Elias Magnus Fries

Elias Magnus Fries FRS FRSE FLS (15 August 1794 – 8 February 1878) was a Swedish mycologist and botanist. He is sometimes called the "Linnaeus of Mycology".[1]

Elias Magnus Fries
Born(1794-08-15)15 August 1794
Femsjö, Hylte Municipality, Småland, Sweden
Died8 February 1878(1878-02-08) (aged 83)
Alma materLund University
Known forFounder of modern fungal taxonomy
AwardsForeign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Scientific career
FieldsMycology, Botany
InstitutionsLund University
Uppsala University
Author abbrev. (botany)Fr.
Elias Fries in old age
Building containing historical information on Elias Fries located in Femsjö.


Fries was born at Femsjö (Hylte Municipality), Småland, the son of the pastor there.[2] He attended school in Växjö.

He acquired an extensive knowledge of flowering plants from his father.[3] In 1811 Fries entered Lund University[3] where he obtained a doctorate in 1814. In the same year he was appointed an associate professorship in botany. He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and in 1824, became a full professor. In 1834 he became Borgström professor[3] (Swed. Borgströmianska professuren, a chair endowed by Erik Eriksson Borgström, 1708–1770) in applied economics at Uppsala University. The position was changed to "professor of botany and applied economics" in 1851. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1849.[4] That year he was also appointed director of the Uppsala University Botanical Garden. In 1853, he became rector of the University.[5]

Fries most important works were the three-volume Systema mycologicum (1821–1832), Elenchus fungorum (1828), the two-volume Monographia hymenomycetum Sueciae (1857 and 1863) and Hymenomycetes Europaei (1874).[6]

Fries is considered to be, after Christian Hendrik Persoon, a founding father of the modern taxonomy of mushrooms. His taxonomy of mushrooms was influenced by Goethe and the German romantics. He utilized spore color and arrangement of the hymenophore (pores, gills, teeth etc.) as major taxonomic characteristics.[7][8]

He died in Uppsala on 8 February 1878.[9]

When he died, The Times commented: "His very numerous works, especially on fungi and lichens, give him a position as regards those groups of plants only comparable to that of Linnaeus".[10] Fries was succeeded in the Borgström professorship (from 1859 to 1876) by Johan Erhard Areschoug,[11] after whom Theodor Magnus Fries, the son of Elias, held the chair (from 1877 to 1899).[12]


  • Monographia Pyrenomycetum Sueciae (1816)
  • Systema Mycologicum (1821)
  • Systema Orbis Vegetabilis (1825)
  • Elenchus Fungorem (1828)
  • Lichenographia Europaea Reformata (1831)
  • Epicrisis Systematis Mycologici: seu synopsis hymenomycetum (1838)


His son was Theodor Magnus Fries. His grandsons Thore Christian Elias Fries and Robert Elias Fries also became botanists.


  1. Bevan, R.J. (1981). "Aspects of mycological history". Bulletin of the British Mycological Society. 15: 20–25. doi:10.1016/S0007-1528(81)80003-X.
  2. "Fries, Elias Magnus". Nordisk Familjebok (in Swedish). Vol. 8 (2 ed.). 1908. pp. 1393–1397. Retrieved 3 September 2010.
  3. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fries, Elias Magnus" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 11 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 229.
  4. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter F" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  5. Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Fries, Elias Magnus" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  6. Gulden, Gro; Eckblad, Finn-Egil (2007). "Elias Magnus Fries". In Henriksen, Petter (ed.). Store norske leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  7. "Elias Magnus Fries (1794 - 1878) - a brief biography". First Nature. Archived from the original on 16 June 2015.
  8. "Elias Magnus Fries". Encyclopedia.com. 18 May 2018.
  9. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0-902-198-84-X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  10. The Times, Thursday, 21 February 1878; pg. 6; Issue 29184; col C
  11. Areschoug, John Erhard in Herman Hofberg, Frithiof Heurlin, Viktor Millqvist, Olof Rubenson, 1906, Svenskt biografiskt handlexikon, Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, pp 42-43. (In Swedish)
  12. Fries, Teodor (Thore) Magnus in Herman Hofberg, Frithiof Heurlin, Viktor Millqvist, Olof Rubenson, 1906, Svenskt biografiskt handlexikon, Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, pp 361-362. (In Swedish)
  13. International Plant Names Index.  Fr.
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