The Position of Science
Utility, or usefulness, was a key concern in Linnaeus’ day. He was commissioned by the Estates of the Realm to take inventory of Sweden’s natural resources and how they could be used in new medications, for example. Science was poorly regarded. Theologians were better paid and had higher social status. The resources for medical science at the universities were inadequate. But change was in the air. Linnaeus and a circle surrounding him established the Academy of Sciences in support of scientific research. The political system was also inclined to promote science. Sweden was in economic crisis following Karl XII’s warfare and needed to take stock of the country’s resources and to establish international collaboration and exchange of knowledge in the study of nature. The ability to pursue research at that time, as in ours, was tied to sponsors. A true enthusiast was needed to muster the energy, ambition, and ability to interpret and order knowledge to make it accessible, and not least to present findings in a way that political leaders understood and were willing to be convinced by. Linnaeus was that enthusiast.