Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 October 2019
Byron’s scientific context was no longer natural philosophy, but was not yet modern science. Through the eighteenth century, “natural philosophy” – traceable back to classical philosophia naturalis – had been the primary rubric organizing the investigation of natural phenomena. It was one of a set of English terms, including “natural religion” and “natural history,” that together positioned the study of nature as continuous with Anglican orthodoxy. “Science,” meanwhile, had a much wider field of reference than it does today. It named literate knowledge generally, and was often used synonymously with “literature,” which, prior to its Romantic-period redefinition as imaginative writing, likewise referred to all forms of knowledge communicated through the medium of letters. But from the late eighteenth century, just as “literature” was taking on a newly specialized meaning, “science” too was being redefined as the collective term for an emergent series of specialized disciplinary fields of research.
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