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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The misunderstanding of Francis Bacon's ideas and literary practice has led to the myth of his call to dismiss rhetoric in favour of a plain or somehow de-rhetoricised language of science and scientific expression. However, the traditional account of natural philosophy's ‘defeat’ of rhetoric by Baconian dictat ignores the fact that post-Baconian natural philosophical writing of the seventeenth century has remarkable and unusual rhetorical and imaginative features; that these were eagerly discussed by the natural philosophers, both in their science and in lay topics; that they all came to science, as Bacon himself did, from an intensely rhetorical humanist training; and that the traditional structure of a ‘natural history’ included all the categories of the humanist curriculum, including rhetoric and poetry. This article explores the scientific view of the literary by considering what practising early-modern scientists said on the subject. It focuses on the scientific prose of Francis Bacon, Thomas Browne, and Robert Boyle.

Keywords: scientific writing, English prose, prose style, Francis Bacon, Thomas Browne, Robert Boyle

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