433. Nature’s Mystery: Science in Renaissance England

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How scientists of the Elizabethan age anticipated the discoveries and methods of the Enlightenment (without necessarily publishing them).



Further Reading

• R. Arianrhod, Thomas Harriot: A Life in Science (Oxford: 2019).

• S. Clucas, “Corpuscular Matter Theory in the Northumberland Circle,” in C. Lüthy et al. (eds), Late Medieval and Early Modern Corpuscular Matter Theories (Leiden: 2001), 181-207.

• S. Clucas, “‘The Curious Ways to Observe Weight in Water’: Thomas Harriot and his Experiments on Specific Gravity,” Early Science and Medicine 25 (2020), 302-27.

• M. Feingold, The Mathematician’s Apprenticeship: Science, Universities and Society in England 1560–1640 (Cambridge: 1984).

• R. Fox (ed.), Thomas Harriot: an Elizabethan Man of Science (Aldershot: 2000).

• R. Fox (ed.), Thomas Harriot and His World: Mathematics, Exploration, and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England (London: 2012).

• R. Goulding, “Humanism and Science in the Elizabethan Universities,” in J. Woolfson (ed.), Reassessing Tudor Humanism (Houndsmill: 2002), 223-42.

• J. Henry, “Thomas Harriot and Atomism: A Reappraisal,” History of Science 20 (1982), 267-303.

• F. Maddison et al. (eds), Linacre Studies: Essays on the Life and Works of Thomas Linacre, c. 1460-1534 (Oxford: 1977). 

• R.H. Kargon, Atomism in England from Hariot to Newton (Oxford: 1966).

• M. Schemmel, The English Galileo: Thomas Harriot’s Work on Motion as an Example of Preclassical Mechanics (London: 2012).

D.A. Seger, The Practical Renaissance (London: 2022).

• J.W. Shirley (ed.), Thomas Harriot: Renaissance Scientist (Oxford: 1974).

• J.W. Shirley, A Source Book for the Study of Thomas Harriot (New York: 1981).

• J.W. Shirley, Thomas Harriot: a Biography (Oxford: 1983).


Thanks to Robert Goulding for comments and corrections on this episode!


Joshua Hillerup on 26 November 2023

Mathematical modeling

I'm looking forward to the one say comparison to mathematically modeling without giving a physical theory to one day an episode on the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics

Peter Adamson on 27 November 2023


There's a small error in this episode: the mathematician Regiomontanus wasn't Italian, I meant to say that he was one of the figures covered back when we looked at mathematics in Renaissance Italy in episode 361. Sorry about that! And thanks for Thony Christie for catching this. 

In reply to by dukeofethereal

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2023


Oh right! Never my best subject, even at school. Thanks, I'll add that.

Aviva on 28 January 2024

Epicureanism in the Renaissance?

Another great episode. You mentioned atomism, and I was wondering if there is going to be a whole episode devoted to the reception of Epicureanism in the Renaissance? It would be great if there were.

In reply to by Aviva

Peter Adamson on 28 January 2024

Epicureanism in the Renaissance

Not exclusively about Epicureanism but there was episode 334 already, on the revival of all the Hellenistic schools, so that's the one you're looking for. And the Epicureans get a few more mentions later in the Italian Renaissance series, including while talking about Machiavelli. 

Glad you liked this episode!

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