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Varför var de gamla entomologerna swedenborgare?
Swedish Museum of Natural History, Department of Zoology.
2017 (Swedish)In: Entomologisk Tidskrift, ISSN 0013-886X, Vol. 138, no 2, p. 109-130Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the decades surrounding the turn of the century 1800, several of the leading entomolo- gists in Sweden were also involved in Christian sects following the doctrines of Emanuel Swedenborg. This has often been noted by historians, but only occasionally by entomolo- gists, and has never been subjected to closer study.

This paper sketches the history of Swedenborgian entomology in Sweden, from natural history students in Skara in the 1780s, over the utopian plans connected with the Swedish involvement in the colonial adventure in West Africa, to the Linnaean and Swedenborgian societies in Gotland and Stockholm, the coleopterist stronghold on the plain of Västergöt- land, and eventually to a last survivor in Fåhraeus’s old days.

The two early key figures both came from Västergötland, Adam Afzelius and Leonard Gyllenhal. In the African adventure, the naturalists inspired by Swedenborg were Afzelius and Anders Sparrman. Gotland became a stronghold where Pehr Hemming Odhner and Gustaf J Billberg tutored Olof I Fåhraeus. In the Swedenborgian circles in Stockholm, Billberg, Carl Johan Schönherr and Carl E Deléen were prominent. Then Gyllenhal and Schönherr were both in Västergötland and Fåhraeus in Göteborg. Short biographies of these persons are given and their interconnections laid out.

The Linnaean perspective on nature had one of its cornerstone in a religious sense of wonder when facing nature, which is known as physico-theology. In the generation after Linnaeus, some prominent naturalists turned away from wonder and speculation, in paral- lel with ongoing enlightenment campaigns against superstition. Especially in the tradi- tional academic natural history environments in Uppsala and Lund there was a reaction with many people turning to the new ideas of ”romantic biology” or ”Naturphilosophie” in Oken’s sense. Whereas in the non-academy-based, more bourgeois and amateur, natural history circles in Stockholm, in Västergötland and eventually in Göteborg, the maintaining of the sense of wonder in Linnaeanism seems to have fit better with the Swedenborgian movement and Swedenborg’s ideas

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 138, no 2, p. 109-130
National Category
History of Ideas Zoology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:nrm:diva-2624OAI: oai:DiVA.org:nrm-2624DiVA, id: diva2:1163859
Available from: 2017-12-08 Created: 2017-12-08 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved

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