S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Wanman, Carl H (botany)

Born: 1733, Uppsala, Sweden.
Died: 4 September 1797, Åbo, (now Turku), Finland.

Carl H. Wänman, Swedish physician, attended school in Uppsala and then received some training from two medical doctors in Stockholm. In 1758 he entered the University of Uppsala as a medical student under Professor C. Linnaeus the elder. The next year he passed the first medical examination and defended a short botanical thesis entitled Flora Capensis (Uppsala, 1759, 19p). This was the first published work devoted entirely to the flora of the Cape of Good Hope and, as was customary at the time, was mostly Linnaeus's work. It contained a brief description of the climate and fauna of the Cape, a list of cultivated plants introduced from Europe and Asia, brief notes on the botanical collectors J. Heurnius*, P. Hermann*, H.B. Oldenland*, and J. Hartog*, and a list of 502 Cape plants, without descriptions.

Wänman practiced medicine in Stockholm for some years and then obtained a post as ship's doctor with the Swedish East India Company, travelling to China in 1766-1768 and to the East Indies in 1768-1770. He collected natural history material in China, the Phillipines, Java, Sumatra, and during brief stays at the Cape of Good Hope. A part of his collection, including 300 plants from the Cape, is kept in the Bergius collection in Stockholm; other plants are in the herbarium at Uppsala.

While in Sweden between his two journeys Wänman submitted a very brief thesis for the medical degree, Dissertatio de morbis nautarum Indiae (Dissertation on the diseases of seafarers to India; Uppsala, 1768), but it was not accepted by the medical faculty. He appealed to the Chancellor of Uppsala University (the crown prince of Sweden) and at the latter's request the university awarded him the degree Doctor of Medicine in November 1768.

Afterwards Wänman again practiced in Stockholm and during 1772-1773 was sent to Falun by the Royal Medical Board to help combat an epidemic. In 1775 he was appointed physician in the district of Nyland, with his headquarters at Helsingfors (now Helsinki, Finland). During the war against Russia in 1788-1790 he served as a military physician and in 1794 settled in Åbo, Finland.

List of sources:
Anon. The first Flora Capensis. Africana Notes & News, 1977, Vol. 22, pp. 263-264.

Dictionary of South African biography, Vol. 5, 1987.

Gunn, M. & Codd, L.E. Botanical exploration of southern Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1981.

Hutchinson, J. A botanist in southern Africa (pp. 562-565). London: Gawthorn, 1946.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Compiled by: C. Plug