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Histories of Science in Early Modern Europe

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Author Topic: Histories of Science in Early Modern Europe  (Read 278 times)
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« on: October 16, 2008, 12:44:03 pm »

In general, then, the "facts" themselves were not in question. Most authors from this period agreed on a few fixed points: that, for instance, the earliest Hebrew patriarchs had an excellent knowledge of the arts, and that they preserved their discoveries from the Flood by inscribing them on stone and brick pillars; or that Abraham, "planter of mathematics" (as Gabriel [End Page 37] Harvey marginally honored him) played an important role in transmitting the sciences to other cultures. In hunting down the prisca scientia, their beliefs were underlined by the testimony of Josephus, as well as the mind-boggling detail provided in Annius of Viterbo's forged chronicles of ancient history. They may have molded their narratives to make their larger points, but there can be no doubt that most trusted the broadly-agreed accounts of origins.

Substantial divergences from this standard narrative were made with explicit and usually polemical intent. Rheticus, for instance, insisted quite idiosyncratically that the origins of astronomy were to be found in the construction of obelisks;17 while Popper's article below demonstrates Pico della Mirandola's historical creativity in rejecting claims to the great antiquity of astrology. It is arguable also that Paracelsians such as Richard Bostocke (in his 1585 work The difference betwene the auncient Phisicke . . . and the latter Phisicke) were engaged in the construction of a new historical narrative,18 sharing a common physicians' concern with history and the search for causes for contemporary phenomena.19 Their accounts could diverge widely from the broadly-accepted narrative found in most of the authors considered here.
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