Great Minds from Uppsala

Besides being a city of great historical and cultural importance, Uppsala being home to Uppsala University is also a centre of great academic and intellectual importance. The history of important scientists who were born and/or studied in Uppsala is staggering, with great names headling the city during different eras. Here’s a list of some of the most prominent scientist from Uppsala.

Olof Rudbeck (1630 – 1702)

A scientist, writer, Professor of Medicine and linguist, Rudbeck was the quintessential polymath.

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Rudbeck pioneered the study of lymphatic vessels.

His study in linguistics was more controversial with a concept called historical-linhuistic patriotism that claimed that Swedish was the first language of Atlantis (the cradle of civilisation) and the foundational language from which Hebrew and Latin evolved.

Rudbeck also set up a Botanic Garden in Uppsala, which later became renamed for Carl Linneaus.

Anders Celcius (1701 – 1744)

You know his name from somewhere. It was Anders Celsius who proposed the use of the Celsius system for temperature, which is today the global standard (except in the United States).

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Celcius was born in Uppsala to an astronomy professor father. He completed his studies in Uppsala University and later become professor of astronomy in Uppsala setting up the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory in 1741.

The former Observatory in Uppsala

Celcius was the first to perform detailed experiments to determine temperature on an international scale on scientific grounds, his work created a 0 to 100 scale, 0 for the boiling point of water and 100 for the freezing point of water. This was later reversed for practical reasons by Carl Linneaus.

Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778)

Easily the most celebrated of scientist in this list is Carl Linnaeus. There is a street named after Linnaeus, numerous cafes, schools and a while classification system names after him. And yet, Linnaeus was a poor student, few would have expected this weak academic student to blossom into the founder of modern taxonomy. Linnaeus did not enter Uppsala as a star, in fact he scrapped into medicine (then viewed as a poor choice of academic study) and was considered a horrible student.

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Linnaeus is most well known as a Botanist, Zoologist and physician who developed the binomial nomenclature system with the introduction of the work – Systema Naturae.

His scientific fame helped him grow and train many brilliant young minds who were sent all round the world with the colonial trading companies of Europe to collect biological samples to classify these were known as the Apostles of Linnaeus.

Jons Jacob Berzelius (1779 – 1848)

Together with Robert Doyle, John Dalton and Antoine Lavoisier, Berzelius is considered a founder of modern chemistry. Like the other major stars on this list, Berzelius began his career as a physician but later shifted his work to research in physical chemistry.

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Among his contributions to chemistry were the determination of atomic weights, rules of stoichiometry and chemical combinations. His work on atomic weights led to the chemical formula notation that we use today.

He is remembered as the father of Swedish chemistry and has a park named after him in central Stockholm – Berzelii Park.

Anders Ångström (1814- 1874)

If you have done biology or proteomics, or bioinformatics, you would have heard of the term Angstrom, a unit used to measure sizes of “atoms, molecules, microscopic biological structures, and lengths of chemical bonds, arrangement of atoms in crystals, wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, and dimensions of integrated circuit parts.”

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This name of this unit was lent by Anders Ångström a co-founder of spectroscopy.

Svante Arrhenius (1859 – 1927)

After Berzelius, another major player in physical chemistry was Svante Arrhenius.

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Arrhenius was the first Swedish Nobel Laureate, and is memorialised by the Arrhenius equation for describing the dependence of a reaction rate on temperature, the Arrhenius definition of an acid-base. It was Arrhenius who used first principles to measure the rise in earth temperatures on the earth’s surface due to carbon dioxide through the Arrhenius effect that led later scientist to conclude that human-caused carbon dioxide release could be enough to cause global warming.

Arvid Carlsson (1923 – present)

Carlsson, the only living scientist on this list, is also a Nobel Laureate known for his work in neuropharmacology and in particular for the study of the neurotransmitter dopamine and linking dopamine levels to Parkinson’s disease in movement, an hot area of research even till this day.

Hans Rosling (1948 – 2017)

The recently deceased Hans Rosling, unlike the other scientists on the list was a public health expert focused on data and public health. A medical doctor, Rosling was renowned for TED talks and for popularising science. Prior to his death, his pet project was working with as a member of the Gapminder Foundation, to work for a fact-based world.

Who’s next? 😉

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