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Catalog of the Scientific Community

Explanation of the Categories

Birth and Death Years | Father's Status/Career | Nationalities | Education | Religion
Scientific Disciplines | Means of Support | Patronage | Technological Involvement | Scientific Societies

1. Birth and death years.

I am starting with the generation of Copernicus. He was born in 1473. Since I want to be able to group people by decades, I do not include anyone born before 1471. I conclude arbitrarily at the end of the 17th century. I mean by this scientists active during the 17th century, and I take the age of twenty as the beginning of scientific activity. Thus I do not include anyone born after 1680. (Anyone born in the year 1680 itself is included.) It should be obvious that decades begin for me with 1, not with 0.

2. Father's status and/or occupation.

This is obtained if the information is available. Also the family's economic status. I do not want guesses about economic status. In the majority of cases there appears to be no hard evidence, and I intend then to list the economic status as unknown. I am sure that it reveals something about me, but I assume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that any physician was affluent or properous. I don't assume that any aristocrat was prosperous.

3. Nationality.

Which means simply the country in which the following three took place.
  1. Birth
  2. Career (up to four national locations are possible here)
  3. Death
4. Skeletal details of education
  1. Secondary education, if known--I do not now regard this as very important.
  2. University degree, if there was one--get year and university. I do not intend to be sticky in distinguishing between degrees. Any Bachelor's degree will be listed as B.A. Because I want information about the educational background of scientists rather than precision about 16th and 17th century academia, I consider that anyone who completed a medical degree did the equivalent of a B.A., although it seems clear that in that age, at least in many places, students could proceed directly to a medical degree without the B.A. [I did find one, Nicolas Lemery, whose M.D. was strange, for whom I am not assuming the equivalent of a B.A.] An advanced degree in medicine (say obtaining a Licentiate) is listed as M.D. An advanced degree in law is L.D., and in theology D.D. The fact of the Bachelor's and advanced degrees is more important than the details of the degree. [I later altered my criteria here; any degree in law, whether advanced or not, gets listed as L.D.]
5. Religion.
Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Anglican, Sect, other Christian denomination, Heterodox, and Unknown. (I think there is one Russian Orthodox in the group.) If there is no special mention, assume he was a member of the locally established church. If there is any indication of heterodox beliefs, such as Newton's anti-trinitarianism, be sure to note it. I have included a category of Heterodox. I also include a category of Jew, which consists entirely of those of Jewish descent. Because of the fact of conversions, there is room for two denominations in the dBase file, and everyone listed as Jew will, given the realities of the day, also be listed as some Christian denomination. Note any indicationof special religious intensity.

6. Scientific Disciplines.

Although I originally thought I could get by with a small number of categories here, I have ended up with more than forty. Given the information available, distinctions (say between Medicine, Physiology, and Anatomy) often become arbitrary, so that I expect to end up grouping disciplines in quantitative analyses of the whole sample. (For example the medical disciplines.) The great majority get listed under more than one discipline. I am trying to distinguish between primary and subordinate disciplines, not in terms of the importance of the achievement, but in terms of the importance of the disciplines in the scientist's career. Put down the complexity of the scientist instead of trying to force him artificially into a single pidgeon hole.

7. Means of support.

This is a major item of concern; exercise as much care as possible. I want especially to avoid the trap of the single answer here. A scientist may fall into several categories on this one; list them all. However, attempt to establish the principal source or sources of support during the years of scientific productivity. I have fourteen categories here [later increased to twenty-four], including a catch-all Miscellaneous and another Unknown. Organization means a salaried position with a scientific organization (such as Oldenburg held), but it does not mean a pensioned position such as members of the French academy had. They are listed, properly, as governmental employees.
  1. Be sure to list inherited wealth, whatever its amount. I have become convinced that much inherited wealth is not mentioned, but again I do not want guesses where there is no evidence.
  2. If a scientist followed some profession, list it somewhere; but under support, for those with medical degrees for example, I want Medicine listed only if a scientist practiced and drew income from it. So also with Law.
  3. Be sure to list any governmental office, whether local or higher.
  4. Be equally sure to list Patronage. As I find, for many scientists patronage was a principal source of support. I list being a personal physician to a monarch or other high person under patronage rather than medical practice. Of course, a personal physician to a monarch might also have a medical practice. Although nearly every academic appointment was made through the patronage system, I list such under Academic position because the salary came from the budget of the institution.

8. Patronage.

Under this heading I seek the source of patronage, which of course I want to categorize. Patronage as a source of support is listed under the previous heading. I am considering patronage under a broad definition, and I want to be sure to get down any suggestion of patronage in a scientist's career. I am convinced that no university appointment in the 16th or 17th century was made without patronage, that is, without the influence of some powerful man. Equally philosophers and scientists sought the moral support of the powerful; I think of numerous incidents in the life of Descartes, where neither money nor position was in question. If you find any such incidents, list them. The knighting of a man, an act that conferred status and advantage, I consider as an act of patronage. Medical practice in the household of some ruler or wealthy man I consider above (that is, under means of support) as patronage, and here I want the category of the patron. As with all attempts to categorize, there are areas of ambiguity, where patronage becomes difficult to distinguish from friendship and from family loyalty. Under this heading, obviously, I distinguish the source of the patronage, but not the magnitude of the favor. The act of knighting seems to me about the smallest favor that I want to include. I have twelve categories for the source of patronage [now thirteen], which include Academics, Scientists, and (where an act of patronage is evident but not the source of it) Unknown. Merchant (which does not appear to be in heavy use here) is a catch-all term under which, for example, manufacturers or bankers could appear.

9. Technological involvement.

What I want here is not Baconian talk about useful knowledge, though I want you to make a note of such, but involvement in actual projects of utility. List any project or enterprise in which a scientist engaged in which the application of science to utility was envisaged.
  1. The planning or making of scientific instruments is clearly a technological enterprise in my definition.
  2. Categories of technology: agriculture, applied mathematics, architecture, cartography, chemistry, civil engineering, hydraulic engineering, instruments, mechanical devices, medical practice, metallurgy, military engineering, navigation, pharmacology. And, of course, none.
10. Scientific societies.
  1. Include information about informal connections such as friendships and correspondence with other scientists. Especially before 1650 this will be important to me even though I cannot categorize it effectively and enter it in the database file. Briefly note the extent and nature of such connections, and indicate the sources to which I can go for fuller detail.
  2. Membership in formally organized societies.

Written by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University
Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.
1995 Al Van Helden
Last updated
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