The New Revolution

Sep 29, 2013 by

Most of us have probably heard about revolutionary “scientists” such as Sir Isaac Newton, Sir Francis Bacon, and Galileo Galilei (I use the word ‘scientist’ in quotes because there was no such thing as a scientist back then by our modern standards).  These men and several others are credited with the birth of modern science.  However, they were not the only scientists of the time of the Scientific Revolution, nor might they have been the most important.

where else would you find instructions on how to refine sugar right next to how to make a sauna?

where else would you find instructions on how to refine sugar right next to how to make a sauna?

Many thinkers toiled together with the goal of furthering human understanding of the world around them.  One of these thinkers was Hugh Plat.  Plat wrote a book called the Jewell House of Art and Nature, which was a book full of natural knowledge (by this I mean information from how to cure common ailments to how to make toothpaste) that he gleaned from his contemporaries and even from ordinary people.[1]  He even published tips and tricks that he got from his wife and her friends.  In a time like the 16th/17th century, women were a highly unusual and questionable source, even in a place like London.  Plat did not care about the status of the person from whom he gained knowledge; he just cared if the knowledge was true and useful.

In a way, this reminds me of the website Pinterest.  Pinterest is a website where people can “pin” pictures of stuff.  Sometimes it is just a nice picture, but more often the picture is a link to a website that has some kind of trick to make life easier, such as a recipe or a gardening tip or a “life-hack” (like color-coding your keys with nail polish).  Anyone can post something on Pinterest, whether they are Martha Stewart or a regular college student.  In a way, Pinterest is a democratic dissemination of knowledge.

Just as Plat tried to expand knowledge through his works, so does Pinterest.  Could Pinterest be a new scientific revolution, regaining lost knowledge and gathering it in a place easily accessible by anyone?

The hedgehog’s way is not the only way to do something.

[1] Deborah E. Harkness, The Jewel House:  Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution, Yale University Press:  New Haven and London, 2007.

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