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Life, death and knowledge-making in early modern British scientific and medical archives.

This international conference explores the posthumous fortunes of scientific and medical archives in early modern Britain. If early modern natural philosophers claimed all knowledge as their province, theirs was a paper empire. This conference explores how did these (often) disorderly collections of paper come to be 'the archives of the Scientific Revolution.'

Inspired by calls for the wholesale reform of natural philosophy and schooled in humanist note-taking practices, early naturalists generated correspondence, reading notes, experimental and observational reports, and drafts of treatises intended for circulation in manuscript or further replication in print. In our own day, naturalists’ materials, in archives, libraries, and (occasionally) private hands, are now the foundation of a history of science that has taken a material turn towards paper, ink, pen, and filing systems as technologies of communication, information management, and knowledge production. But the posthumous fates of archives, though key to understanding their survival as historical sources and their past uses as scientific sources, have been less often explored.

This conference analyses how did (often) disorderly collections of paper come to be 'the archives of the Scientific Revolution'? To what extent did the histories unearthed serve as an index of the cultural position of scientific activity since the early modern period? Exploring the posthumous scientific and medical archive also lets us consider the genealogies of scientific influence, and the creation and management of scientific genius as a posthumous project. Scientific activity, then, as now, is a collective endeavour in which scribes, archives and library keepers, editors, digital humanists and naturalists’ surviving friends and family members had a stake.

See full programme (PDF).

Registration for this event is now closed.

Enquiries: contact the Library

Event sponsors

Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School

British Society for the History of Science

The University of Iowa Center for the Book

University of Lincoln

University of Oregon, Knight Library