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A Final StoryScience, Myth, and Beginnings$
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Nasser Zakariya

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226476124

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226500737.001.0001

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Varieties of Natural History

Varieties of Natural History

The Whole of the Natural and the Known

(p.45) Chapter One Varieties of Natural History
A Final Story

Nasser Zakariya

University of Chicago Press

John Herschel defines science by the knowledge of many systematically arranged to be consumed by one, distinguishing likewise between two forms of natural history: the first concerning the world as a starting point of knowledge, presenting an unsystematized set of facts; the second concerning the world as end point, to be reconstructed and understood through systematization. Extending John Herschel’s “natural history” and emphasizing its second sense, this chapter examines attempts to grasp the totality of the natural world in the middle of the nineteenth century. The term “natural history” as used here includes attempts on the part of popular and expert authors such as Mary Somerville, John Herschel, and William Whewell to address the whole of the natural world through the entirety of the natural sciences—together, ultimately, with the human sciences. Their deliberations point to simultaneous movements of convergence and divergence across the natural sciences, entailing and critiquing the notion of natural science as a generalist endeavor, inveighing against the possibility that the second form of natural history was amenable to a narrative history.

Keywords:   natural history, synthesis, the one and the many, John Herschel, Mary Somerville, William Whewell

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