Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-78dcdb465f-fqvcn Total loading time: 0.271 Render date: 2021-04-16T03:01:43.532Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Science on the Move: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Pamela H. Smith
Columbia University


Image of the first page of this article. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.
Research Article
Copyright © 2009 Renaissance Society of America

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.



I am grateful to Marty Elsky and Sheila Rabin for inviting me to write this article, and for their patience in receiving it. In writing this essay, I had before me the previous two Recent Trends essays in Renaissance Quarterly: Susan Karant-Nunn's admirable “Changing One's Mind: Transformations in Reformation History from a Germanist's Perspective,” Renaissance Quarterly 58, no. 4 (2005): 1101–27; and Larry Silver's extremely informative “Arts and Minds: Scholarship on Early Modern Art History (Northern Europe),” Renaissance Quarterly 59, no. 2 (2006): 351–73.


1 The term science is anachronistic for the early modern period. This is a great problem for historians of early modern science. Scientia from antiquity to the eighteenth century often connoted knowledge of causes, and usually meant knowledge that was known for certain and organized propositionally. I use science, natural knowledge, and the new philosophy somewhat interchangeably and imprecisely in this essay. It is a mark of the challenging dynamism of the field of history of early modern science that we are at something of a loss as to what to call the object of our study. The new philosophy and “active science” (Francis Bacon's phrase from The Great Instauration, 1620), as well as the new experimental philosophy, are all terms that were used from ca. 1600–1750 to refer to the innovations in methods of philosophizing that contemporaries perceived going on around them. However, for historians of science the role and definition of modern science is one dimension of our object of study, so it seems artificial not to use the term science at times in a self-consciously imprecise and catchall manner.

2 Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago, 1962); Rachel Carson, Silent Spring (New York, 1962). The history of science had already begun to change in the late 1950s, particularly with the work of Lynn Thorndike, Paolo Rossi, Robert K. Merton, and Edgar Zilsel. Until recently, Merton and Zilsel were largely ignored or read selectively, at least in the Anglophone history of science.

3 Historians of science do not generally cover all aspects of human attitudes to, and interaction with, nature, but two stimulating attempts can be found in the essays contained in Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal, The Moral Authority of Nature (Chicago, 2004); and Lorraine Daston and Michael Stolleis, eds., Natural Law and Laws of Nature in Early Modern Europe: Jurisprudence, Theology, Moral and Natural Philosophy (Aldershot, 2008).

4 Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, mission statement from website,, accessed 25 July 2008.

5 Lorraine Daston, “The Nature of Nature in Early Modern Europe,” Configurations 6 (1998): 149–72.

6 Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, eds., The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3, Early Modern Science (Cambridge, 2006).

7 For the individual trying to understand new trends in the history of early modern and modern science, another useful source are the recent Focus sections of the journal of the History of Science Society, Isis.

8 The literature that has appeared in the last twenty or so years on these societies is immense, and has accompanied the publication of the correspondence and proceedings of these societies. To take the Royal Society as an example, A. R. Hall and Marie Boas Hall published in thirteen volumes the correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, Secretary to the Royal Society: The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, ed. A. Rupert Hall and M. Boas Hall (Madison, 1965–86). Then foundational work on the Royal Society and some of its most prominent members was carried out by Michael Hunter. A selection of his many books gives a sense of the trajectory of this work: The Royal Society and Its Fellows, 1660–1700: The Morphology of an Early Scientific Institution (Bucks, 1982); Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society (Suffolk, 1989); Michael Hunter, Antonio Clericuzio, and Lawrence M. Principe, eds., The Correspondence of Robert Boyle, 1636–1691, 6 vols. (London, 2001); and Michael Hunter, with contributions by Edward B. Davis, Harriet Knight, Charles Littleton, and Lawrence M. Principe, The Boyle Papers: Understanding the Manuscripts of Robert Boyle (Aldershot, 2007). Publication of a similar sort has been done for the Paris Académie Royale des Sciences, for example, first in Roger Hahn, The Anatomy of a Scientific Institution: The Paris Academy of Sciences, 1666–1800 (Berkeley, 1971); and most recently, in Robert Halleux, Les publications de l'Académie royale des sciences de Paris (1666–1793) (Turnhout, 2001).

9 On the Jesuits, see Steven J. Harris, “Confession-Building, Long-Distance Networks, and the Organization of Jesuit Science,” Early Science and Medicine 1 (1996): 287–318. More generally, see David S. Lux and Harold J. Cook, “Closed Circles or Open Networks? Communicating at a Distance during the Scientific Revolution,” History of Science 43 (1998): 180–211.

10 Peter Miller, Peiresc's Europe: Learning and Virtue in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven, 2000).

11 Adam Mosley, Bearing the Heavens: Tycho Brahe and the Astronomical Community of the Late Sixteenth Century (Cambridge, 2007).

12 Simon Schaffer and Steven Shapin, Leviathan and the Airpump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life (Princeton, 1985).

13 See, for example, Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge, MA, 1987); and Harry M. Collins, Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice (London, 1985). See also Jan Golinski's excellent account of recent historiography, Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science (Chicago, 2005).

14 One early survey of court patronage of science was Bruce T. Moran, ed., Patronage and Institutions: Science, Technology, and Medicine at the European Court, 1500–1750 (Woodbridge, 1991). One of the best-known examples is Mario Biagioli's Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism (Chicago, 1993).

15 On this subject, see, in particular, Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (Chicago, 1994).

16 See most recently Mario Biagioli, Galileo's Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy (Chicago, 2006).

17 Larry Stewart, The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric, Technology, and Natural Philosophy in Newtonian Britain, 1660–1750 (Cambridge, 1992).

18 Gary Hatfield, Descartes and the Meditations (London, 2003); Dennis Des Chene, Spirits and Clocks: Organism and Machine in Descartes (Ithaca, 2001); Stephen Gaukroger, Descartes, An Intellectual Biography (Oxford, 1995); Gaukroger, Francis Bacon and the Transformation of Early-Modern Philosophy (Cambridge, 2001); Susan James, Passion and Action: The Emotions in Early Modern Philosophy (Oxford, 1997); and Daniel Garber, Descartes Embodied: Reading Cartesian Philosophy through Cartesian Science (Cambridge, 2001). See also Klaas van Berkel, Isaac Beeckman (1588–1637) en de mechanisering van het wereldbeeld (Amsterdam, 1983).

19 Matthew Jones, The Good Life in the Scientific Revolution: Descartes, Pascal, and Leibniz (Chicago, 2006).

20 Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, mission statement from website,, accessed 2008.

21 Jürgen Renn, ed., Galileo in Context (Cambridge, 2001); Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (Cambridge, MA, 2007); M. Norton Wise, ed., The Values of Precision (Princeton, 1997). See, for example, Peter Dear, Discipline and Experience: The Mathematical Way in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 1995); and Domenico Bertoloni Meli, Thinking with Objects: The Transformation of Mechanics in the Seventeenth Century (Baltimore, 2006).

22 Lynn Thorndike's A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols. (New York, 1923–58) is a very early example. Recent survey volumes are William R. Newman and Anthony Grafton, eds., Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2001), and Lawrence M. Principe, ed., Chymists and Chymistry: Studies in the History of Alchemy and Early Modern Chemistry (Sagamore Beach, 2007).

23 Frances Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London, 1972).

24 Rossi's Francis Bacon: From Magic to Science, trans. Sacha Rabinovich (London, 1958) first appeared as Francesco Bacone, dalla magia alla scienza (Bari, 1957). See also D.舁P. Walker, Spiritual and Demonic Magic from Ficino to Campanella (London, 1958).

25 Charles Webster, The Great Instauration: Science, Medicine, and Reform 1626–1660 (London, 1975); Webster, From Paracelsus to Newton: Magic and the Making of Modern Science (Cambridge, 1982).

26 Allen Debus, The Chemical Philosophy: Paracelsian Science and Medicine in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (New York, 1977); see also Debus's still-useful textbook, Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge, 1978).

27 Walter Pagel, Das medizinische Weltbild des Paracelsus. Seine Zusammenhänge mit Neuplatonismus und Gnosis (Wiesbaden, 1962); and Pagel, Joan Baptista van Helmont, Reformer of Science and Medicine (Cambridge, 1982). Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs, The Foundations of Newton's Alchemy: Or, “The Hunting of the Greene Lyon” (Cambridge, 1975); Dobbs, The Janus Faces of Genius: The Role of Alchemy in Newton's Thought (Cambridge, 1991).

28 William Newman has been especially prolific in showing the foundational nature of alchemy for the new philosophy, and especially for Isaac Newton, in his numerous studies, from his dissertation on the alchemy of the thirteenth-century pseudo-Geber to his most recent book, Atoms and Alchemy: Chymistry and the Experimental Origins of the Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 2006).

29 The work of Carlos Gilly and Didier Kahn, as well as the output of the Center for History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents (Geschiedenis van de Hermetische Filosofie en verwante stromingen) in Amsterdam has expanded our knowledge of alchemical texts and authors immensely. The work of Ursula Klein on apothecaries and technoscience and of Bruce Moran has opened up the world of alchemical practitioners. Pamela H. Smith, The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire (Princeton, 1994) considers how alchemy epitomized productive knowledge. Books such as Jost Weyer's Graf Wolfgang II von Hohenlohe und die Alchemie: Alchemistische Studien in Schloss Weikersheim, 1587–1610 (Sigmaringen, 1992) have made clear the noble patronage of alchemy and a host of studies have followed since then. John T. Young's Faith, Medical Alchemy, and Natural Philosophy: Johann Moriaen, Reformed Intelligencer, and the Hartlib Circle (Aldershot, 1999) examines the place of alchemy in schemes of religious and material reform.

30 Bruce T. Moran, Distilling Knowledge: Alchemy, Chemistry, and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge, MA, 2005); Ursula Klein and Wolfgang Lefevre, Materials in Eighteenth-Century Science: A Historical Ontology (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

31 Tara Nummedal, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire (Chicago, 2007).

32 Lissa Roberts, “The Death of the Sensuous Chemist,” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 26 (1995): 503–29, recounts the rise of the precision balance as a way to replace the bodily techniques and direct sensory engagement with matter used by earlier French chemists. On the body in natural philosophy more generally, see Werner Kutschmann, Der Naturwissenschaftler und sein Körper: Die Rolle der ‘inneren Natur’ in der experimentellen Naturwissenschaft der frühen Neuzeit (Frankfurt am Main, 1986); Simon Schaffer, “Self Evidence,” Critical Inquiry 18 (1992): 327–62; and Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin, eds., Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (Chicago, 1998).

33 William R. Newman and Lawrence Principe, Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry (Chicago, 2002); and George Starkey, Alchemical Laboratory Notebooks and Correspondence, ed. William R. Newman and Lawrence Principe (Chicago, 2004). See H. Otto Sibum, “Experimental History of Science,” in Museums of Modern Science, ed. Svante Lindqvist, Marika Hedin, and Ulf Larsson (Canton, 2000), who has also replicated experiments from a later period. Recently, see Peter Heering, “The Enlightened Microscope: Reenactment and Analysis of Projections with Eighteenth-Century Solar Microscopes,” British Journal for the History of Science, 41 (2008): 345–67.

34 See Robert Westman, “The Astronomer's Role in the 16th Century: A Preliminary Study,” History of Science 18 (1980): 105–47.

35 Anthony Grafton, Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer (Cambridge, MA, 1999). See also Laura Ackerman Smoller, History, Prophecy and the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre D'Ailly, 1350–1420 (Princeton, 1994); Sara Schechner Genuth, Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology (Princeton, 1997); Steven vanden Broecke, The Limits of Influence: Pico, Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology (Leiden, 2003); and Günther Oestmann, H. Darrel Rutkin, and Kocku von Stuckrad, eds., Horoscopes and Public Spheres: Essays on the History of Astrology (Berlin, 2005).

36 Lauren Kassell, Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London (Oxford, 2005).

37 Helen Watson-Verran and David Turnbull, “Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems,” in Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, ed. Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E. Marble, James C. Peterson, and Trevor Pinch (London, 1995), 117. The theme of technoscience has been developed in two special issues of Perspectives on Science 13, nos. 1–2 (2005).

38 The classic study of distributed cognition is Edwin Hutchins, Cognition in the Wild (Cambridge, 1995); collaborative knowledge making is emphasized in Lissa L. Roberts, Simon Schaffer, and Peter Dear, eds., The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention from the Late Renaissance to Early Industrialisation (Amsterdam, 2007), as well as in the forthcoming book by Chandra Mukerji, Impossible Engineering: Technology and Territoriality on the Canal du Midi (Princeton, 2009). See also Pamela H. Smith and Benjamin Schmidt, eds., Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe: Practices, Objects, and Texts, 1400–1800 (Chicago, 2008), especially Chandra Mukerji's “Women Engineers and the Culture of the Pyrenees: Indigenous Knowledge and Engineering in Seventeenth-Century France,” 19–44.

39 See Londa Schiebinger, The Mind Has No Sex? Women in the Origins of Modern Science (Cambridge, MA, 1989).

40 Paula Findlen, “Science as a Career in Enlightenment Italy: The Strategies of Laura Bassi,” Isis 84, no. 3 (1993): 440–69; Findlen, “Masculine Prerogatives: Gender, Space, and Knowledge in the Early Modern Museum,” in The Architecture of Science, ed. Peter Galison and Emily Thompson, 29–57 (Cambridge, 1999); Maria Gaetana Agnesi, The Contest for Knowledge: Debates over Women's Learning in Eighteenth-Century Italy, trans. Rebecca Messbarger and Paula Findlen (Chicago, 2005); and Massimo Mazzotti, Maria Gaetana Agnesi, Mathematician of God (Baltimore, 2007). See also Deborah Harkness, “Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy,” Isis 88, no. 2 (1997): 247–62; and Alisha Rankin, “Becoming an Expert Practitioner: Court Experimentalism and the Medical Skills of Anna of Saxony (1532–1585),” Isis 98, no. 1 (2007): 23–53.

41 Francesca Bray, Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (Berkeley, 1997).

42 Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution (San Francisco, 1980); and Merchant, Ecological Revolutions: Nature, Gender, and Science in New England (Chapel Hill, 1989). More recently, see Londa Schiebinger, Nature's Body: Gender in the Making of Modern Science (Boston, 1993); and Katharine Park, “Nature in Person: Medieval and Renaissance Allegories and Emblems,” in The Moral Authority of Nature, ed. Lorraine Daston and Fernando Vidal, 50–73 (Chicago, 2004).

43 Katharine Park, Secrets of Women: Gender, Generation, and the Origins of Human Dissection (Cambridge, MA, 2006).

44 See, for example, Brian Copenhaver, “Did Science Have a Renaissance?” Isis 83, no. 3 (1993): 387–407.

45 Among Grafton's works most relevant to the history of science are Defenders of the Text: The Traditions of Scholarship in the Age of Science, 1450–1800 (Cambridge, MA, 1991); Grafton with April Shelford and Nancy Siraisi, New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (Cambridge, MA, 1992); Cardano's Cosmos: The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astrologer (Cambridge, MA, 1999); Leon Battista Alberti: Master Builder of the Italian Renaissance (Cambridge, MA, 2000); and Grafton with Nancy Siraisi, eds., Natural Particulars: Nature and the Disciplines in Renaissance Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2000).

46 Horst Bredekamp, The Lure of Antiquity and the Cult of the Machine, trans. Allison Brown (Princeton, 1995); Gianna Pomata and Nancy Siraisi, eds., Historia: Empiricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, MA, 2005); and Nancy Siraisi, History, Medicine, and the Traditions of Renaissance Learning (Ann Arbor, 2007).

47 See Lisa Jardine and Anthony Grafton, “‘Studied for Action’: How Gabriel Harvey Read His Livy,” Past and Present 129 (1990): 30–78; Ann Blair, The Theater of Nature: Jean Bodin and Renaissance Science (Princeton, 1997); Blair, “Annotating and Indexing Natural Philosophy,” in Books and the Sciences in History, eds. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine, 69–89 (Cambridge, 2000); and Blair, “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload, ca. 1550–1700,” Journal of the History of Ideas 64 (2003): 11–28; as well as Adrian Johns, “The Physiology of Reading,” in Books and the Sciences in History, eds. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine, 291–314 (Cambridge, 2000); and, more generally, Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago, 1998). See also Sachiko Kusukawa, “From Counterfeit to Canon: Picturing the Human Body, Especially by Andreas Vesalius,” preprint 281, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Berlin, 2004).

48 Brian W. Ogilvie, The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe (Chicago, 2006).

49 Edgar Zilsel, “The Sociological Roots of Science,” American Journal of Sociology 47 (1942): 544–62; Zilsel, “The Origin of William Gilbert's Scientific Method,” Journal of the History of Ideas 2 (1941): 1–32. See also Zilsel, The Social Origins of Modern Science, ed. Diederick Raven, Wolfgang Krohn, and Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht, 2000).

50 Paolo Rossi, Philosophy, Technology, and the Arts in the Early Modern Era, trans. Salvator Attanasio (New York, 1970 [published in Italian in 1962]). Others who contributed to this debate are Arthur Clegg, “Craftsmen and the Origin of Science,” Science and Society 43 (1979): 186–201; A. C. Crombie, “Science and the Arts in the Renaissance: The Search for Truth and Certainty, Old and New,” History of Science 18 (1980): 233–46; and Crombie, Styles of Scientific Thinking in the European Tradition, 3 vols. (London, 1994). See also Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 2004), in which I argue that artisans' claims to directly experience nature through bodily labor helped shape new attitudes to nature and epistemology.

51 See, for example, James A. Bennett, “The Mechanics' Philosophy and the Mechanical Philosophy,” History of Science 24 (1986): 1–28.

52 William Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton, 1994); Pamela O. Long, Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance (Baltimore, 2001). See also Long, “The Contribution of Architectural Writers to a ‘Scientific’ Outlook in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries,” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 15 (1985): 265–98; and Eric Ash, Power, Knowledge, and Expertise in Elizabethan England (Baltimore, 2004).

53 See, for example, James A. Bennett, “The Challenge of Practical Mathematics,” in Science, Culture, and Popular Belief in Renaissance Europe, ed. Stephen Pumfrey, Paolo Rossi, and Maurice Slawinski (Manchester, 1991); as well as Bennett's more recent work. See also Stephen Johnston, “Making Mathematical Practice: Gentlemen, Practitioners and Artisans in Elizabethan England,” PhD diss., Cambridge University, 1994; Alfred W. Crosby, The Measure of Reality: Quantification and Western Society, 1250–1600 (Cambridge, 1997); Frances Willmoth, Sir Jonas Moore: Practical Mathematics and Restoration Science (Suffolk, 1993); Frank Swetz, Capitalism and Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century, Including the Full Text of Treviso Arithmetic of 1478 (La Salle, 1989); Warren van Egmond, Practical Mathematics in the Italian Renaissance: A Catalog of Italian Abbacus Manuscripts and Printed Books to 1600 (Florence, 1980); Richard A. Goldwaithe, “Schools and Teachers of Commercial Arithmetic in Renaissance Florence,” Journal of European Economy and History 1 (1972): 418–33; and Raffaella Franci and Laura Toti Rigatelli, Introduzione all'aritmetica mercantile del Medioevo e del Rinascimento (Urbino, 1982). See also Alexander Marr, Mathematics and Material Culture in Late Renaissance Italy (Chicago, 2009).

54 Michael of Rhodes, The Book of Michael of Rhodes: A Fifteenth-Century Maritime Manuscript, ed. Pamela O. Long, David McGee, and Alan M. Stahl (Cambridge, MA, 2008).

55 See the works of Silvio A. Bedini, especially Patrons, Artisans, and Instruments of Science, 1600–1750 (Brookfield, 1999); and Science and Instruments in Seventeenth-Century Italy (Brookfield, 1994). See also A. Turner, Early Scientific Instruments: Europe 1400–1800 (London, 1987); and the articles of G.舁L.舁E. Turner, e.g., “Mathematical Instrument-Making in London in the Sixteenth Century,” in English Map-making, 1500–1650, ed. S. Tyacke, 93–106 (London, 1983).

56 Deborah Harkness, The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution (New Haven, 2007).

57 Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (New York, 1971).

58 Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi (Baltimore, 1992).

59 Stephen Pumfrey, Paolo L. Rossi, and Maurice Slawinksi, eds., Science, Culture and Popular Belief in Renaissance Europe (Manchester, 1991); Florike Egmond, “Natuurlijke historie en savoir prolétaire,” in Komenten, monsters en muilezels: Het veranderende natuurbeeld en de natuurwetenschap in de zeventiende eeuw, ed. Florike Egmond, Erick Jorink, and Rienk Vermij, 53–71 (Haarlem, 1999); Egmond and Robert Zwijnenberg, eds., Bodily Extremities: Preoccupations with the Human Body in Early Modern European Culture (Burlington, 2003); Egmond and P. G. Hoftijzer, eds., Carolus Clusius: Towards a Cultural History of a Renaissance Naturalist (Amsterdam, 2007); Egmond, Het visboek: De wereld volgens Adriaen Coenen 1514–1587 (Zutphen, 2005).

60 Thomas Raff, Die Sprache der Materialien: Anleitung zu einer Ikonologie der Werkstoffe (Munich, 1994); Edgard Lein, Ars Aeraria: Die Kunst des Bronzegießens und die Bedeutung von Bronze in der florentinischen Renaissance (Mainz, 2004); Michael W. Cole, “Cellini's Blood,” Art Bulletin 81 (1999): 215–35; Cole, Cellini and the Principles of Sculpture (Cambridge, 2002); and Cole, “The Medici Mercury and the Breath of Bronze,” in Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, ed. Peta Motture, 129–53 (New Haven, 2003).

61 Spike Bucklow, “Paradigms and Pigment Recipes: Vermilion, Synthetic Yellows, and the Nature of Egg,” Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 13 (1999): 140–49; Bucklow, “Paradigms and Pigment Recipes: Natural Ultramarine,” Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 14 (2000): 5–14; Bucklow, “Paradigms and Pigment Recipes: Silver and Mercury Blues,” Zeitschrift für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung 15 (2001): 25–33.

62 I began in The Body of the Artisan (see n. 50 above) to consider the “vernacular epistemology” of artisans. More recently, see Pamela H. Smith, “Making and Knowing in a Sixteenth-Century Goldsmith's Workshop,” in The Mindful Hand: Inquiry and Invention between the Late Renaissance and Early Industrialization, ed. Lissa Roberts, Simon Schaffer, and Peter Dear (Amsterdam, 2007), 20–37; and Smith, “‘Art' is to ‘Science’ as ‘Renaissance’ is to ‘Scientific Revolution’? The Problematic Algorithm of Writing a History of the Modern World,” in New Directions in Art History, ed. James Elkins and Robert Williams, 427–45 (New York, 2008).

63 Jean Lave, Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in Everyday Life (Cambridge, 1988); David Brokensha, D. M. Warren, and Oswald Werner, eds., Indigenous Knowledge Systems (Washington, DC, 1980); Helen Watson-Verran and David Turbull, “Science and Other Indigenous Knowledge Systems,” in Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, ed. Sheila Jasanoff, Gerald E. Marble, James C. Peterson, and Trevor Pinch, 115–39 (London, 1995). See also Clifford D. Conner's lively account in A People's History of Science: Miners, Midwives, and Low Mechanicks (New York, 2005). Roger Chartier, “Culture as Appropriation,” in Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century, ed. Steven L. Kaplan, 230–53 (Berlin, 1984).

64 Books of secrets received pioneering attention in William Eamon's Science and the Secrets of Nature (see n. 52 above) but much more work is needed on technical treatises, indeed, on technical writing in general, including recipes and didactic literature of all kinds. Recent attention to books of secrets has come from scholars of literature, such as Rebecca Bushnell, especially Green Desire: Imagining Early Modern English Gardens (Ithaca, 2003); Alison Kavey, Books of Secrets: Natural Philosophy in England, 1550–1600 (Urbana, 2007); and Natasha Glaisyer and Sara Pennell, eds., Didactic Literature in England 1500–1800: Expertise Constructed (Burlington, 2003).

65 Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Wonders and the Order of Nature (Cambridge, MA, 1998).

66 Paula Findlen, “Jokes of Nature and Jokes of Knowledge: The Playfulness of Scientific Discourse in Early Modern Europe,” Renaissance Quarterly 43, no. 2 (1990): 292–331; and Findlen, “Between Carnival and Lent: The Scientific Revolution at the Margins of Culture,” Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology 6 (1998): 243–67.

67 See especially Penelope Gouk, Music, Science, and Natural Magic in Seventeenth-Century England (New Haven, 1999); Paula Findlen, ed., Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything (New York, 2004); Christine Göttler and Wolfgang Neuber, eds., Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture (Leiden, 2008); and Paola Zambelli, White Magic, Black Magic in the European Renaissance (Leiden, 2007).

68 The literature on Kunstkammern has exploded since the publication of Oliver Impey and Arthur Macgregor, eds., The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Europe (Oxford, 1985). Notable recent contributions include Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, The Mastery of Nature: Aspects of Art, Science, and Humanism in the Renaissance (Princeton, 1993); Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature (Berkeley, 1994); Horst Bredekamp, The Lure of Antiquity (see n. 46 above); Martin Kemp, “‘Wrought by No Artist's Hand’: The Natural, the Artificial, the Exotic, and the Scientific in Some Artifacts from the Renaissance,” in Reframing the Renaissance: Visual Culture in Europe and Latin America 1450–1650, ed. Claire Farago, 11796 (New Haven, 1995); Ellinoor Bergvelt and Renée Kistemaker, eds., De wereld binnen handbereik: Nederlandse kunst- en rariteitenverzamelingen, 1585–1735 (Zwolle, 1992); Andreas Grote, ed., Macrocosmos in Microcosmo: Die Welt in der Stube. Zur Geschichte des Sammelns 1450 bis 1800 (Opladen, 1994).

69 See Martin Kemp, The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat (New Haven, 1990); Samuel Y. Edgerton, Jr., The Heritage of Giotto's Geometry: Art and Science on the Eve of the Scientific Revolution (Ithaca, 1991); Peter Parshall, “Imago contrafacta: Images and Facts in the Northern Renaissance,” Art History 16 (1993): 554–79; J. V. Field, The Invention of Infinity: Mathematics and Art in the Renaissance (Oxford, 1997); Field, Piero della Francesca: A Mathematician's Art (New Haven, 2005); Eileen Reeves, Painting the Heavens: Art and Science in the Age of Galileo (Princeton, 1997); David Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History (Chicago, 2002); Pamela H. Smith, The Body of the Artisan (see n. 50 above); and Horst Bredekamp, Galilei der Künstler: Der Mond, Die Sonne, Die Hand (Berlin, 2007).

70 For an illuminating recent set of essays on the transmission of knowledge, see Sachiko Kusukawa and Ian Maclean, eds., Transmitting Knowledge: Words, Images, and Instruments in Early Modern Europe (Oxford, 2006).

71 Since the early work of John Brewer and Roy Porter, eds., Consumption and the World of Goods (New York, 1994); Rosamond E. Mack, Bazaar to Piazza: Italian Trade and Islamic Art, 1300–1600 (Berkeley, 2002); Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods: A New History of the Renaissance (New York, 1998); and Jerry Brotton, The Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo (Oxford, 2002), the field has expanded enormously.

72 Lisa Jardine, Worldly Goods (see n. 71 above).

73 Robert K. Merton, Science, Technology and Society in Seventeenth Century England (Bruges, 1938), in sections titled “Science, Technology and Economic Development,” explicitly tied the rise of science to the rise of capitalism, but this section of his book was almost completely ignored, while the link he posited between science and Protestantism raised a storm of scholarship. More recently, see Margaret C. Jacob, The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (New York, 1988); Margaret C. Jacob and Larry Stewart, Practical Matter: Newton's Science in the Service of Industry and Empire, 1687–1851 (Cambridge, MA, 2004); Pamela H. Smith and Paula Findlen, eds., Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science and Art in Early Modern Europe (New York, 2002).

74 Londa Schiebinger, Plants and Empire: Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA, 2004); Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swan, eds., Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World (Philadelphia, 2005); and Antonio Barrera-Osorio, Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution (Austin, 2006).

75 Harold J. Cook, Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age (New Haven, 2007).

76 Harold J. Cook made this point forcefully some time ago in “The Cutting Edge of a Revolution? Medicine and Natural History near the Shores of the North Sea,” in Renaissance and Revolution: Humanists, Scholars, Craftsmen and Natural Philosophers in Early Modern Europe, ed. J. V. Field and Frank A. J. L. James, 45–61 (Cambridge, 1993). See also John V. Pickstone, Ways of Knowing: A New History of Science, Technology, and Medicine (Chicago, 2001).

77 Roger Hart, “On the Problem of Chinese Science,” in The Science Studies Reader, ed. Mario Biagioli, 189–201 (New York, 1999), critiques the idea that the two civilizations and their sciences should be compared.

78 See, most recently, Benjamin Elman, On Their Own Terms: Science in China 1550–1850 (Cambridge, MA, 2005).

79 George Saliba, Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance (Cambridge, MA, 2007).

80 Jamil Ragep makes the same point in works such as “Copernicus and His Islamic Predecessors: Some Historical Remarks,” History of Science 45 (2007): 65–81. Ragep's works lead one to ask whether the revolution in astronomy should be viewed rather as an Islamic-European revolution that took place over a much longer timespan than what we now call the Copernican revolution.

81 Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Palo Alto, 2001). See also Cañizares-Esguerra, Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World (Stanford, 2006). Many of the essays in James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew, eds., Science and Empire in the Atlantic World (New York, 2008) show the marks of this approach. See also Marcy Norton, Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Ithaca, 2008).

82 David Arnold, Science, Technology, and Medicine in Colonial India (Cambridge, 2001).

83 See Kapil Raj, “Colonial Encounters and the Forging of New Knowledge and National Identities: Great Britain and India, 1760–1850,” in Nature and Empire, ed. R.舁M. MacLeod, 119–34 (Chicago, 2001); and Raj, Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1900 (New York, 2007). See generally Roy MacLeod, ed., Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise (Chicago, 2001).

84 H. Floris Cohen, The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry (Chicago, 1994); Steven Shapin, The Scientific Revolution (Chicago, 1996); James R. Jacob, The Scientific Revolution: Aspirations and Achievements, 1500–1700 (Atlantic Highlands, 1998); Peter Dear, Revolutionizing the Sciences: European Knowledge and Its Ambitions, 1500–1700 (Princeton, 2001); Paolo Rossi, The Birth of Modern Science (Oxford, 2001). Collected volumes include Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, eds. David Lindberg and Robert Westman (Cambridge, 1990), especially David Lindberg, “Conceptions of the Scientific Revolution from Bacon to Butterfield: A Preliminary Sketch,” 1–26; Roy Porter and Mikulás Teich, eds., The Scientific Revolution in National Context (Cambridge, 1992); J.舁V. Field and Frank A.舁J.舁L. James, eds., Renaissance and Revolution: Humanists, Scholars, Craftsmen and Natural Philosophers in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge, 1993); and Rethinking the Scientific Revolution, ed. Margaret J. Osler (Cambridge, 2000). Also useful are survey articles, such as Roy Porter, “The Scientific Revolution: A Spoke in the Wheel?” in Revolution in History, ed. Roy Porter and Mikulás Teich, 290–316 (Cambridge, 1986); Reijer Hooykaas, “The Rise of Modern Science: When and Why?” British Journal for the History of Science 20 (1987): 453–73; and Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams, “De-Centering the ‘Big Picture’: The Origins of Modern Science and the Modern Origins of Science,” The British Journal for the History of Science 26, no. 4 (1993): 407–32.

85 Katharine Park and Lorraine Daston, Early Modern Science (see n. 6 above), 12–13. Ibid., 13, n. 17, quotes Herbert Butterfield, The Origins of Modern Science, 1300–1800, rev. ed. (New York, 1965), 8. Steven Shapin expresses the same sentiment, pragmatically opening his survey of the Scientific Revolution with “There was no such thing as the Scientific Revolution, and this is a book about it.”

86 Can we still use the term Scientific Revolution? Well into the second decade of trying to answer this question, the issue of terminology seems less important, as many have come to see Scientific Revolution as a serviceable shorthand for that period in which new ideas about nature and the making of natural knowledge were constructed, without at the same time feeling bound to accept the full import of the anachronistic language of science and revolution. The use of the term Scientific Revolution can be compared to the use of early modern, which is a useful term if one does not thereby necessarily imply a founding moment of modernity, or as betokening a particular economic and industrial trajectory. Early modern can include the globe in a way that Renaissance does not. Periodization is simply a heuristic device; the trick is to avoid the teleology that a phrase implies (which may turn out to be impossible, as Randolf Starn opines in “The Early Modern Muddle,” Journal of Early Modern History 6 no. 3 [2002]: 296-307).

87 Research on the relationship between science and religion seems to have quickened recently. For example, see Sachiko Kusukawa, The Transformations of Natural Philosophy: The Case of Philip Melanchthon (Cambridge, 1995); James Bono, The Word of God and the Languages of Man: Interpreting Nature in Early Modern Science and Medicine (Madison, 1995); John Hedley Brooke, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge, 1991); Howard Hotson, Johann Heinrich Alsted, 1588–1638: Between Renaissance, Reformation, and Universal Reform (Oxford, 2000); Richard G. Olson, Science and Religion 1450–1900: From Copernicus to Darwin (Baltimore, 2006); Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge, 1998); and Harrison, The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science (Cambridge, 2008).

88 Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston's “Introduction: The Age of the New,” in Early Modern Science (see n. 6 above), 1–17, provides a valuable overview of developments in this period.

89 In 1530, corn was already growing in Avila, Spain. In The Old World and the New, J.舁H. Elliott relies on texts to argue that it took about a century for the New World to be assimilated into the Old. That corn was already growing in Spain within forty years of first contact indicates that exchange and assimilation of information, materials, and practices was already much livelier at an early stage than the texts studied by Elliott lead us to believe. Practices, practitioners, and experience moved ahead of the written word, and this indicates the importance of attending to practices as well as to books. On this, see also Chandra Mukerji, “Tacit Knowledge and Classical Technique in Seventeenth-Century France,” Technology and Culture, 47, no. 4 (2006): 713–33; and Judith Carney, Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas (Cambridge, MA, 2001). Indeed, following the movement of objects and practices may be one way to reconstruct overarching narratives about sci-tech-med in the early modern period, in something of the way that Starn has suggested in “The Early Modern Muddle” (see n. 86 above); and Sanjay Subrahmanyam has advocated in the writing of “connected histories.” See Subrahmanyam, Explorations in Connected History: From the Tagus to the Ganges (Oxford, 2005); and “Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies 31, no. 3 (1997): 735–62.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 37
Total number of PDF views: 101 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 20th November 2018 - 16th April 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Science on the Move: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science*
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Science on the Move: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science*
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Science on the Move: Recent Trends in the History of Early Modern Science*
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Your details

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *