Rewriting the System of Nature. Linnaeus's Use of Writing Technologies

STS Seminar Series 2010-11

Monday 17 January

5pm in room G.03, Department of Science and Technology Studies, 22 Gordon Square (main UCL Campus)

Staffan Mueller-Wille and Isabelle Charmantier (University of Exeter)

In this seminar we want to present results from a Wellcome Trust funded research project studying the ways in which Carl Linnaeus assembled, filed, and cross-referenced information about plants and their medicinal virtues. It is a well-known fact that Linnaeus was one of the first to write about a "natural system" of plants and to suggest that plants of the same "natural order" share similar pharmaceutical properties.

His manuscripts, held at the Linnean Society (London) and various institutions in Sweden, provide an excellent opportunity to understand how information processing practices determine such ideas. They document how Linnaeus experimented with a variety of paper-based information technologies throughout his career -- including commonplace- and notebooks, maps, schematic diagrams and drawings, collections of loose paper sheets, sometimes folded up to form slim files, annotations in interleafed copies of Linnaeus’s own publications, and paper-slips resembling index cards. His "natural system" emerged not out of direct observation of nature, but out of Linnaeus’s day-to-day work of revising and rearranging what he and others had written earlier.

Part of the Science and Technology Seminar series at UCL. For more iunformation contact the organizer Chiara Ambrosio: ucrhcam@UCL.AC.UK