Rolander was born to a simple family in Hälleberga, Småland, Sweden and studied at Uppsala University where he came under the influence of Linnaeus. In 1755, Rolander went to Surinam to study and collect plants, which he sent back to Sweden. He recorded his seven months' activities in his journal, Diarium Surinamicum, quod sub itinere exotico conscripsit Daniel Rolander, tomus I & II, 1754-1756; it was not published until 1811, after Rolander's death. Rolander's work was used by Christen Friis Rottbøll as the basis of botanical publications later in the 18th century.
Rolander also made extensive zoological observations, focusing on insects. While in Surinam, he traveled and collected extensively around Paramaribo at first and then up the Suriname River. Fearing for his health, the naturalist returned to Europe but was unable to return to Sweden until October 1756, nine months after leaving the Americas.
Apparently because of Linnaeus' lack of help in getting home from Germany and his refusal to give his mentor access to the Surinam collections without first being offered an academic post, Rolander and Linnaeus had a severe falling-out. Linnaeus' power and prestige in the academic world made it possible for him to blackball Rolander. Thus, he was unable to gain an academic position and did not publish his findings, gradually drifting into obscurity and poverty due to a misfortune (perhaps the death of a patron he had finally found) and his apparently abrasive personality.
- Given as 1723 in Svenskt Biografiskt Lexikon (1998−2000) s,v "Rolander, Daniel"; in other sources such as James Dobreff, "The Invisible Naturalist", in Andrew Polaszek, ed. Systema Naturae 250 - The Linnaean Ark (CRC Press) 2010:11–28. ISBN 978-1-4200-9501-2.), given as 1722: see Old Style and New Style dates
- Linnaeus' Apostles: Daniel Rolander"
- Rolander, translated by James Dobreff, David Morgan, Claes Dahlman and Josheph Tipton, ed. Lars Hansen. The Linnaeus Apostles - Global Science and Adventure: Daniel Rolander's Journal, IK Foundation.
- Eisner, Thomas, Jayne Yack and Daniel J. Aneshansley 2001 "Acoustic Concomitants of the Defensive Discharges of a Primitive Bombardier beetle (Metrius contractus)," Chemoecology 11(4): 221-223.
- Pain, Stephanie 2007 "The Forgotten Apostle," New Scientist 195 (4 August 2007): 41-45.