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People and their collections

Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

His life and times (themes in learned society)

Robert Plot lived during turbulent and exciting times. There were developments in all aspects of science, fuelled by the development of western philosophy, epitomised by the writings of Francis Bacon (1551-1626).  

The 'New Science' followed Bacon's main tenet that one could and should learn the secrets of nature by organized observations of its regularities.

This was a time before narrow specialisation in a particular aspect of philosophy, science or mathematics. Science was an all-embracing enquiry. Some of Plot's contemporaries also pursued their interests in anitiquities, alchemy, astrology, freemasonry and Rosicrucianism.

In a minor work, Gesta Grayorum (1594), Bacon recommends four means to further learning in philosophy: a library; a botanical and zoological garden; a philosophical cabinet of natural and man-made objects; and 'a still-house, so furnished with mills, instruments, furnaces and vessels as may be a palace fit for a philosopher's stone.'

The Oxford of 1683, with The Bodleian library, The University Botanic Garden, and the founding of The Ashmolean Museum, was to be the place where this vision was first realised.

The Old Ashmolean Museum

The Old Ashmolean Museum

Plot and pottery   Plot: case study His contemporaries
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last updated: jcm/16-dec-2005