Monday, May 24, 2010

William Whewell...scientific "wordsmith"

William Whewell
May 24th, 1794 to March 6th, 1866

The old words like "natural philosopher" are OUT and new words like "scientist" and "physicist" are IN as well as "anode, cathode, diamagnetic, paramagnetic, and ion".

Bill Ashworth wrote in the Linda Hall Library Newsletter...

William Whewell, an English philosopher of science, was born May 24, 1794. Whewell (pronounced Hughell) taught at the University of Cambridge when Darwin was there, and Darwin mentioned several instances in his autobiography when he walked home with Whewell, and Darwin complimented him on being the second-best converser he ever listened to, but Whewell did not play nearly so strong a role in Darwin's education as John Herschel and John Henslow. Shortly after Darwin returned from the Beagle voyage, Whewell published A History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and then, three years later, The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840); both were of great importance in the revival of Baconian science in Victorian England, and we have all five volumes of the two works in the History of Science Collection (the Philosophy in a 2nd edition, 1847). One intriguing facet of Whewell's career was his uncanny skill at coining new words to fill lexicographic voids. For example, Galileo Galilei, properly speaking, was not a scientist, because the word "scientist" did not exist in Galileo's time; Whewell first proposed it as a useful label in 1837. Nor could you have called Newton a physicist, or at least not until Whewell coined that word in 1840. We hear in our history of geology courses about the catastrophist theories of Abraham Werner and the uniformitarian theories of James Hutton, but Werner and Hutton would not have recognized the terminology--both “catastrophist” and “uniformitarian” were words first used by Whewell in 1837. Even the term 'Nebular Hypothesis," to describe the idea that stars and planets are born from vast nebular clouds of gas and dust--an idea proposed in 1755 and 1796 by Kant and LaPlace--even that term was invented by Whewell. He was perhaps the most successful wordsmith that science has ever seen.

William Whewell [Wikipedia]

Defining Science: William Whewell, Natural Knowledge and Public Debate in Early Victorian Britain

The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History


The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, Founded Upon Their History

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