Position: Historical scientist, Field: Botany
Dr Daniel Solander (1733–1782) studied natural history at Uppsala University in Sweden. His principal teacher was Carl Linnaeus who had devised a classification system that placed organisms within hierarchical groups that showed their relationship to other organisms.
In 1759, Solander travelled to England, as scientists there were keen to know about Linnaeus’s system and apply it. Solander quickly settled into life in England, and in 1764, he became a member of the Royal Society. This was also the year that he met Joseph Banks.
Joseph Banks invited Daniel Solander to be part of the scientific team aboard the Endeavour on James Cook’s trip to the South Pacific. Solander’s familiarity with Linnaeus’s classification system was an advantage on this voyage of exploration.
The Endeavour set sail in August 1768 and made landfall in New Zealand in October 1769. Cook and his crew circumnavigated the new land, discovering a long group of mountainous islands. While only able to explore coastal regions, Solander described and collected all manner of new species, including plants, butterflies, birds, beetles and other insects.
After returning to London, Solander and Banks became famous for their collections. Solander continued his association with Banks, working as his librarian and assistant. However, he made little progress cataloguing the expedition’s huge number of specimens. He died unexpectedly, aged 49, after a stroke.
Nature of science
Scientific investigations often bring together many people with different skills. Joseph Banks chose Daniel Solander to accompany him on the Endeavour because Solander was proficient in botanical classification. The two men were able to combine their talents to advance society’s understanding of the natural world.