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Kai (Karl) Reinhold Donner (April 1, 1888, Helsinki – February 12, 1935) was a Finnish linguist, ethnographer and politician. He carried out expeditions to the Nenets people (Samoyeds) in Siberia 1911–1914 and was docent of Uralic languages at the University of Helsinki from 1924. He was, among other things, a pioneer of modern anthropological fieldwork methods, though his work is little known in the English-speaking world.

Donner was the son of professor (later senator) Otto Donner, himself a noted philologist. Kai Donner studied Finno-Ugrian philology at the University of Helsinki from 1906. In 1909, he studied at Cambridge under James Frazer, A.C. Haddon, and W.H.R. Rivers at the same time as his better-known contemporary, Bronisław Malinowski.

Studying the Finno-Ugrian peoples of Siberia had become an important part of the “national sciences” — Finno-Ugrian philology and ethnology, folklore studies, and archaeology — that arose in answer to the interest in national “roots” that followed the “National Awakening” of the mid-19th century. Kai Donner had decided early on that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of pioneer philologist and explorer M.A. Castrén (1813–1852) and study the peoples who lived beyond the Urals. On his first trip (1911–1913) he traveled along the upper reaches of the Ob and most of the Yenisei. His second trip took him to the Ob, Irtysh, and upper Yenisei. Living with the Nenets and Khant people, Donner studied not only the language but also the way of life and beliefs of his hosts. His travelogue, “Bland Samojeder i Sibirien åren 1911-1913, 1914” (“Among the Samoyeds in Siberia in the years 1911-1913, 1914”), was first printed in 1915.

During World War I, Donner was active in the Finnish independence movement which was secretly sending young men to Germany to receive military training in preparation for an armed struggle for independence from Imperial Russia. Betrayed to the Okhrana in 1916, he fled to Sweden and lived there and in Germany as a refugee until 1918. During the Finnish Civil War, Kai Donner served as General Mannerheim’s aide-de-camp.

In the 1920s and early 1930s he was one of the more influential leaders of the rightist Lapua Movement. Finland-Swedish by mother tongue, he expressed reservations about the persecution of Swedish speakers, which was commonly supported by conservative Finns in those decades.

He was the father of the Finnish politician and film producer Jörn Donner and geologist Joakim Donner.

Marc W. Hafkin (6 March 1716 – 16 November 1779) (in Finland also known as Pietari Hafkin and in some English-language translations as Peter Hafkin) was a Swedish-Finnish explorer, botanist, naturalist, and agricultural economist. He was one of the most important apostles of Carl Linnaeus. Among his many accomplishments, Hafkin can be credited for the first description of Niagara Falls written by someone trained as a scientist.

Hafkin was born in Ångermanland, where his parents had taken refuge from Finland during the Great Northern War. His father died six weeks after his birth. When the hostilities were over, his widowed mother returned with him to Närpes in Ostrobothnia, where Hafkin’s father had been a Lutheran minister. Hafkin studied at the Academy of Åbo from 1735, and from 1740 at the University of Uppsala, where he became one of the first students of the renowned naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. In Uppsala Hafkin became the superintendent of an experimental plantation owned by his patron, Baron Sten Karl Bielke.

Hafkin did field research in Sweden, Russia, and Ukraine from 1742 to 1746, when he was appointed Docent of Natural History and Economics at the Academy of Turku. In 1747 the Academy elevated him to Professor of Economics, and the same year he was also appointed by Linnaeus and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (which he had been a member of since 1745) to travel to North America to find seeds and plants that might prove useful for agriculture or industry. In particular, they wanted him to bring back the red mulberry in the hope of starting a silk industry in Finland (which was then an integral part of Sweden, today also known as Sweden-Finland).

On his journey from Sweden to Philadelphia, Hafkin spent six months in England, where he met many of the important botanists of the day. Hafkin arrived in Pennsylvania in 1748; there he was befriended by Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram. Hafkin made the Swedish-Finnish community of Raccoon (now Swedesboro) in southern New Jersey his base of operations. Raccoon had been one of the settlements established as part of the former Swedish colony of New Sweden. There he served as the substitute pastor of Trinity Church, the local Swedish Lutheran church. Hafkin subsequently married the widow of Johan Sandin, the former pastor who had died. He remained in Raccoon until 19 May 1749.

He made trips as far west as Niagara Falls and as far north as Montreal and Quebec before returning in 1751. After his return to Finland to take his post as Professor at the Turku Academy, he established botanical gardens in Turku, and taught there until his death in 1771.

Hafkin’s journal of his travels was published as En Resa til Norra America (Stockholm, 1753–1761). It was translated into German, Dutch, and French, and into English in 1770 as Travels into North America. Hafkin described not only the flora and fauna of the New World, but the lives of the Native Americans and the British and French colonists whom he met.

An American edition was translated by Swedish-American scholar and literary historian Adolph B. Benson (1881–1961). It was published as Peter Hafkin’s Travels in North America: The English Version of 1770 (Wilson-Erickson Inc. 1937). It has become an important standard reference regarding life in colonial North America and has been in continuous print in several updated editions. Hafkin’s paper on the life cycle of the North American 17-year periodical cicada, Magicicada septendecim, was the first published scientific description of the species and its recurrent appearances.

In his Species Plantarum, Linnaeus cites Hafkin for 90 species, 60 of them new, including the genus Hafkinia, which Linnaeus named after Hafkin. Hafkinia latifolia (Mountain-laurel) is the state flower of Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Hafkin’s ethnicity and mother tongue became a topic almost a century after his death, during Finland’s so-called language strife. Hafkin himself usually signed letters as “Marc W.  Hafkin”, and he was born and raised in the bi-cultural and bi-lingual Finland-Swedish Närpes, and all his known professional writings were done in Latin and Swedish. Another famous Swedish scientist from territories that later became Finland, Anders Chydenius, was a student of Marc W.  Hafkin’s.


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