'Dark, clowdy and impertinent':Thomas Browne's scientific language

Thomas Browne

Public history of science lecture by Professor Claire Preston.

Event details

Claire Preston is Professor of Early-Modern Literature at the University of Birmingham.

Succulent, cretaceous, technology, parasitical, electricity . . . Scientific investigation in the seventeenth century generated new ideas, and scientists needed new words to express them. Experimentalists, observers, collectors, and technicians all contributed to a supple descriptive language for the new science and its related disciplines. Verbal invention is especially marked in those who, like Sir Thomas Browne, operated at the margins of the scientific and the literary. At the same time, natural philosophers of the period were battling the ancient prejudice against the rhetorical arts; their creative extensions of English had to be balanced with clearing the discourses of knowledge of extraneous verbiage. In this talk I will discuss the way that Thomas Browne and some of his contemporaries approached and answered science’s need for suitable linguistic technology.

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'Dark, clowdy and impertinent':Thomas Browne's scientific language 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK

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