[Per Henrik Ling and his impact on gymnastics]

Sven Med Tidskr. 2008;12(1):61-8.
[Article in Swedish]


Per Henrik Ling (1676-1839) is one of the most wellknown Swedes of all times. He studied different subjects and became a fencing-master. After studies of the antique Greece and, above all, after being informed of the German physical functional training, he created the Swedish gymnastics, in part according to antique model. In 1813 he founded the Gymnastic Central Institute in Stockholm with the obligation to educate gymnastic teachers for military and school needs. He was a versatile person, lively, sensitive, original and choleric with intense manners, excellent judgement and an extraordinary pedagogic capability. Therefore, a great deal of attention was paid to his work. However, he was also called eccentric, overstrung, touchy and stubborn. Ling had a high work capacity, but it deteriorated little by little during his last two decades. Obviously, the cause was his lingering joint pains (rheumatoid arthritis?), which impeded his physical activities, but above all his fatal lung tuberculosis. His reports on gymnastic subjects are remarcably few. Ling was also a prolific author of pure literature. He was appointed professor in 1825, fellow of the Swedish Medical Society in 1831 and member of the Swedish Academy in 1835. The gymnastics had four categories: pedagogic, military, medical and aesthetic. All movements should be performed correctly under a leader's direction. Free standing exercises in group were introduced and they were advantageous pedagogically as well as practically over the earlier predominant training. The medical gymnastics played an important, later even dominant, role in Ling's daily work but he could interest only a few physicians in his sphere. After Ling's death the medical gymnastics was exposed to a strong and entitled critique and little by little it became modernized. Also his pedagogic gymnastics was scrutinized and successively modified, and it can still be traced in some modern programs of physical training.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Famous Persons*
  • Gymnastics / history*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Teaching / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Per Henrik Ling