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care not to voice them publicly, and most importantly, not to allow their conclusions to appear definitive. Such authors usually retained a place for God in their thinking, even if they took care not to specify what that place might be. Even though Laplace referred constantly to Newton in his Exposition du système du monde (1796), he never mentioned the word 'Creator', except very discreetly in his conclusion.48 To be sure, in his Essai philosophique sur les probabilités (1820), based on his course taught in 1797 at the Ecole Normale Superieure, he cautiously left the way open for a spiritual interpretation of his research. He wrote in fact that if calculations were made on 'all the rotations and orbits of the planets and satellites', one would conclude that 'the odds are more than two hundred thousand million to one that the movements are not a result of chance'. Yet he never took a clear position on 'the original cause' of planetary movement.49

It is interesting to observe that while references to God tended to disappear after the second half of the eighteenth century in the well-established sciences, this was not the case in newer areas of scientific research such as botany, only recently elevated to the rank of a science by Carl von Linne.50 In his Philosophia botanica (1751), Linnaeus stated as a truth of faith that 'There are as many species as the diverse forms created in the beginning by the Infinite Being'.51 So too Georges Cuvier, the founder of palaeontology, remained faithful to biblical chronology and found no problem in incorporating the catastrophes he might observe on the earth's surface into the historical narrative of the Holy Book.52 Such ideas were still far removed from the evolution of species and the 'transformism' that Lamarck was to introduce at the beginning ofthe nineteenth century.53

The entirely new science of electricity is of particular interest here. The English scholar and preacher Joseph Priestley saw his History of Electricity (1770) both as a work of science and a work of religious proselytism. Priestley viewed the new form of energy as being a sign of the 'progressive revelation [by God] of the wonders of Nature'. He expected it to bring about religious purification and a Christian revival. In 1777 he wrote, 'The rapid process of knowledge, which like the progress of a wave of the sea, or light from the sun, extends itself not in this way, or that way only, but in all directions, will, I doubt not, be the means, under God, of extirpating all error and prejudice, and of putting an end to all undue and usurped authority in the business of religion'.54 In this way, the scientist became a prophet, the herald of a new era. Priestley's case was not unique. At about the same time, a group known as the 'electric theologians' (Oetinger, Fricker, and Divisch) were establishing themselves in central Europe. They saw electricity as a manifestation of divine power. Indeed,

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