Linnaeus tercentenary celebrated in Singapore!

In December 2006, before I left for Hong Kong to join the Götheborg for the Hong Kong – Singapore leg, the Swedish embassy staff treated Teo and myself to a lunch (the navy pair, Zhong Bo and Poh Huat were already in Hong Kong) .

During that conversation, the Swedish ambassador to Singapore, Pår Ahlberger, mentioned that celebrations were being held in Sweden over the course of the year, in honour of Carous Linnaeus 300th birthday. He is regarded as the father of modern taxonomy, and as a biologist and museum worker (Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore), I could well appreciate that bit of news!

Well after the memories of the voyage were being submerged by the frantic pace of life in busy Singapore, I recalled that conversation and two weeks before the 23rd of May, Linnaeus’ actual birthday, I decided the Raffles Museum should mark that special day in some way.

So I put together a symposium on the eve of Linnaeus’ 300th birthday (22 May 2007)which included another event (see my blog for that long story), and urged Pår to join us as well, despite the very short notice. After all, he was the person who put the idea into my head! And both he and Anna Maj Hultgård came to my great delight!

Pår wasn’t ceremonial decoration, he added a distinctive Swedish flavour to the event with an impromptu and heartfelt message speech about Linnaeus and the influence of Swedish’ geography and outlook on that gentleman, and the environment that nurtured his interest that persists today. His enthusiasm was a great way to start the proceedings and lay the ground for Raffles Museum director, Prof Peter Ng who later delivered a fiery keynote about the legacy of Linnaeus and the environmental challenges we face today.

I chipped in too later that morning, as I had scheduled myself to round things off with a bang! Busy with preparations, I finally agonised over my 15 minute presentation only the previous night, finally choosing to speak about my adventures with otters which allowed me to weave in a few funny stories amidst the background of a detective story that systeematics unravlled – it was from my work in the 90’s and turned out well. I left the audience laughing and hopefully better aware of the significance of systematics to conservation work even today.

I was pretty pleased that the symposium to mark Linnaeus’ tercentenary, conjured up in just two weeks, was a happy occasion that saw smiles all around! My lovely friends had rallied to help, and we had pulled it off!

Links to more pictures and reports were posted at the Raffles Museum News blog. Photos in this blog were taken by Lin Yangchen and Hwang Wei Siong.

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