By Richard Foster Jones
Enticing, erudite examine of upward thrust of clinical move in 17th-century England; Francis Bacon’s position really under pressure. Revised (1961) version.
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Additional resources for Ancients and Moderns (Washington University Studies.)
Authority evidently was the more impressive argument but not suited to simple folk. The great discovery in astronomy which was most likely to lead to a questioning of ancient theories was, of course, that of Copernicus, first published in 1543. But in England a profound silence regarding it was for the most part maintained throughout the sixteenth century. We may be sure that it was discussed, 16 but the slight progress made in mathematics may have had something to do with its not being treated more seriously.
I have tried, therefore, to reconstruct the background by examining typical treatises of the period, which examination, though not based upon exhaustive investigation, may indicate clearly the scientific temper of the period. One of the results of the revival of learning was the establishing of direct contact with the extant scientific works of antiquity. " 1 It was, then, with something of the sense of new discovery that the English of the sixteenth century explored the recently published stores of learning which proved so much more satisfactory than traditional science.
9 Frequently we do -6- find descriptions of plants drawn from observation, and the discovery of others unknown to the ancients, but such refreshing variations occupy a very inferior place. Thus we see in what is perhaps the most noted herbal of the period, John Gerard Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1597, descriptions of plants grown in his own garden, though most of his material is "gathered" from books. Prefixed to this book is a letter from a St. Bredwell physician which advocates chemical medicines as well as simples, and declares that physic would approximate perfection if the two were joined.