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Science in the Scottish Enlightenment

Introduction

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Inspired by the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century, the intellectuals of eighteenth-century Europe launched a dazzling programme for the extension of knowledge and for the promotion of human welfare. Their programme has become known as the ‘Enlightenment’ and their age is often called the ‘Age of Enlightenment’.

This unit is concerned with science in Scotland, one of the most dynamic centres of Enlightenment thinking. Writers speak of the mid-eighteenth century as Scotland's ‘Golden Age’. In order to get the flavour of this age, it is necessary to take a very broad view of what we mean by ‘science’. If we stay within the boundaries recognised by modern science faculties, we will miss most of what is distinctive about eighteenth-century Scotland. The interconnections and cross-fertilisation between disciplines that we now regard as having little to do with each other is one of the remarkable features of the Scottish scene. Geologists associated with historians, economists with chemists, philosophers with surgeons, lawyers with farmers, church ministers with architects.

This material is from our archive and is an adapted extract from The Rise of Scientific Europe, 1500-1800 (AS208) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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