The history of hospitals in Uppsala dates all the way back to the 14th century with Helgeandehuset on Fyristorg. Here, the church provided care for the sick and impoverished, with priests on staff. Over the years, this function transitioned to the crown during the Reformation and Gustav Vasa’s reign. Despite being razed in the 1702 city fire, the building was reconstructed and continued its mission. The Oxenstiernska House at Riddartorget was initially built as a residence for Bengt Gabrielsson Oxenstierna, a diplomat and chancellor during King Karl XI’s rule. It gained recognition as Uppsala’s first academic hospital when Uppsala University acquired the property in 1708.
Though the renowned Olof Rudbeck the Elder had envisioned an academic hospital in the early 1600s, it was not realized during his lifetime. Instead, it was Lars Roberg, after his appointment as a professor of anatomy and practical medicine in 1697, who succeeded in advocating for clinical teaching at the bedside.
The hospital operated on an outpatient basis and had up to eight beds. The exact number of patients served remains unclear, but it was determined that no more than two patients could occupy a single bed. Roberg faced financing challenges, despite significant contributions from the university. When his successor, Nils Rosén von Rosenstein, took over, renovations and expansions of the Oxenstiernska House were initiated.
Nils Rosén von Rosenstein, originally a theologian, retrained in medicine and made significant strides in pediatrics. He revolutionized healthcare by emphasizing hygiene, proper nutrition, hydration, and vaccination against smallpox. He also stressed the importance of maintaining comprehensive patient records.
Carl von Linné also practiced at the hospital during his tenure as a professor of practical medicine, as did Samuel Klingenstierna, who, after studies in law and mathematics, became Sweden’s first professor of physics at Uppsala University. Klingenstierna conducted electricity experiments in the academic hospital building at Riddartorget. His work with electricity machines led to Linné and Rosén conducting electrotherapy at the academic hospital. It’s even said that a woman with a broken hip was freed from pain and could discard her crutches.
Following Rosén, Israel Hwasser expanded the hospital at Riddartorget to accommodate 32 beds. Eventually, plans were made to construct a new hospital south of Uppsala Castle.
When it was inaugurated in 1867, it stood as one of Northern Europe’s most modern hospitals, with four stories and 150 patient beds.
Much has transpired since the days of the Oxenstiernska House, and the institution has evolved over the 20th century. Research and education continue to thrive at the Academic Hospital, rooted in Lars Roberg’s foundational idea of ”clinical teaching at the bedside, all for the benefit of the individual patient.” This commitment to innovation and patient care has propelled it into the ranks of the world’s top 100 most innovative hospitals.