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Natural history

(7,549 words)

Author(s): Müller-Wille, Staffan
1. Concept and prior historyWith astronomy, natural history is one of the oldest sciences in the written record. Mesopotamian cuneiform texts listing plant and animal names survive from as far back as the early 2nd millennium BCE. This text type, known as “list science,” probably originated as practice material in the training of scribes, but in all early written cultures (including India and China) it very quickly took on lexical and encyclopedic forms [29. 32–47]. In terms of systematic and argumentative structure, these ancient traditions reached an early zenith i…
Date: 2020-04-06


(1,885 words)

Author(s): Lüsebrink, Hans-Jürgen | Müller-Wille, Staffan
1. Beginnings and institutionsThe systematic description and cataloguing of conditions and products of nature and of the populations, languages, and cultures of lands overseas were intrinsic to European expansion from the outset. In the wake of the modern European discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1492) and that of the sea route to India by Vasco da Gama (1497/98), the Portuguese and Spanish crowns set up institutions to control trade between the homeland and the new colonies: the  Casa da Índia e Mina in Lisbon (founded 1498) and the  Casa de la Contratación in Sev…
Date: 2019-10-14


(1,888 words)

Author(s): Müller-Wille, Staffan | Ingensiep, Hans Werner
1. Plants and human beingsEven though crop plants like grain, fruit, and vegetables in agriculture and horticulture contribute directly to the livelihood of human societies, their symbolic and cultural significance is less prominent than that of animals. Since antiquity, the notion of plants as “inverted animals” (with their roots as their “heads” and their leaves as external respiratory organs) embodied the fundamental correspondence of all living beings (including humans), but until well into the …
Date: 2020-10-06


(3,917 words)

Author(s): Walther, Gerrit | Müller-Wille, Staffan | Kalusok, Michaela
1. ConceptThe prototype and model for all early modern museums was the Museíon, which the Egyptian king Ptolemy I had established around 320 BCE in the same part of the palace at Alexandria that also housed his world-famous library. It was an academy where scholars, who were paid a salary by the government, met for research, discussion, and banqueting. Only in the early modern period did “museum” acquire a more topographical and material meaning. In the 18th century, it was defined as “a place where things are kept that have direct reference to the arts and Muses” [1. 893]. By the 19th cen…
Date: 2020-04-06


(861 words)

Author(s): Müller-Wille, Staffan
The roots of the term “race” can be traced back to the Middle Ages, although the etymology is disputed. The earliest attestations are found in Italian ( razza), French ( race), and Spanish ( raza) texts of the early 15th century, and refer initially to domesticated animals (Animal breeding), and later to agnatic (i.e. recognizing only legitimate male descendants) lineages of the nobility. While some trace the word back to the Latin ratio (reckoning, cause), others suggest the MHG reiƺ (line) or the Arabic râz (origin, leading, head) [1]. The term acquired increasing scientific …
Date: 2021-03-15


(2,535 words)

Author(s): Müller-Wille, Staffan
1. Terminological history The term botany derives from the Greek botánē (“herb”). The Graeco-Roman medical writer Galen calls people who forage for medicinal and other plants and sell them in local markets botanikoí (Thrasybulus 14,9). The Latinized term botanicus became increasingly current in the Renaissance, after being adopted from the treatise De materia medica byDioscurides (ca. 70 CE). As an adjective, it came to denote “concerned with the knowledge of plants.” As a noun, it denoted persons scientifically involved with plants. It remained …
Date: 2019-10-14

Botanic garden

(917 words)

Author(s): Müller-Wille, Staffan
The first botanic gardens appeared in the mid-16th century. at the northern Italian universities of Padua (founded 1545) and Pisa (founded ca. 1547). Although monastery gardens had had functions of conservation and education since the Carolingian reforms, their chief purpose was to supply the local populace with herbal remedies (Plants, medicinal). The university gardens that began to appear in the Renaissance did not cultivate plants for use, but for presentation. They were solely intended to s…
Date: 2019-10-14
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