Article ID: CBB001553286

Bears in Eden, or, This Is Not the Garden You're Looking for: Margaret Cavendish, Robert Hooke and the Limits of Natural Philosophy (2015)


This paper investigates Margaret Cavendish's characterization of experimental philosophers as hybrids of bears and men in her 1666 story The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World. By associating experimental philosophers, in particular Robert Hooke and his microscope, with animals familiar to her readers from the sport of bear-baiting, Cavendish constructed an identity for the fellows of the Royal Society of London quite unlike that which they imagined for themselves. Recent scholarship has illustrated well how Cavendish's opposition to experimental philosophy is linked to her different natural-philosophical, political and anthropological ideas. My contribution to this literature is to examine the meanings both of bears in early modern England and of microscopes in experimental rhetoric, in order to illustrate the connection that Cavendish implies between the two. She parodied Hooke's idea that his microscope extended his limited human senses, and mocked his aim that by so doing he could produce useful knowledge. The bear-men reflect inhuman ambition and provide a caution against ignoring both the order of English society and the place of humans in nature.

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Authors & Contributors
Battigelli, Anna
Sacco, Francesco Giuseppe
John Gribbin
Yeo, Richard R.
Wragge-Morley, Alexander
Wilkins, Emma
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
History of Science
Seventeenth Century
Perspectives on Science
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
1650--1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era
University of Chicago Press
University of Wisconsin at Madison
Yale University Press
University Press of Kentucky
Natural philosophy
Science and art
Visual representation; visual communication
Mechanism; mechanical philosophy
Hooke, Robert
Cavendish, Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle
Boyle, Robert
Wren, Christopher
Merton, Robert K.
Willughby, Francis
Time Periods
17th century
18th century
Early modern
Great Britain
London (England)
British Isles
Royal Society of London
Royal Observatory Greenwich

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