An Oslo park bench bearing the name of Carl von Linne, an 18th century Swedish scientist known as “the prince of botanists” and the founder of modern taxonomy, could be removed after local politicians have deemed him to be racist.
The Old Oslo borough council is calling for the removal of the bench, which is located in the district’s Botanical Garden and has von Linne’s name inscribed on its back. The request – the latest in a wave of leftist attacks on historical figures – is expected to be sent to the University of Oslo’s Natural History Museum this week after being approved in a vote by the council last Thursday.
The local socialist and communist parties called for the proposal, saying that having a bench dedicated to von Linne creates an “unsafe” atmosphere in the Botanical Garden, according to Norwegian news outlet Khrono. The Socialist Party called the bench “very problematic.”
“There are people living in the vicinity of the Botanical Garden who find it hard that Linne is being celebrated in our part of the city,” the proposal said.
Von Linne, who died in 1778, is credited with creating the modern, two-tiered naming system for organisms and introducing Latin names for species – for instance, Felis catus for a domestic cat. Incidentally, he was the man who named the humans Homo sapiens. The Linnea flower was named after the scientist, and he was praised by such contemporaries as French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said he knew “no greater man on earth.”
However, von Linne also divided people into four color categories – black, red, white and yellow – and noted essential features in a hierarchy in which whites were at the top and blacks were at the bottom. In the view of Old Oslo council member Hasti Hamidi, a socialist, that made von Linne “the father of modern racism.”
Hamidi said “one can argue” that von Linne was an important botanist, but that contribution was no more important than his racism and its impact. “It is important that we take seriously the signals and the messages we have received from residents in the district that it is really uncomfortable to walk in that park and be in that park when that bench is there and that person has received that tribute,” she said.
Hamidi added that it’s important for students to learn the other sides of von Linne, but she didn’t clarify how removing the bench would tell any side of the man’s scientific and societal contributions. Nor did she address how to deal with any discomfort that young scientists may feel in using the systematics created by von Linne.
The campaign against von Linne’s bench comes amid a surge in left-wing efforts to cancel historical figures who don’t measure up to modern standards of wokeness. The trend started with toppling of statues in the US during the Black Lives Matter protests this summer and spread to Canada and Europe.
Just last week, Edinburgh University stripped the name of another 18th century genius – enlightenment philosopher David Hume – from one of its buildings. The UK’s Natural History Museum is currently reviewing the possible removal of Charles Darwin exhibits and other collections that might be considered “problematic” in the age of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protests.
Stefan Heggelund, a conservative member of Norway’s parliament, told news outlet Nettavisen that Oslo is importing a “very unsuccessful form of debate” from the US that doesn’t contribute anything good. “I don’t know if I should laugh or cry,” he said. “No one from history will be clean and upright enough if this continues. In the end, we have wiped them all out.”
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