Dear Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld,
Greetings from your native country where snowless and slush covered early winter sceneries are becoming increasingly typical. Please allow me to call you by your first name despite your noble lineage.
Dear Alexander von Humboldt,
If you were still with us, I would wish you happiness on this quarter-millennial anniversary of your birth. Could you have guessed that your memory would live on for centuries? Or perhaps you were hoping for this honour which, admittedly, no researcher could refuse.
Dear Carl von Linné, A little over 280 years ago, you had an idea. Although I’m sure you understood the grandness and significance of your idea, I doubt that you yourself would have believed that the system you created for classifying organisms would still be in use all around the world in the 21st century. And if you had known the kinds of huge transformations that biology would undergo over the following two centuries (sorry for my strange use of words – by biology I mean the study of organic nature), the durability of your taxonomy would probably have seemed even more improbable.
Dear Marie Curie, you had an incredible and incredibly difficult life. It is great that you went down in the history of science. After and during all kinds of challenges, you still managed to conduct research. Nobody needs to take such a hard path any more. Your story should inspire us, today’s researchers. And I believe it does.
Dear Charles Darwin,
Our modern world, with its computers and the Internet, is like living in an artificial heaven the likes of which could not even be imagined in your time. Computers and the programmes they run are copying the world into digital and virtual form at an increasing pace. It is thanks to this, in part, that you can now return from beyond the grave as my virtual interlocutor.
Dear Dr Franklin,
I am writing to you from Oulu, a town in Northern Finland. The University of Oulu, where I work, was founded in 1959, a year after your death. I am not a scientist myself, but a historian of science specializing in the history of 20th-century biomedicine. Everyone in our research field would know your name today – in fact, most schoolchildren would, at least in the Anglophone countries. In many respects, you are still with us.