Johan Ernst Gunnerus

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Johan Ernst Gunnerus
Johann Ernst Gunnerus.jpg
Johann Ernst Gunnerus
Born (1718-02-26)February 26, 1718
Christiania, Norway
Died September 23, 1773(1773-09-23) (aged 55)
Christiania, Norway
Nationality Norwegian
Occupation Priest / Botanist
Religion Christian
Denomination Church of Norway
Parent(s) Erasmus Gunnerus and
Anna Gerhard

Johan Ernst Gunnerus (1718 – 23 September 1773) was a Norwegian bishop and botanist. Gunnerus was born at Christiania. He was bishop of the Diocese of Nidaros from 1758 until his death and also a professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen.


Gunnerus was very interested in natural history and accumulated a large collection of specimens from visits to central and northern Norway. He also encouraged others to send him specimens. Together with the historians Gerhard Schöning and Peter Frederik Suhm he founded the Trondheim Society in 1760. In 1767 it received royal recognition and became the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters.

Gunnerus was vice President and Director Perpetuus of the Society from 1767 to 1773. The society began publishing its journal in 1761, entitled Det Trondhiemske Selskabs Skrifter, still published today as Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskabs Skrifter. In 1765 Gunnerus published a description of a basking shark in this journal, giving it the scientific name Squalus maximius.

Gunnerus was the author of Flora Norvegica (1766-1776). He contributed notes on the ornithology of northern Norway to Knud Leem's Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper (1767), translated into English in 1808 as An Account of the Laplanders of Finmark. In this Gunnerus was the first person to give a scientific name to the Greenshank. Gunnerus discussed a number of his findings with Carolus Linnæus, mainly known as Carl von Linné, with whom he was in correspondence. The original letters from Carolus Linnæus are held at the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences and Letters in Trondheim, while the ones from Gunnerus to Linnæus are found at the Linnean Society of London.[1]

Gunnerus was the first to suggest that since the northern lights were caused by the Sun, there also had to be auroras around the moon, Venus and Mercury.

In 1766, Gunnerus was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The plant genus Gunnera was named after him as well as the Gunnerus Library.




Preceded by
Frederik Nannestad
Bishop of Nidaros
Succeeded by
Marcus Fredrik Bang