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CitationBlair, Ann. "Natural Philosophy." In The Cambridge History of Science: Volume 3, Early Modern Science, edited by Katherine Park and Lorraine Daston, 365-405. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Abstract“Natural philosophy” is often used by European historians as an umbrella term to designate the study of nature before it can easily be identified with what we call “science” today, to avoid the modern and potentially anachronistic connotations of that term. But “natural philosophy” (and its equivalents in different languages) was also an actor's category, a term commonly used throughout the early modern period and typically defined quite broadly as the study of natural bodies. As the central discipline dedicated to laying out the principles and causes of natural phenomena, natural philosophy underwent tremendous transformations during the early modern period. From its medieval form as a bookish Aristotelian discipline institutionalized in the universities, natural philosophy became increasingly associated during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with new authorities, new practices and new institutions, as is clear from the emergence of new expressions, such as the “experimental natural philosophy” of Robert Boyle (1627-91) and the Royal Society of London or the Mathematical principles of natural philosophy (Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica, 1687) of Isaac Newton (1642-1727).
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