These words are inscribed over the entrance to the University of Pavia:
Quid hic? Intueri naturam. Quo munere? Curiosum esse.
They're translated here into Italian, which I'll translate into English as:
What do you do here? Study nature. What for? Pure curiosity.
The Latin was written by Linnaeus in the introduction to the Systema Naturæ. While struggling to read the whole introduction, I've come to wonder if the Italian translation has it wrong. At my elementary level of Latin, the question seems to turn largely on whether the vowel in hic is long or short.
Here's Linnaeus's original opening:
Homo mundi intraturus theatrum quæritur Quis fit: Unde ortus? e stemmate Creationis; Quo tendat? ad vitam beatam; Quid hic? intueri naturam; Quo munere? Curiosum esse similemque quidem reliquis animantibus (quæ vorant, ludunt, pruriunt, generant, multiplicantur, dormiunt, commoda stabula quærunt, proximis sui generis inserviunt, vitam tuentur, sentiunt, percipiunt) sed nobiliorem, utpote qui curiosius observat quæ sensibus patent, indeque sapientibus ratiocinando rite concludit, adeoque miratur pulchrum sapientis opus Artificis. O quam contemta res est Homo, nisi supra humana se erexerit! Quid enim erat cur in numero viventium se positum gauderet? an ut Cibos & Potiones percolaret? ut hoc corpus casurum periturumque farciret? quae tanta necessitas in fundum telluris intimæ hominem mersit, ut oblitus dierum, oblitus fortunæ melioris, ab hoc se averteret? puto certe multos ad sapientiam perventuros, nisi superbia magnæ fortunæ inflati, putassent se pervenisse. Sapiens utique est, qui fines respicit.
Finis Creationis Telluris est gloria DEI, ex opere Naturæ, per Hominem solum.
Here's my very uncertain translation. Unlike with the Italian, I had to go to the dictionary many times, which is a sure sign that I'm misunderstanding something important. In particular, I was stumped by the various definitions of munus.
For Man, about to enter into the theater of the world, the question arises, Who is being made: Whence did I arise? out of the crown of Creation; What should I strive for? the happy, blessed life; What's that? contemplating nature; By what duty/power? the duty/power of diligent inquiry—which is like the powers of the other living things (who eat, play, itch, reproduce, are multiplied, sleep, seek comfortable places to rest, attend to others of their kind nearby, maintain their life, feel, perceive) but nobler, since one who observes more diligently what is open to the senses, and from there proceeds by wise deduction, solemnly discovers how truly marvelous is nature—the beautiful work of the wise Maker. O what a despicable thing is Man, unless he raises himself above the human! For why should he rejoice to count himself among the living? to filter food and drink through himself? to stuff this body, soon to fall and perish? what necessity is so great as to immerse a man in the most profound depths of the Earth—to forget days, forget greater prosperity, turn himself away from it? Surely, I reckon, many about to attain wisdom, if not puffed up by the pride of great fortune, had supposed themselves to have already attained it. Undoubtedly, wise is one who considers the ends of things.
The end of the Earth's Creation is the glory of GOD, out of the work of Nature, through Man alone.
I'm uncertain of much of this translation, but hĭc vs. hīc and the appropriate sense of munus are my biggest sources of confusion. If it's actually hĭc, then the passage is not about what happens "here", but a sermon about man's place in the universe. Lacking a macron, I'm inferring the vowel quantity from the rest of the paragraph!
Of course, if you'd like to correct any of my other errors, I'd be grateful. I must be wrong about what inflati modifies: my interpretation would make it inflatos; and my reading of putassent mixes the subjunctive with the accusative-and-infinitive. I've looked into other English translations of the introduction, and they've been abbreviated and/or lacked the poetry and passion of Linnaeus's writing—or at least, from what I've been able to discern so far, it sure appears that Linnaeus intended no dry summary, but to stir the soul with the spirit of science.