Virtuoso by Nature: The Scientific Worlds of Francis Willughby FRS (1635-1672)


Volume Editor:
Francis Willughby together with John Ray revolutionized the study of natural history. They were motivated by the new philosophy of the mid 1600s and transformed natural history in to a rigorous area of study. Because Ray lived longer and more of his writings have survived, his reputation subsequently eclipsed that of Willughby. Now, with access to previously unexplored archives and new discoveries we are able to provide a comprehensive evaluation of Francis Willughby’s life and works. What emerges is a polymath, a true virtuoso, who made original and imaginative contributions to mathematics, chemistry, linguistics as well as natural history. We use Willughby’s short life as a lens through which to view the entire process of seventeenth-century scientific endeavor.

Contributors are Tim Birkhead, Isabelle Charmantier, David Cram, Meghan Doherty, Mark Greengrass, Daisy Hildyard, Dorothy Johnston, Sachiko Kusukawa, Brian Ogilvie, William Poole, Chris Preston, Anna Marie Roos, Richard Serjeantson, Paul J. Smith and Benjamin Wardhaugh.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Tim Birkhead, (D.Phil 1976) is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield; his scientific research focuses on promiscuity in birds; his history of science books include The Wisdom of Birds and Ten Thousand Birds: Ornithology since Darwin.

Isabelle Charmantier, (PhD 2008), The Linnean Society of London, is Manuscript specialist, currently cataloguing the Linnaean manuscripts. She has published on early modern natural history and is completing a monograph A Naturalist at Work. Carl Linnaeus's Writing Technologies (2015).

David Cram is an Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. His publications have focussed on the history of ideas about language in the seventeenth century, and include studies of the work of George Dalgarno, John Wallis and Francis Willughby.

Meghan C. Doherty, (Ph.D. 2010), University of Wisconsin-Madison, is an Assistant Professor of Art History and Director/Curator of the Doris Ulmann Galleries at Berea College (KY). Her published works consider the visual culture of the early Royal Society.

Mark Greengrass, MA, DPhil, FRHistS, FSA is Professor Emeritus of Sheffield University and Associate Fellow of the Centre Roland Mousnier, University of Paris-IV. He has published extensively on early-modern European history, specialising in the history of France.

Daisy Hildyard, (PhD 2013), University of London, has published on early Royal Society manuscripts, including ‘John Pell’s Mathematical Papers and the Royal Society’s English Atlas, 1678-82’ in the Bulletin for the British Society for the History of Mathematics.

Dorothy Johnston, (Ph.D. 1977), Trinity College Dublin, was Keeper of Manuscripts at the University of Nottingham, 1987-2012. Her publications on history and archives include Francis Willughby's Book of Games, edited with D. Cram and J. Forgeng (Ashgate, 2003).

Sachiko Kusukawa (PhD 1991), Fellow in History and Philosophy of Science, Trinity College, Cambridge and author of Picturing the book of nature: image, text and argument in sixteenth-century human anatomy and medical botany (Chicago 2012).

Brian W. Ogilvie, (Ph.D. 1997), University of Chicago, is Associate Professor of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His publications include The Science of Describing: Natural History in Renaissance Europe (Chicago, 2006).

William Poole is Galsworthy Fellow and Tutor in English, and also Fellow Librarian, of New College, Oxford. He has published widely on early-modern intellectual, literary, and scientific history, and is co-editor of the bibliographical journal The Library.

Christopher D. Preston, Sc.D., worked at the UK Biological Records Centre until his recent retirement, mapping the changing distributions of British and Irish flowering plants and bryophytes. With Philip Oswald, he wrote John Ray’s Cambridge Catalogue (1660) (Ray Society, 2011).

Anna Marie Roos, (Ph.D. 1997), University of Lincoln. Fellow of the Linnean Society and Society of Antiquaries, she has three monographs on the early modern history of science and medicine, including Web of Nature: Martin Lister (1639-1712), the First Arachnologist (Brill, 2011).

Richard Serjeantson (PhD 1998, Cambridge) Fellow and Lecturer in history Trinity College, Cambridge. Research includes British and European history between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Thomas More’s Utopia and the philosophical development of René Descartes.

Paul J. Smith (PhD 1985 Leiden University), Professor of French literature at Leiden, has published widely on early modern French literature and natural history and recently co-edited Zoology in Early Modern Culture (Brill 2014).

Benjamin Wardhaugh, D.Phil. (2007), University of Oxford, is a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He works on the history of early modern mathematics, and is the author of several books including How to Read Historical Mathematics (Princeton, 2010).
[this] ]volume [...] provides us with an exemplary view of a figure [of Francis Willughby] whose wide-ranging significance is at last becoming clear.
- Michael Hunter, Birkbeck, University of London, EHR, CXXXIII. 564, October. 2018, 1314-1316, doi:10.1093/ehr/cey215 It [the work] is a very worthy validation of a neglected and misunderstood scientist.
- William Noblett, Archives of Natural History 45.1 (2018): pp. 184-185 (DOI: 10.3366/anh.2018.0503)
Foreword by Michael Willoughby, Lord Middleton xi
Preface xii
Acknowledgements xvi
List of Figures and Maps xix
List of Abbreviations xxiii
List of Contributors xxiv

1. The Life and Domestic Context of Francis Willughby 1
Dorothy Johnston

2. The Education of Francis Willughby 44
Richard Serjeantson

3. The Chymistry of Francis Willughby (1635–72): The Trinity College, Cambridge Community 99
Anna Marie Roos

4. Willughby’s Mathematics 122
Benjamin Wardhaugh

5 Science on the Move: Francis Willughby’s Expeditions 142
Mark Greengrass, Daisy Hildyard, Christopher D. Preston, and Paul J. Smith

6 The Willughby Library in the Time of Francis the Naturalist 227
William Poole

7. Francis Willughby and John Ray on Words and Things 244
David Cram

8. Willughby’s Ornithology 268
Tim R. Birkhead, Paul J. Smith, Meghan Doherty, and Isabelle Charmantier

9. Historia Piscium (1686) and Its Sources 305
Sachiko Kusukawa

10. Willughby on Insects 335
Brian W. Ogilvie

11. The Legacies of Francis Willughby 360
Isabelle Charmantier, Dorothy Johnston, and Paul J. Smith

Bibliography 387
Index 419
Historians of science; those with an interest in the history of natural history; those with an interest in natural history.
  • Collapse
  • Expand