Religion, Magic, and the Origins of Science in Early Modern England: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Religion, Magic, and the Origins of Science in Early Modern England

1st Edition

By John Henry


328 pages

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In these articles John Henry argues on the one hand for the intimate relationship between religion and early modern attempts to develop new understandings of nature, and on the other hand for the role of occult concepts in early modern natural philosophy. Focussing on the scene in England, the articles provide detailed examinations of the religious motivations behind Roman Catholic efforts to develop a new mechanical philosophy, theories of the soul and immaterial spirits, and theories of active matter. There are also important studies of animism in the beginnings of experimentalism, the role of occult qualities in the mechanical philosophy, and a new account of the decline of magic. As well as general surveys, the collection includes in depth studies of William Gilbert, Sir Kenelm Digby, Henry More, Francis Glisson, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton.


'With this collection, Henry offers a surprising and innovative perspective on the intellectual history of early-modern Europe with particular attention to the impact of theology and Christian faith on philosophical and scientific views of natural reality.' Catholic Historical Review 'This work will be of great use to scholars and particularly valuable for postgraduates who are coming to grips with the historiography of early modern chymistry, religion, and magic. I recommend it highly.' Ambix

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Animism and empiricism: Copernican physics and the origin of William Gilbert's experimental method; Atomism and eschatology: Catholicism and natural philosophy in the Interregnum; Occult qualities and the experimental philosophy: active principles in pre-Newtonian matter theory; Medicine and pneumatology: Henry More, Richard Baxter and Francis Glisson's Treatise on the Energetic Nature of Substance; The matter of souls: medical theory and theology in 17th-century England; Henry More versus Robert Boyle: the spirit of nature and the nature of providence; Boyle and cosmical qualities; Robert Hooke, the incongruous mechanist; 'Pray do not ascribe that notion to me': God and Newton's gravity; The fragmentation of Renaissance occultism and the decline of magic; Index.

About the Author

John Henry is Professor Emeritus and Director of Science Studies Unit, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, UK

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
SCIENCE / History