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People and their collections

Robert Plot 1640-96 - scientist & antiquary

The Natural History of Oxford-shire (1677)

Dr. Plot's first great published work was inspired by Pliny the Elder (AD23-79) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626). For Plot's predecessors of the Renaissance, ancient ruins and antiquities had formed the core of their studies, with incidental reference to landscapes, roads and industries. In The Natural History of Oxford-shire (sub-titled 'being an essay toward the Natural History of England') the emphasis was reversed. It aimed to describe 'all curiosities of both art and nature'; antiquities were of marginal interest.

The Natural History of Oxford-shire was divided into ten chapters:
'I - Of the Heavens and Air; II - Of the Waters; III - Of the Earths; IV - Of Stones; V - Of Formed Stones; VI - Of Plants; VII - Of Brutes; VIII - Of Men and Women; IX - Of Arts; X - Of Antiquities'.The last chapter had not been planned. It was a late addition because Plot encountered so many antiquities in the course of his travels. Their inclusion was justified in a natural history because the artefacts were made out of natural things. 

Dr Plot was the first person in the modern world to describe a dinosaur bone, although he thought it was a giant human or elephant (Plot 1677 p142). The term 'dinosaur' ('terrible lizard') was not used until 1841. The bone he described was that of a Megalosaur.

The Natural History of Stafford-shire was published in May 1677 and was well-received. In December 1677 Plot was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. The membership payments were waived because he had promised to donate to the Society the natural curiosities discovered during his survey of England.

First modern description of a dinosaur bone - drawing

First modern description of a dinosaur bone - drawing
from plate in The Natural History of Oxford-shire (1677)

His published work Robert Plot: case study The Natural History Of Stafford-shire (1686) 
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