The Economy of Nature in the Botany of Nehemiah Grew

May 16, 2011 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

The Economy of Nature in the Botany of Nehemiah Grew,” Archives of Natural History, 31:2 (2004), 191-207.

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Historians of natural history often point to early modern promoters of the mathematical and mechanical as a key shift in understandings of the organic world. This article visits the natural philosophy of one of the chief supporters of this view of nature, namely the first curator of plants at the Royal Society, Nehemiah Grew. This article sets his work within the material world of patronage, medical and mathematical tools, laboratory life, and finally his views on human virtues, health and the role of women. It reads Grew as a religious informed natural philosopher whose understanding of the economy of nature hails the wisdom of the Creator and the possibility of gaining spiritual and medical health from studying the language of the book of nature. The quest to understand nature’s language was about tempering the human will and arrogance so that one could appreciate the Lord’s creative power in the world. As representative of the Royal Society’s promotion of empirical and mechanical research, Grew mobilized excitement for botany with an ethos of showing nature’s economy respect.

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