Japanese royals celebrate "Flower King" Linnaeus (Roundup)
May 23, 2007, 15:23 GMT
Uppsala, Sweden - Japan's imperial couple joined radiant sunshine, blue skies and spring flowers in full bloom Wednesday for the 300th anniversary celebrations of the birth of Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus, also known as the 'Flower King'.
Linnaeus' key contributions to science were marked by the presence of Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, who were special guests of honour in Uppsala during their fourth visit to Sweden.
Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia escorted the Japanese royals to Uppsala, north-west of Stockholm, where Linnaeus was a student and later professor as he went on to be known as the 'father of modern taxonomy' classifying animals, plants and minerals.
The commemorations began with a service in Uppsala Cathedral where the king layed a wreath on Linnaeus' grave. Some members of the scientist's family were also present.
The royals later walked in procession to the university hall, escorted by students carrying academic banners from various colleges.
Emperor Akihito was made an honorary member of Uppsala University in recognition of his interest in Linnaeus and serving as 'great source of inspiration,' vice-chancellor Anders Hallberg said.
King Carl Gustaf was the first to accept the honour that was created in 1990. After the Japanese emperor had received his medal and diploma, the king jokingly compared his medal with Akihito, triggering chuckles among learned professors and other dignitaries.
In his remarks, History of Science Professor Tore Frangsmyr highlighted aspects of Linnaeus as being a pioneer and also very much part of his times, noting that he was 'deeply religious, but he was not orthodox.'
Science and superstition was another complication for Linnaeus, who introduced a 'uniform terminology' for identifying plants but who also believed that swallows hibernated during winter time at the bottom of lakes - a popular belief in his times.
Dr Paul Cox, ethnobotanist and head of the Institute of Ethnomedicine in the US state of Wyoming, told reporters that Linnaeus made a key contribution to science by his groundbreaking interviews with 'indigenous people on how they used plants' during his travels in northern Sweden.
That knowledge was still key in producing pharmaceuticals, he said.
Akihito, who is known as a taxonomist of gobiid fish, was elected as a member of the Linnean Society of London in 1980 and has been an honorary member since 1986.
Uppsala University was also to award several honorary doctorates during the anniversary week that began last Saturday.
Among those who attended the festivities Wednesday and received commemorative Linnaeus medals was 1962 Nobel laureate James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA molecule structure.
The Japanese royals arrived Monday in Sweden, the first stop on a 10-day trip that will include visits to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Britain.
On Tuesday, the royals visited botanical gardens on the outskirts of the Swedish capital created by two former students of Linnaeus.
Another of Linnaeus students, Carl Peter Thunberg, is credited with the first recording of Japan's flora in 1784.
A senior Japanese foreign ministry official said the emperor and empress were 'very pleased' with the visit to Sweden.
The official programme for the Japanese royals ends Wednesday with a banquet hosted by Uppsala governor Anders Bjorck. The menu included herb-roasted fillet of reindeer and a dark chocolate tart with wild strawberry compote.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur