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The education of Francis Willughby: new philosophy and natural history in mid-17th-century Cambridge

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Francis Willughby (1635–1672) was the author – albeit after his death – of some of the most important (and expensive) works of natural history published in early-modern England: the Ornithology (1676) and the History of Fishes (1686); his work also contributed to the History of Insects (1710) published by his friend, client, and editor, John Ray. In this paper I trace the origins of Willughby’s interest in natural philosophy and natural history to the unusually protracted period he spent as a student in 1650s Cambridge. From this case-study of a founding member of the Royal Society a more general thesis will also emerge about the reception of the ‘new philosophy’ in mid-seventeenth century England.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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