The historical record of the beginnings of Science...

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...stuffed in a cupboard somewhere. From The Guardian comes this amazing story:
Eureka! Lost manuscript found in cupboard
A long-lost 17th century manuscript charting the birth of modern science has been found gathering dust in a cupboard in a Hampshire home. Filled with crabby italics and acerbic asides, the 520 or so yellowing and stained pages are the handwritten minutes of the Royal Society as recorded by the brilliant scientist Robert Hooke, one of the society's original fellows and curator of experiments.

The notes describe in detail some of the most astounding and outlandish scientific thinking from meetings of the society between 1661 to 1682. There is the very earliest work with microscopes, confirming the first sightings of sperm and micro-organisms. There is correspondence with Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Christopher Wren over the nature of gravity, with the latter's proposal to fire bullets into the air to see where they might drop. And there is a page that lays to rest the bitter controversy over who designed the watch that would eventually lead to the first measurements of longitude.

The discovery was made by chance during a routine evaluation at the house by Bonhams, the auctioneers. The manuscript had been kept in a cupboard for 50 years and was only shown to the valuer as he was leaving. "I thought it must be too good to be true. The first page I saw was headed: 'President Sir Christopher Wren in the chair' and I knew I was looking at the vanished minutes of the Royal Society," said Felix Pryor, manuscript consultant for Bonhams. "Then there were all these names: Wren, Leibniz, Aubrey, Evelyn, Newton. Then I began to recognize the handwriting of Robert Hooke. It was a magical moment."

The delight of scientists and historians has quickly turned to anxiety, however. The manuscript is to be put up for auction in London on March 28 and is expected to sell for more than �1m, prompting Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society to appeal for a "white knight" to buy the papers so they can be returned to the society's archive.

"It is a great pity that the Royal Society cannot itself afford to purchase them so that they could be restored to our collection of documents, from which they were removed at some point during our early history," he said.

Lisa Jardine, professor of renaissance studies at Queen Mary, University of London, and biographer of Hooke, said: "It would be a tragedy if it was to go elsewhere. This is the last bit of the jigsaw for the society's archive, which is otherwise intact from 1660. There are Hooke enthusiasts out there and some are very wealthy and the calamity would be if it were to end up in one of their private collections where the broader community would be unable to study it."
This is a national treasure of England -- the government should buy it and then give it to the Society to hold. They could raise the money by selling a nicely done facsimile copy with commentary. I for one would think nothing of giving Amazon $150 for a copy of such a book. This is the point where the scientific method gained traction and where it all began... A pity that so many have backslid -- Intelligent Design, bad modeling for setting the agenda of Global Warming (hey, we are in a La Ni�a cooling trend and how's the weather on the east cost of the USA these days...)

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on February 13, 2006 7:38 PM.

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