This paper analyses the place of natural history within Bacon's divisions of the sciences in The Advancement of Learning (1605) and the later De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum (1623). It is shown that at various points in Bacon's divisions, natural history converges or overlaps with natural philosophy, and that, for Bacon, natural history and natural philosophy are not discrete disciplines. Furthermore, it is argued that Bacon's distinction between operative and speculative natural philosophy and the place of natural history within this distinction, are discontinuous with the later distinction between experimental and speculative philosophy that emerged in the methodology of the Fellows of the early Royal Society.
This paper provides an analysis of Robert Boyle's most detailed discussion of the Baconian method of natural history. In a long letter to Henry Oldenburg dated 13 June 1666 and in ancillary manuscript material, Boyle spells out the method or 'Designe' by which he believes experimental programs in natural philosophy should be written up. The 'Designe' is enormously important in giving a clear statement of the precise contours of Boyle's Baconian methodology and providing a key to understanding the rationale, composition and format for many of his published histories. Works such as New Experiments and Considerations Touching Cold, Memoirs for the Natural History of Human Blood and even his more speculative writings such as An Introduction to the History of Particular Qualities are best understood in terms of Boyle's overall method as articulated in his “Designe about Natural History”.
This paper argues that the construction of natural histories, as advocated by Francis Bacon, played a central role in John Locke's conception of method in natural philosophy. It presents new evidence in support of John Yolton's claim that "the emphasis upon compiling natural histories of bodies ... was the chief aspect of the Royal Society's programme that attracted Locke, and from which we need to understand his science of nature". Locke's exposure to the natural philosophy of Robert Boyle, the medical philosophy of Thomas Sydenham, his interest in travel literature and his conception of the division of the sciences are examined. From this survey, a cumulative case is presented which establishes, independently of an in-depth exegesis of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the central role for Locke of the construction of natural histories in natural philosophy.
Serious philosophical reflection on the nature of experiment began in earnest in the seventeenth century. This paper expounds the most influential philosophy of experiment in seventeenth-century England, the Bacon-Boyle-Hooke view of experiment. It is argued that this can only be understood in the context of the new experimental philosophy practised according to the Baconian theory of natural history. The distinctive typology of experiments of this view is discussed, as well as its account of the relation between experiment and theory. This leads into an assessment of other recent discussions of early modern experiment, namely, those of David Gooding, Thomas Kuhn, J.E. Tiles and Peter Dear.
In June 1668 Anthony Ashley Cooper, later to become the 1st Earl of Shaftesbury, underwent abdominal surgery to drain a large abscess above his liver. The case is extraordinary, not simply on account of the eminence of the patient and the danger of the procedure, but also because of the many celebrated figures involved. A trove of manuscripts relating to this famous operation survives amongst the Shaftesbury Papers in the National Archives at Kew. These include case notes in the hand of the philosopher John Locke and advice from leading physicians of the day including Francis Glisson, Sir George Ent and Thomas Sydenham. The majority of this material has never been published before. This article provides complete transcriptions and translations of all of these manuscripts, thus providing for the first time a comprehensive case history. It is prefaced with an extended introduction.