Lovén, Sven

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Lovén, Sven

(b. Stockholm, Sweden, 6 January 1809; d. near Stockholm, 3 September 1895)

marine biology.

Lovén was the son of Christian Lovén, the mayor of Stockholm. He received his early education in a private school, then in 1824 entered the University of Lund. His teachers included the botanist Agardh and the zoologist Sven Nilsson, with the latter of whom Lovén made a trip to Norway in 1826. The subject of Lovén’s first paper, the geographical distribution of birds, shows Nilsson’s influence. Lovén took the M.A. in 1829; in 1830 he went to Berlin for a year’s further study. In Germany he learned microscope technique and studied with Ehrenberg and Rudolphi, who, together with the Swedish anatomist Anders Retzius, persuaded him to give up ornithology in favor of marine biology.

In 1835 Lovén published a treatise on the plankton crustacean Evadne nordmanni and a work entitled Contribution to the Knowledge of the Genera Campanularia and Syncoryne, in which he traced the life—cycles of these genera from the egg to the formation of new colonies. He supplemented his knowledge of marine fauna with a number of field excursions, of which the most important was a seventeen-month trip to Spitsbergen and northern Norway that he undertook in 1836–1837. On this voyage Lovén studied marine life, especially plankton, and assembled a rich collection of specimens. He also recorded significant observations on Paleozoic fossils and Quaternary geological formations.

In 1841 Lovén was appointed curator of the invertebrate section of the Museum of Natural History in Stockholm. At the same time, he was engaged in research on the anatomy and evolution of mollusks; his Index molluscorum was published in 1846. Lovén then took up the study of the molluscean radula, noting that this structural detail is useful in classification by genera and species. In 1848, while studying the embryological development of mollusks, Lovén (simultaneously with Friedrich Müller) discovered the polar bodies that appear during the maturation of the egg. He incorporated this discovery, together with several other important results, in his Contribution to the Knowledge of the Development of Mollusca Acephala Lamellibranchiata, a study of the metamorphic and embryonic stages in a number of different bivalves which was published the same year.

Lovén’s interest in fossil forms led him to take up the question of the evolution of the Scandinavian peninsula, a problem that had also been discussed by Celsius and Swedenborg. Lovén studied shellbanks—deposits of fossil shells at altitudes considerably above sea level—on the west coast of Sweden and found such arctic forms as Pecten islandicus. These finds corroborated his theory that an arctic sea had once covered much of the present Scandinavian land; he also found that the proportion of southern fossil forms was significantly higher near the present shore, demonstrating a gradually warming climate. He further investigated the peculiar distribution of certain glacial marine forms which were common in the Baltic Sea and in several large inland lakes, but completely lacking on the west coast of Scandinavia. His On Several Crustaceans Found in Lakes Vättern and Vänern, published in 1860, offers a geological explanation of this zoological phenomenon.

Although his work on mollusks was most widely recognized, Lovén also published excellent anatomical studies on other species. His Études sur les Echinoidées, published in 1874, is of lasting value to students of the Echinodermata.

Lovén remained active at the Museum of Natural History until his retirement in 1892. He made a further permanent contribution to science in his work toward the foundation of the Kristineberg zoological station on the west coast of Sweden. With Berzelius, he began the series Summary of the Transactions of the Royal Academy of Science in 1844, In 1903 the Academy issued a memorial medal in his honor.


A bibliography of eighty-nine works is supplied by Hjalmar Théel, “Sven Ludwig Lovén,” in Kungliga Svenska vetenskapakademien lefnadsteckmng,4, no. 3 (1903), 75-82.

Karl-Georg Nyholm