopsis Filicum, 1806
  • Lichenes Americani (Nuremberg, 1811)
  • Summa vegetabilium Scandinaviae, 1814


  1. ^ Olof Swartz Archived 2004-12-25 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on June 27, 2006.
  2. ^ "Swartz, Olof[permanent dead link]." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006.
  3. ^ Swedish Museum of Natural History; The Regnellian herbarium Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved on June 27, 2006.
  4. ^ Bravo, Michael; Sorlin, Sverker (May 1, 2002). Narrating the Arctic. Watson Pub Intl. ISBN 0-88135-385-X. Page 130.
  5. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter S" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  6. ^ Pridgeon, Alec M, et al. (December 16, 1999). Genera Orchidacearum. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-850513-2. Page 3.
  7. ^ IPNI.  Sw.

Further reading

  • Kurt Polycarp Joachim Sprengel, Memoir of the life and writings of Olaus Swartz, Edinburgh: A. Constable, 1823.

External links

Digitised versions of works by Swartz

  • BDH Flora Indiae Occidentalis :aucta atque illustrata sive descriptiones plantarum in prodromo recensitarum
  • BDH Lichenes Americani : quos partim in Flora Indiae Occidentalis descripsit, partim e regionibus diversis Americae obtinuit Illustrations by Jacob Sturm
  • BDHNova genera & species plantarum; seu, Prodromus descriptionum vegetabilium, maximam partem incognitorum quae sub itinere in Indiam Occidentalem annis 1783-87
  • BDH Observationes botanicae :quibus plantae Indiae Occidentalis aliaeque Systematis vegetabilium ed. XIV illustrantur earumque characteres passim emendantur
  • BDH Svensk botanik
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