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Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science$
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Richard Yeo

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226106564

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226106731.001.0001

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(p.253) 9 Conclusion
Notebooks, English Virtuosi, and Early Modern Science

Richard Yeo

University of Chicago Press

In making notes about the empirical world, the English virtuosi were able to draw on a legacy of ideas formed by Renaissance humanists, Jesuits, and Francis Bacon. Early-modern figures recognized a complex relationship between individual memory and external records of information. The demand of Baconian natural histories for empirical details did put pressure on memory and focussed attention on better ways of arranging and storing information for subsequent retrieval and use by later generations. However, notes remained powerful triggers for recollection of material in individual memory and thus, together with deep personal memory developed over a lifetime, played a significant role in scientific discoveries. The making and keeping of notes also required a commitment to the value of patient, long-term inquiry: this was a contribution of the seventeenth-century virtuosi to the modern scientific ethos.

Keywords:   Renaissance humanists, Francis Bacon, Baconian natural histories, retrieval, memory, personal memory, long-term inquiry, scientific ethos

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