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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

19 - Natural History

from Part III - Dividing the Study of Nature
In the early modern period, natural history was an important, controversial, and much discussed kind of knowledge. It is little wonder that natural history became the "big" science of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the proliferation of European overseas empires further enlarged its scope. In time, the importance of the specimen complicated the role of the learned word because there were plenty of new words to be written as a result of looking at nature. One of the fundamental reasons for writing new natural histories related to the impact of the Americas, and long-distance travel in general, on thought about the natural world. By the mid-sixteenth century, naturalists shared information regularly. The scientific letter became the most important tool of communication in the development of natural history. The regular exchange of words and things suggests how important collaboration was in the pursuit of natural history. The identity of the naturalist emerged from many diverse ingredients.
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