Thursday, August 20, 2009

From the cultures of curiosity

TLS August 14 2009

from Jim Endersby's review of The Scientific Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks, 1765-1820, edited by Neil Chambers:

Sweden's commercial interests had pesuaded Linnaeus that new, simpler and more accurate names were needed in order to ensure that botanists' time and money were well spent. [Joseph] Banks shared these concerns, and the adoption of the new names marked an important shift away from the cultures of curiosity, within which gentlemen like Banks had traditionally operated. Until the mid-eighteenth century, educated virtuosi such as Banks had collected anything and everything that was rare and curious; the practical uses of such collections were beneath a gentleman's notice. However, Linnaeus's standardized names were intended to put the plant world to work, to transform rare flowers into commodities that could be bought and sold, traded and transplanted. Linnaeus's names allowed accurate communication between naturalists around the world. By adopting them, Banks aligned himself with Britain's mercantile concerns and devoted himself to the use of science in the cultivation of empire.

No comments: