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James Paradis

James Paradis author of T.H. Huxley: Man’s place in Nature, is now working on an edition of Huxley’s letters. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Voyagers

James Paradis, 18 June 1981

Amateur naturalists of the 19th century found their intellectual claims to the territory of nature weakened by several scientific developments. The most important development concerned the language of science. The specialists who were now writing about natural science increasingly refined their terms in order to build a literary structure of professional knowledge. By degrees, they located the authority of natural history in technical dialects removed from the vernacular of common experience. Their huge word systems – those of the botanical, zoological and geological sciences – slowly consumed the familiar objects of the landscape. The products of analysis and logic, rather than of an intuitive sense of the whole, these word systems resolved the unity of nature into classes of objects, which were further subdivided into structures whose elements were assigned standard definitions. The book of nature was thus transformed into a textbook which only the most single-minded were likely to master.

Letter

Joseph Banks

18 June 1981

SIR: Allow me to respond to Averil Lysaght’s recent criticisms (Letters, 3 September) of the review in which I treat Charles Lyte’s Sir Joseph Banks: 18th-Century Explorer, Botanist and Entrepreneur.Dr Lysaght’s first criticism is that I have not read the title of Warren Dawson’s calendar (The Banks Letters …, 1958), because it lists the BM and the BM (Natural History)...

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