This article presents evidence that an anonymous publication of 1573, a Letter sent by a gentleman of England [concerning …] the myraculous starre nowe shyning, was written by Thomas Digges, England's first Copernican. It tells the story of how it arose out of research commissioned by Elizabeth I's privy counsellors in response to the conventional argument of Jean Gosselin, librarian to Henri III of France, that the star was a comet which presaged wars. The text is significant because it seems (...) to contain the observations and opinions that Digges held before he completed his other astronomical treatise, the groundbreaking Alae seu scalae mathematicae. It also casts some light on the development of Digges's radical and puritan views about the star, Copernican astronomy, the infinity of the universe and a belief that the ‘latter days’ of the world had arrived. (shrink)
The magnet served three interests of Restoration mechanical philosophers: it provided a model of cosmic forces, it suggested a solution to the problem of longitude determination, and evidence of its corpuscular mechanism would silence critics. An implicit condition of William Gilbert's ‘magnetic philosophy’ was the existence of a unique, immaterial magnetic virtue. Restoration mechanical philosophers, while claiming descent from their compatriot, worked successfully to disprove this, following an experimental regime of Henry Power. Magnetic philosophy lost its coherence and became subsumed (...) in the study of effluvia. This contradiction of a distinct, yet mechanical magnetic philosophy came to a head in 1684 in an argument between Robert Hooke and Martin Lister. An effluvial explanation of magnetism introduced great complexity to the North-seeking behaviour of compass needles, and undermined the already troubled longitude programme. Thus magnetic philosophy no longer furthered the interests which had maintained it, and it was abandoned. (shrink)
The idea of an inevitable conflict between science and religion was decisively challenged by John Hedley Brooke in his classic Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives. Almost two decades on, Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives revisits this argument and asks how historians can now impose order on the complex and contingent histories of religious engagements with science. Bringing together leading scholars, this volume explores the history and changing meanings of the categories 'science' and 'religion'; the role of publishing and (...) education in forging and spreading ideas; the connection between knowledge, power and intellectual imperialism; and the reasons for the confrontation between evolution and creationism among American Christians and in the Islamic world. A major contribution to the historiography of science and religion, this book makes the most recent scholarship on this much misunderstood debate widely accessible. (shrink)
The growth of modern science has been accompanied by the growth of professionalization. We can unquestionably speak of professional science since the nineteenth century, although historians dispute about where, when and how much. It is much more problematic and anachronistic to do so of the late seventeenth century, despite the familiar view that the period saw the origin of modern experimental science. This paper explores the broad implications of that problem.
As sociologists learn more about how scientific knowledge is created, they give historians the opportunity to rework their accounts from a more contextual perspective. It is relatively easy to do so in areas with large theoretical, cosmological or overtly ideological components. It is more difficult, but equally necessary, to open up very empirical accomplishments, and recent sociological analysis of the process of science gives us some interesting insights. This paper employs some of these on the apparently unpromising subject of the (...) ‘discovery of secular magnetic variation’ in 1634 by the Gresham professor Henry Gellibrand. (shrink)
For all of his failures to secure patronage, John Dee was successful compared with his contemporaries. We know more about his patronage relations than those of any other natural philosopher in Tudor England. Only by comparing him with other English client practitioners can we understand how unusual and even productive were Dee’s relations with his patrons. This article makes those comparisons and offers an overview of Dee’s patronage, but in the main it explores three of the unusual aspects.The first is (...) Dee’s good relationship with female patrons and patronage brokers, notably Queen Elizabeth. The second is the kind of office that Dee sought. His greatest efforts were aimed at securing the headship of a collegiate institution such as Eton College or the Hospital of St Cross. Not only did they fit his aspiration to set up a research institute, but all were offices in the Queen’s direct gift, and so played to Dee’s strengths. Nevertheless, Dee was frustrated at nearly every turn. It is suggested that a major cause was the young Dee’s links with both Sir John Cheke’s network of Protestant humanists, who became Marian exiles, and with ‘Louvainist’ Catholic exiles opposed to Edward VI and Elizabeth. We see how Dee was consistently passed over in favour of other members of these circles. Notwithstanding this, it is concluded that Dee was relatively successful, given the English court’s refusal to patronise speculative natural philosophy, even that offered by Thomas Digges, William Gilbert or Francis Bacon. Finally, some of Dee’s supposed failings as a client, such as the sparseness of printed works, are shown to have been systemic. (shrink)