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The Swedish botanist and physician Carl Peter Thunberg, a pupil of Linnaeus, was the only European who visited and published his observations of Tokugawa Japan in the eighteenth century. On his way to and from Japan, he visited territories in the Dutch colonial empire: the Cape Colony, Batavia (present-day Jakarta), and Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Following his return to Sweden, he made a spectacular career at the University of Uppsala. He published a ground-breaking work on Japanese plants, Flora Japonica (1784), and a travel account that was translated into several languages. In 1787 the Swedish king Gustav Ill, on Thunberg's initiative, founded a new Botanical Garden and a monumental building for natural history – Linneanum, now the home of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) – as a gift to the university.
Marie-Christine Skuncke reconstructs Thunberg's scientific career by exploring exchanges within the networks which he built in Europe, the Dutch colonies, and Tokugawa Japan. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Carl Peter Thunberg: Botanist and Physician is a study of social practices in natural history, in a global perspective.