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Olaus Rudbeck

  Olaus Rudbeck (also known as Olof Rudbeck the Elder, to distinguish him from his son, and occasionally with the surname Latinized as Olaus Rudbeckius) (1630-1702), Swedish scientist and writer, professor of medicine at Uppsala University and for several periods rector magnificus of the same university. He was the son of Bishop Johannes Rudbeckius, who was personal chaplain to King Gustavus Adolphus, and the father of Olof Rudbeck the Younger, who was ennobled in 1719 (noble family Rudbeck, nr. 1637; the family was ennobled a total of five times). Rudbeck is primarily known for his contributions in two fields: human anatomy and linguistics.

Additional recommended knowledge


Human anatomy

Rudbeck was one of the pioneers in the study of lymphatic vessels. According to his supporters in Sweden, he was the first to discover the lymphatic system and is documented as having shown his findings at the court of Queen Christina of Sweden in the Spring of 1652. However, he did not publish anything about it until the fall of 1653, after Thomas Bartholin, a Danish scientist, had published a description of a similar discovery of his own.[1] (For other early discoverers of the lymphatic system, see Gasparo Aselli and Jean Pecquet).

Rudbeck's research led to the Queen's support of his career. To facilitate his studies of human anatomy, he had a cupola built on top of Gustavianum, a university edifice, and in it was built an arena-like Theatrum anatomicum, where dissection could be carried out in front of students. The cupola still remains and is a landmark in Uppsala. The "Gustavianum" stands in front of the cathedral, and is still part of the university.

Historical linguistics


Between 1679-1702, Rudbeck dedicated himself to contributions in historical-linguistics patriotism, writing a 3,000-page treatise in four volumes called Atlantica (Atland eller Manheim in Swedish) where he purported to prove that Sweden was Atlantis, the cradle of civilization, and Swedish the original language of Adam from which Latin and Hebrew had evolved.[2] His work was criticized by several Scandinavian authors, including the Danish professor Ludvig Holberg, and the Swedish author and physician Andreas Kempe, who both wrote satires based on Rudbeck's writings. His work was later used by Dennis Diderot in the article "Etymologie" in Encyclopédie as a cautionary example of deceptive linking of etymology with mythical history.[3]

Despite the criticism targeting his linguistic theories and despite the priority dispute with Bartholin, Rudbeck remained a national icon in Sweden for many years. His son, Olof Rudbeck the Younger, continued his linguistic work and also became involved in providing an "intellectual reason" for power during a period when Sweden aspired to a position as one of the great powers of Europe. Rudbeck the Younger added speculations about the relationship between Sami and Hebrew languages to his father's long list of fantastical linguistic relationships.


Rudbeck was active in many scientific areas, including astronomy, and left many traces still visible in the city of Uppsala today. He was also said to be a good singer with a strong voice. On the personal level, he was said to be very strong-willed. He has been called "the first Swede to make a scientific discovery."[citation needed]

During the course of a fire that destroyed most of Uppsala in 1702, a large portion of Rudbeck's writings was lost. Rudbeck himself directed the people of the city, shouting orders from a roof while his house burned down. He died the same year, shortly after the fire.

Alfred Nobel was a descendant of Rudbeck through his daughter Wendela, who married one of her father's former students, Peter Olai Nobelius.

See also

  • Olof Rudbeck the Younger
  • Confusion of tongues
  • Atlantis


  1. ^ Eriksson, G. (2004). Svensk medicinhistorisk tidskrift, 2004;8(1):39-44. In Swedish. English abstract at Olaus Rudbeck as scientist and professor of medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  2. ^ Auroux, Sylvain, ed. (2006). History of the Language Sciences: An International Handbook on the Evolution of Language Sciences. Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 3110167352, pp. 1125-1126.
  3. ^ Bandle, Oskar et al (2002). The Nordic Languages: An International Handbook of the History of the North Germanic Languages. Volume I. Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 3110148765, p. 109.
  • King, David. "Finding Atlantis: A True Story of Genius, Madness, and an Extraordinary Quest for a Lost World." Harmony Books, New York, 2005. ISBN 1-4000-4752-8.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Olaus_Rudbeck". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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