Linnæus and the Production of Artificial Pearls


    LINNAEUS was a great naturalist, but one gathers a fresh idea of his manifold interests in Nature from the series of articles in Svenska Linni-Sdllskapets Arsskrifi, Arg. 13, 1930. One of the most curious of these papers, by Gustaf Drake, recounts an incursion of Linnaeus into the artificial pearl trade. In the course of his journey through Lapland, Linnaeus paid a visit to a pearl-fishery, where the pearls were derived from fresh-water mussels. Knowing that various species of mollusca, both fresh-water and marine, could produce pearls, he formed the opinion that theoretically they could be formed by any shell, and turned his attention to their artificial production. He carried out several successful experiments, and Beckmann records that in 1765 he was shown by Linnaeus himself four or five real pearls lying within the shells of Mya margaritifera, with the proud announcement: “hos uniones ipse artificio meo arcano confeci.” Before this time, however, word had got abroad of Linnaeus's pearl-making secret, and in 1761–62 he was induced to demonstrate his method to Parliament. As a reward he was allowed the right of nominating his own successor, and chose his only son. But he also had a tempting offer from a private person for the monopoly of his pearl-producing method, though he did not accept it.

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    Linnæus and the Production of Artificial Pearls. Nature 126, 456 (1930).

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