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Document Number: AJ-117b
Author: Kalm, Pehr, 1716-1779
Title: Travels into North America [volume 2]
Source: Kalm, Peter. Travels into North America; Containing Its Natural History, and a Circumstantial Account of Its Plantations and Agriculture in General, with the Civil, Ecclesiastical and Commercial State of the Country, the Manners of the Inhabitants, and Several Curious and Important Remarks on Various Subjects. By Peter Kalm. Translated into English by John Reinhold Forster. Enriched with a Map, Several Cuts for the Illustration of Natural History, and Some Additional Notes. The Second Edition. In Two Volumes. (London: Printed for T. Lowndes, 1773). Volume 2.
Pages/Illustrations: 437 / 3 (tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-117b/

Author Note

Pehr Kalm (1716-1779), whose name is sometimes found in English as Peter Kalm, was the son of a Lutheran minister. He was born in Angermanland, Sweden, in 1716, and attended college in Finland before moving to Uppsala University in Sweden in 1740. Here he studied under the great scientist Linnaeus (Carl von Linné), who became his friend as well as mentor. Linnaeus was most interested in organizing all plants and animals into a coherent system of names and relationships. Our modern system of Latin binomials originated with his work. After the trip described ehre, Kalm devoted most of his remaining years to caring for, studying and lecturing about the American plants he brought home to Sweden. He received further academic honors, lectured widely, and became a Lutheran clergyman before his death in 1779.

Expedition to America, 1748-1751

As Europeans fanned out across Asia, Africa, and the Americas during the 18th century, students and colleagues of Linneaus kept a steady stream of specimens flowing back to the great systematizer in Uppsala. As one of Linnaeus’ best students, Kalm was selected in 1747 to travel to North America to collect seeds of plants that might prove useful for agriculture and industry.

Kalm arrived in Pennsylvania in 1748 and made his base of operations the Swedish ex-patriate communities in southern New Jersey, where he served as pastor of a local church and married in 1750. He made trips as far west as Niagara Falls and as far north as Quebec before returning to Sweden in 1751. Although botany was his main reason for traveling, Kalm trained his scientist's eye on all aspects of American culture and his careful, dispassionate observations show colonial settlement life in great detail.

Document Note

Kalm's journal of his travels was published in Stockholm, Sweden, as En Resa til Norra America in three volumes between 1753 and 1761. Before that, his short account of his visit to Niagara Falls had been published in John Bartram's Observations... (London, 1751). The first English translation of the complete work appeared in 1770-71; the second edition in only two volumes, which omits his visit to England, is given here.

We have not included the map which accompanied the volumes: "A New and Accurate Map of Part of North America" because it is available at the American Memory Project at http://memory.loc.gov

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The short article, "Peter Kalm, Early Plant Explorer" by Janice Stiefel in the journal Wisconsin Flora, Sept. 2002 (online at www.botany.wisc.edu/herbarium/BCW/0209_page3-5.pdf) contains more details of his life as well as a portrait.

For additional information on Linnaeus, with excellent links to sites that include online editions of his works, see the Univ. of California at Berkeley's Museum of Paleontology site: http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/linnaeus.html

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