doctrine known as
physico-theology which had emerged in the late 17th century in England and soon spread to
Sweden. The basic theme of this doctrine was that science and Christianity are closely
connected: to study nature was a way to honor God by exposing the glory of his creation.
Or in Jan Swammerdam’s famous formulation: “I bring you the proof of God’s providence
in the anatomy of a louse” (Weber 2004:16).
Physico-theology has its name from the title of a book by William Derham that
appeared in 1713 and became immensely popular. Physico-Theology was translated into
Swedish in 1736, and one of its readers was Linné who eventually also became the
foremost representative for this type of ideas in Sweden. According to Derham, God had
created the world according to a master plan and everything in it – every plant, every bird,
every human being and so on – had its predetermined place. The exact place that something
occupied in this divine and static order was not immediately clear to humans, but if they
worked diligently they might find it. In this way, they would also get to know the purpose
of everything since nothing existed without a purpose. The air, for example, was necessary
for respiration, Derham explained, just as the wind was necessary for navigation. Without
soil, plants could not grow, and without trees, people could not make tools or buildings.
The earth, in brief, was a magnificent mirror of the glory of God; and it was man’s task to
explore the earth and use it for the purposes that God had invested it with.
Linné, who had originally intended to be a clergyman like his father, was a deeply
religious man (e.g. Malmeström 1926, 1942).7 He saw his own work in natural history,
including botany, as a response to a task created by God. It was his true vocation to explore
nature, and in this way make it possible for other Swedes to make use of its many fruits.
As a scientist, Linné is best known for having introduced a new system of...