Tag: natural science

The birds and the bees

2 May 2011 | Non-fiction

Halcyon or Ispida (kingfisher)? A picture of this mythical bird from a 17th-century thesis, published in Suomen lintutieteen synty

The famous Swedish scientist Carl von Linné claimed in his doctoral thesis in 1757 that swallows spend their winters underwater.
Two of Linné’s countrymen, working at Åbo Academy in Finland, proved him wrong seven years later by giving evidence of migration, but to no avail: the silly theory prevailed until the 19th century.
In these extracts doctors Leche and Grysselius eloquently present a ‘Well-Intended Reader’ with errors of humanity that become epidemic

Extracts from ‘An Academic Treatise on The Wintering and Migration of Swallows’  by Johan Leche & Johan Grysselius (1764), published in Finnish (translated from Latin by Sari Kivistö) in Suomen lintutieteen synty. Turun Akatemian aika (‘The birth of the Finnish ornithology. The era of the Åbo Akademi’, Faros, 2009), edited by Esa Lehikoinen, Risto Lemmetyinen, Timo Vuorisalo & Sari Kivistö


As we know, humanity is no less inclined to err in matters pertaining to nature than in matters of morals. With regards to errors concerning the natural world, even the most experienced scholars are not always immune. The common people, for their part, have not learned to avoid such pitfalls and are thus constantly bumping into them. This is no wonder, since they are not accustomed to using the help of natural science or mathematics, and are thus unable to perform appropriate tests, to correctly assess future eventualities, or to observe phenomena closely unless they concern something already familiar to them. More…