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The terms 'ecology' and 'dystopia' were first improvised from their Greek roots in the mid-nineteenth century. The former was used by Henry David Thoreau in 1858 before being formally defined as a branch of biology seven years later by Ernst Haeckel, while the latter was by employed by John Stuart Mill in 1868. A basic awareness of ecological relationships had been a necessary concomitant of agricultural endeavour since the first crops were sown and the first animals domesticated; farming is, in essence, a matter of creating, sustaining and improving artificial ecosystems. The application of the scientific method to agricultural practice had made considerable impacts long before Haeckel identified a science of ecology, but Thoreau's usage was more closely connected to an increasing sensitivity to the complexity of natural processes, which changed the significance of the word 'nature' in philosophical discourse and popular parlance, where it was often rendered, with a degree of personification impregnated with mystical homage, as 'Nature'. Thoreau was continuing a tradition summarized in Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature (1836), which owed a good deal to the Romantic movements of Europe; Romantic poets often elaborated their responses to Nature and celebrated supposed communions therewith.
The word 'science' acquired its modern meaning when it took aboard the realization that reliable knowledge is rooted in the evidence of the senses, carefully sifted by deductive reasoning and the experimental testing of generalizations. In the seventeenth century writers began producing speculative fictions about new discoveries and technologies that the application of scientific method might bring about, the earliest examples being accommodated - rather uncomfortably - within existing genres and narrative frameworks.
One genre hospitable to sf speculation was that of utopian fantasy, whose usual narrative form was the imaginary voyage. The rich tradition of sf travellers' tales was launched by one of the first and foremost champions of the scientific method, Francis Bacon, in New Atlantis (written c.1617; published 1627), although the importance of technological progress to social reform had earlier been recognised by Johann Valentin Andreae's account of Christianopolis (1619) and Tommaso Campanella's description of La Città del Sole (The City of the Sun, written 1602; published 1623). Most subsequent utopian fantasies took scientific and technological advancement into account, but relegated it to a minor role while matters of social, religious and political reform remained centre stage. Nor were those writers who took account of scientific progress always enthusiastic about it; Baconian optimism prompted a backlash of hostility from those who perceived a threat to religious values in the secularizing tendencies of religion and the materialistic encouragements of technology.
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