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Q U I C K   L I N K S

Robert Hooke’s “Lecture explicating the memory, and how we come by the notion of time” is available in the She-philosopher.​com Library: Lib. Cat. No. DTP2003.

For a brief look at global scientific networks in Baroque Mexico, see the GALLERY exhibit on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and her Kircher connection.

late-19th-century printer's decorative tail-piece

^ Ornament from Edward Arber’s 1895 edition of Captain John Smith’s publications on North America, evoking the legend of the phoenix.
   For more about Smith’s orchestrated rebirth in letters & legend, see the IN BRIEF topic on branding Captain John Smith, Admiral of New England, and his disputed coat of arms (bearing “a chevron betwixt three Turks heads”).

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**  six female & male players who contributed to
the growth of science & technology during the early modern period  **

First Published:  March 2004
Revised (substantive):  8 May 2021

THE PLAYERS SECTION OF emphasizes some of the forgotten figures and hidden histories of early-modern science.

The growth of science in general — including the spectacular successes which we associate with the age of scientific revolution — was attributable to a wider range of individuals and socio-intellectual networks than are credited in typical “heroes of science”-type histories.

My starting list of neglected players totals six: Margaret Cavendish, Cornelis Drebbel, Virginia Ferrar, Robert Hooke, Athanasius Kircher, and Mary Trye. Each of the six is a fascinating case study in her/his own right, as well as a central player in the global network of overlapping circles of influence which nurtured the growth of science in the early-modern period. Hence, a monograph on Robert Hooke’s “Lecture explicating the memory, and how we come by the notion of time” mentions a range of historical actors and influences — Albertus Magnus, Aristotle, John Aubrey, Francis Bacon, Roger Bacon, Robert Boyle, Giovanni Domenica Campanella, Hieronymous Cardanus, Margaret and William Cavendish, René Descartes, John Evelyn, Joseph Glanvill, Thomas Hobbes, Juan de Dios Huarte, Elizabeth Joceline, Henry More, Mary More, Katherine Philips, William Shakespeare, Bernardino Telesio, Leonardo da Vinci, Richard Waller, John Wilkins — some of whom are well known today, but the majority of whom are not. Indeed, such “minor players” have become what postmodernists call “erasures” within most standard histories of science.

Given my own predominant interest in the social relations of science, I try here with my case studies to reconstruct some of the socio-historical context within which each of the 6 players conducted scientific inquiries. There are important historical links between each and every one of the 6 players, suggesting an overall shared intellectual, visual and material culture, if not direct lines of influence. In most cases, these historical links constitute a chain of relatively safe inferences, but I shall occasionally make what Edgar Wind called more “audacious interpolations,” as well.

Because my research into the 6 players and their socio-cultural milieu is an ongoing project, the case studies offered here are, by design, liminal, tending more to miscellany or bricolage than any single, grand narrative. I do have a unifying theme for each, though, as indicated by each player’s illustrated title page.

The Players

  Alchemical Engineer extraordinary
    Cornelis Drebbel (1572–1633)

  the Scientist as Mystagogue of nature
    Athanasius Kircher, S.J. (1602–1680)

  Mad Madge
    Margaret Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle (1623–1673)

  a young Lady Discoverer
    Virginia Ferrar (1626–1688)

  “the greatest Mechanick this day in the world”
    Robert Hooke, F.R.S. (1635–1702/3)

  Medicatrix, or, the Woman-Physician
    Mary Trye (fl. 1675)

In addition to these player pages, there is material on the 6 players scattered throughout the website. For example, a biography of Kircher and a topic essay on his celebrated Musæum are to be found in the IN BRIEF section of the site; and there are multiple Hooke-related items to be found in the LIBRARY and GALLERY, and even in the IN BRIEF topic on “the bishop and the antipodes.”

The best way to find the scattered material on’s 6 players is to use our customized search tool (search box at the top of the right-hand sidebar on this page), which is updated every time new content is added to the public areas of the website, thus ensuring the most comprehensive and reliable searches of Plus, our local KSearch technology is allowed to index some website pages which are off-limits to external search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.

facsimile of early-16th-century drawing

facsimile of early-16th-century drawing

^  Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Phoenix, from Horus Apollo, The Hieroglyphica, c.1513. Pen and ink with watercolor.
    “This bird’s [the phoenix] miraculous qualities were recounted in ancient art and Oriental literature. Dürer’s first drawing of the death-defying avian, rising from the ashes of its own destruction, is a copy made in 1499 of an Italian engraved playing card, one of a series of the Virtues Dürer often drew from. The phoenix often symbolized Christ’s immortality, flying safely above a nest of flames, winging from life to life. Dürer made two drawings of the bird [above], known from copies for the Horus Apollo where its perpetual rebirth is understood as a symbol of the eternity of spiritual renewal, of long life, of someone returning from afar. This promise of renewal was also seen in the Nile’s flooding its banks.” (Eisler, 289)
    Within popular culture, the exemplary learned lady was often characterized as a phoenix (thus stressing her exceptionalism). Nahum Tate (c.1652–1715) thought this analogue was specious, and that it masked the historical facts: in reality, he argued, the generality of women have been so oppressed by the culture that only a few women are able to rise up and improve themselves “in any Art or Science as our own.” But Tate also approved of gendered representations of the phoenix as a she: “If [males] pretend to that Commiseration and charitable Disposition that is peculiar to the tender Sex, we equally abuse our selves and them. The Presumption could scarcely be more absurd and vain in us, to contend with them in Charms. We had never any other Tradition of the Compassionate Phoenix than as a Female Bird, nor other notion of the destructive Basilisk than of a Male.” (Tate, A Present for the Ladies: Being an Historical Vindication of the Female Sex, 1692, 10 and 9)

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