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PDF The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy during the Scientific Revolution

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Author Sarasohn, Lisa T. Content Types text Carrier Types volume online resource Physical Description 1 online resource p. Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish. Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, ? Feminism and science. Science -- Philosophy. Feminism and science -- England -- History -- 17th century. Science -- Philosophy -- History -- 17th century. Contents Gender, nature, and natural philosophy A wonderful natural philosopher Cavendish's early atomism The life of matter The imaginative universe of natures pictures The politics of matter The challenge of immaterial matter Cavendish against the experimenters Material regenerations Does Cavendish matter?

Other worlds and other selves : the imaginative world of natures pictures The matter with immaterial matter Conclusion : does Cavendish matter? Notes Description based upon print version of record. Includes bibliographical references and index.

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Because of these errors, Cavendish chose to express her early scientific writings, as she says, in Verse. Grant also offers a brief but thorough examination of Cavendish's theory of poetry. He finds five earlier poets mentioned by name in her works: Ovid, Shakespeare, Jonson, Donne, and Davenant; he assumes "that she had also read Spenser, Daniel, and Drayton" Grant also quotes from Sociable Letters, where Cavendish describes poets and philosophers as being one and the same, the wisest of men, "having so deep an insight as to pierce even into the secrets of nature" and the happiest, "having all the delights of the mind" Sociable Letters qtd.

This rapturous art seems far from the realm of "fancy" suitable for women writers Cavendish describes at the beginning of Poems, and Fancies. Perhaps her definition of poetry has changed,or perhaps she felt that strongly about the powers of poetry from the beginning.

Cavendish () – Project Vox

Cavendish returned to Antwerp before the publication of Poems,and Fancies, her reason being that could no longer bear to be apart from Newcastle. Perhaps she felt apprehensive about the book's reception. Poems, and Fancies did cause a sensation.

Dorothy Osborne, who disliked Cavendish because of her somewhat eccentric behavior and dress, wrote to William Temple on April 14th, "And first let me ask you if you have seen a book of Poems newly come out, made by Lady Newcastle. Sir Charles died in , and his death brought some financial relief to Newcastle and Cavendish. Both indulged in publishing "lavish" editions of their work. Newcastle found his influence at court greatly reduced; Charles II preferring to surround himself with younger, less morally restrained courtiers.

Although Newcastle was deeply hurt by his exclusion from court matters, he made the best of the situation. He petitioned to have his estates restored, and having succeeded, retired to the country with Margaret. Immersed in their writing, their estate, and their happy marriage, they seldom left the country from that time forward.

There is one further incident in the life of Cavendish which deserves description, particularly since she is possibly more famous as the first woman to visit the Royal Society than she is as a writer. Newcastle and Cavendish took an extended trip to London in the spring of , and Cavendish asked the Royal Society if she might be allowed to visit Mendelson The Royal Society had been formed in as a Baconian institution and a forum for experiments and essays to be shared by its members.

The Society was, of course, all male, but after much debate, they invited the now-Duchess of Newcastle to their May 23rd meeting. Cavendish's many volumes on natural science were not seen as a reason to invite her; in fact, Mendelson suggests that she was invited in spite of her writing Her rank, and the fact that Newcastle had many influential friends in the Society, assured her invitation.

Her dress was embellished by a train so long that six maids had to carry it in Mendelson Samuel Pepys, who had been racing around London for several days trying to catch a glimpse of the famous recluse, was disappointed by her appearance, and the fact that she said nothing except to express her admiration The experiments which the Society had arranged for that day included the weighing of air, the dissolution of mutton in sulfuric acid, the demonstration of the power of a sixty-pound magnet, Robert Boyle illustrating his theory of colors, and Robert Hooke demonstrating his microscope Mendelson Three hundred years would pass before the Royal Society invited another woman to visit one of their meetings.

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The year before, in the preface to Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy , Margaret had asserted that Hooke's microscopic investigations set forth in his Micrographia were the product of delusions. But the testimony of her own eyes proved that her methodology of "rational conjecture" was mistaken. Margaret made her last attempt at a comprehensive synthesis of her theories in Grounds of Natural Philosophy , a much revised version of Philosophical and Physical Opinions But after her visit to the Royal Society Margaret's succeeding scientific publications were second or third editions, not original works: she printed no new revelations on natural philosophy Mendelson does admit, eleven pages later, that Cavendish's chief occupation during the last years of her life was the management of her husband's estate, rather than science Cavendish suffered from amenorrhea and melancholy, and despite her doctor's advice to the contrary, she bled herself regularly as treatment for these two conditions.

This habit of bleeding might have hastened her death, and would have weakened her considerably in her later years. Regardless, Cavendish died in December of , at age fifty. Newcastle outlived her by three years. In order to fully understand Cavendish's atomic poems, one must understand the state of science in the seventeenth century. Reading the poems in the light of twentieth century science renders them ridiculous, and supports the idea that Cavendish was mentally unstable.

A brief overview of the science of the times, however, allows a more contemporary reading of Cavendish.

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The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy During the Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution was a revolution in both thought and methodology. European science in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had been heavily involved in alchemy, astrology, and magic. What da Vinci did have was a brilliant scientific imagination and instinct, and the patience to observe the world around him very carefully.

One legacy he bequeathed to later science was the method of scientific illustration Gardner He left behind notebooks filled with sketches and conjectures on every subject: hydraulics, aerodynamics, anatomy, medicine, optics, meterology, architecture, sculpture, perspective, light, color, mechanics, botany, geology, zoology, and military engineering. In terms of the history of art, his application of mathematics and geometry to painting resulted in innovations in linear perspective and aerial perspective.

He also reintroduced and refined the fifteenth century technique of chiaroscuro, the play of light and shadow Gardner One other lasting legacy da Vinci left to modern science was the idea of the centrality of motion. After having read Galen, da Vinci became obsessed with the idea of motion -- almost all of his sixteenth century drawings portray objects or humans in motion. Although today we may think of da Vinci primarily as a painter, he is very important to the understanding of Margaret Cavendish, and the Scientific Revolution.

He dabbled in all areas of intellectual interest and allowed his knowledge of one field to influence another his observations of optics and light are applied to painting, for example ; and, his vivid imagination allowed him to dissolve the boundaries between disciplines and encouraged him to range freely through all the areas of life in which he felt interest.

Paracelsus, a sixteenth-century Swiss alchemist, is another figure from the Renaissance who crossed boundaries; in his case, the boundary between chemistry and medicine. Until Paracelsus, chemistry was an occult science, used mainly in the alchemists' search for the Philosopher's Stone, the element so much purer than gold that it could raise any other substance to the perfection of gold.

Paracelsus believed "in the existence of one undiscovered element common to all, of which the four elements of the ancients were merely derivative forms. This prime element of creation Paracelsus termed alkahest, and he maintained that if it were found, it would prove to be the philosopher's stone, the universal medicine, and the irresistible solvent" Encarta.


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In his search for alkahest, Paracelsus combined alchemy, medicine, astrology, philosophy, and chemistry. His mystical philosophy was written in the vernacular, and so became very popular. Paracelsus connected the known planets to known minerals to known human organs, creating definitive correlations between the celestrial and terrestrial spheres. His only important contribution to modern medicine was the combination of mineralology and medicine, but again, by looking at Paracelsus, one sees that science had no defined boundaries in this time period, and imagination was an accepted part of the scientist's method.


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  • The Natural Philosophy of Margaret Cavendish: Reason and Fancy during the Scientific Revolution.

This idea of change leads into Carolyn Merchant's discussion of the shifting of the metaphors of science in the seventeenth century. Merchant begins her discussion just prior to the Scientific Revolution: "for sixteenth-century Europeans the root metaphor binding together the self, society, and the cosmos was that of an organism. Humans looked on their world as a system, which they usually personified into a nurturing female, i.

Mother Earth and Mother Nature. As technology changed, however, so did language:. The metaphor of the earth as a nurturing mother was gradually to vanish as a dominant image as the Scientific Revolution proceeded to mechanize and to rationalize the world view.