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Title: The experience of the singular at the Royal Society of London, 1695-1752
Author: da Costa, P. de J. F.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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Abstract:
This thesis is concerned with the role and status of singular experiences in the making and diffusion of natural knowledge at the Royal Society of London between 1695 and 1752. It is primarily focused on reports of extraordinary phenomena concerning the generation of living beings that were presented at the meetings of the Royal Society or published in the Philosophical Transactions. First, I discuss their significance in terms of their place in the natural historical agenda at the Society and of their authorship. Next, the reporting and displaying of singular experiences is considered in the context of the culture of curiosity at the Society. Some of the multiple and interconnected roles of these practices in the promotion of inquiry, instruction, polite discourse and entertainment of the Fellows are discussed. The various strategies used in the authentication of observations of extraordinary phenomena are then considered. Particular attention is paid to the roles assigned to the competence and status of the reporter and witnesses in the assessment of testimony. Next, the Fellows interest in extraordinary phenomena, as portrayed in some literary satires of the period, is discussed as part of a more general assault on the language, activities, and credibility of the members of the Royal Society. Then, I focus on the medical understanding of monstrosity at the Society, examining the use of monsters in anatomical and physiological inquiry as well as the tension involved in their understanding within a system of natural order. I also discuss human hermaphrodites as the subject of the most radical attempts by members of the Society to integrate the monstrous within the natural and social order. Finally, in the Conclusion, the relationship between the various perspectives presented in the different chapters is addressed, as well as the issue of continuity and change in the experience of the singular at the Royal Society in the eighteenth century.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.598238  DOI: Not available
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