This text is actually a bit of a dry read; it is a lot of hard-core textual analysis. However, there are some moments of note.
If you read my post on Boyle, this is the century in which his writing style predominates. At this time, there are two main scientific institutions: the Royal Society (England) and the Academie Royale (France). As such, there are only two major scientific publication outlets at this time.
Science, as we recognize it today, is in its infancy. How infant:, you ask? Let's just say that botany is a "new" science. Science does not have the force of ethos it does today. No one was walking around talking about "science says" or "scientists have found." In England, this is the hobby of well-off gentlemen, although France is a little more civil-servant oriented.
Communication of science therefore is also in its infancy. Like we saw with Boyle, detail is very important. Scientific writing is more reliable testimony than creation of new knowledge. Thus, the exposition is in qualitative style and personal, readily understood by others. There is no specialized, technical language at this point; it doesn't exist.
While the writing is personal and verbose, while containing meager data, the tone however is neutral and lacks stylistic turns of phrase. In fact, metaphors and similes are discouraged. When used, they are functional, not poetic.
I have a little challenge for myself as I walk through these centuries. I am going to take a paragraph from one of my studies and try to re-write it in the style of each century. Please bear with my silliness and certainly don't take my paragraph as a wonderful example of x-century writing! As writing is "thinking on paper," let's just say that I'd like to try my hand at thinking like these early scientists.
"I walked out from the driest part of the land, toward the waters of the bay, connected at one end to the river and at the other to the ocean, whereupon the land began to become muddied and a great stink as of rotting eggs rose from the ground, until at last water, unconnected to the inlets of the bay, collected in pools of various size among the marsh grasses. The largest of these was the size of a farmer's pond, though not as deep, being as on a windless day, where waves did not muddy the waters, the spectators, as well as myself, could see the muddy bottom, marked with the tracks of waterfowl and the holes of various crabs and other burrowing animals. After extensive rains in the spring, these pools were nearer to fresh water than salt, lacking the briny taste of the bay itself; indeed, many land animals made use of these pools, as feral swine were seen drinking from them without harm; likewise, upon entry into the pools, I often came within a pace or less, of river snakes bathing themselves in the spring heat, and upon one occasion, the spectators and myself observed an alligator, which normally resided in fresh lakes farther inland, swimming healthily in the nearby salt creek of the inlet, made fresh and swollen by the same spring rains."
|Portion of Alsted, 1630. Image(s) courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.|
|Alsted, 1630. Image(s) courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.|