Sprat, Thomas


Sprat, Thomas



Sprat, Thomas. The history of the Royal Society of London for the improving of natural knowledge, 1667

Full text

Subjects: Royal society

Notes: First edition

Language: English

Format: Books

Summary: Thomas Sprat (1635-1713) was bishop of Rochester, Dean of Westminster, and a leading Tory and High-Churchman. He was also wit and man of letters with an interest in natural science, and (in addition to being a member himself) was also friends with many of the founding members of the Royal Society, including Christopher Wren and Ralph Bathurst. He was thus well-placed to write the early history of the oldest scientific society in the British Isles and one of the oldest in Europe-therein especially defending the Society against the attacks of those philosophers who questioned the value of experimental science. The work is divided into three parts. The first section is a historical overview of natural philosophy that Spratt orders under three main schools: the scholastics or Aristotelians, those who renounced the authority of Aristotle and the 'Modern Experimenters'. The second group he criticized on the grounds that it is not enough, that the Tyrant is changed: but the Tyranny itself must be wholly taken away. This, in his view, was the function of the Royal Society, inspired by the works of Francis Bacon, and the second part of the book is devoted to outlining the Society's aims and methods. This includes a list of the scientific instruments invented by its members (pp.246-51) and some examples of their writings on diverse subjects, including the making of dye and the study of oysters. Whereas this second part was intended to counter the charges of those who saw the Society's output as too limited, the third part addressed the concerns of those who thought that its work undermined the fabric of society: Spratt argues that the experimental method 'cannot injure the Virtue, or Wisdom of Men’s Minds.

Publication Date



Printed by T.R. for J. Martyn and J. Allestry




Royal Society, Great Britain, Rare Book Collection

Sprat, Thomas