Falk, John Peter

, one of the scientific travellers, employed by the late empress of Russia to explore her vast dominions, was born in Westrogothia, a province in Sweden, about 1727. He studied medicine in the university of Upsal, and went through a course of botany under the celebrated Linnæus, to whose son he was, tutor. He publicly defended the dissertation (in the Linnaei “Amcenitates Academics”) which that famous botanist had composed on a new species of plants, which he called astromeTi’a. In 1760, he was so deeply affected with depression of spirits, that Linnæus, in order to amuse his mind, sent him to travel over the island of Gothland, to make a collection of the plants it produces, and the various kinds of corals and corallines which the sea leaves on its shores; but this journey was attended with no diminution of his distemper, which found a continual supply of aliment in a sanguine melancholy temperament, in a too sedentary way of life, and in the bad state of his finances.

Professor Forskael having left Upsal for Copenhagen in 1760, Falk followed him thither, in hopes of being appointed his assistant in his famous journey through Arabia, but the society that were to go on that important expedition being already formed, his application failed, and being obliged to return, he herborised as he travelled, and enriched the Flora Suecica with several new discoveries. A man in office at St. Petersburgh having written to Linnæus to send him a director for his cabinet of natural history, Falkaccepted the post, which led him to the chair of professor of botany at the apothecaries’ garden at St. Petersburgh, a place that had been long vacant; but his hypochondriac complaint still continued to torment him. When the imperial academy of sciences was preparing in 1768 the plan of its learned expeditions, it took Falk into its service, though his health was uncertain. He was recalled in 1771, but having got only to Kasan in 1773, he there obtained permission to go and use the baths of Kissiar, | from which he returned again to Kasan at the end of the year, with his health apparently better; but his disease soon returned with redoubled violence, and his mind being deranged he put a period to his life on March 31, 1774. His fate was generally and justly lamented. His papers were found in the greatest disorder. They contained, however, very useful and important relations. He particularly made it his business to inquire about the Kirguises and the other Tartarian nations; and as he frequently remained for the space of nine months together in the same place, he was enabled to procure satisfactory reports concerning the objects of his investigations. The imperial academy, in 1774, appointed professor Laxmann to arrange his manuscripts in order for publication; which was done accordingly, but they were not published until 1735, when they appeared at Petersburgh in 3 vols. 4to. 1


Dr. Cleig’s Suppl. to the Encyclop. Britan, —Dict. Hist.