Article ID: CBB004207475

`Ancient Episteme' and the Nature of Fossils: A Correction of a Modern Scholarly Error (2016)


Beginning the nineteenth-century and continuing down to the present, many authors writing on the history of geology and paleontology have attributed the theory that fossils were inorganic formations produced within the earth, rather than by the deposition of living organisms, to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Some have even gone so far as to claim this was the consensus view in the classical period up through the Middle Ages. In fact, such a notion was entirely foreign to ancient and medieval thought and only appeared within the manifold of ‘Renaissance episteme,’ the characteristics of which have often been projected backwards by some historians onto earlier periods. This paper endeavors to correct this error, explain the development of the Renaissance view, describe certain ancient precedents thereof, and trace the history of the misinterpretation in the literature.

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Authors & Contributors
Branagan, David F.
Freeman, Michael J.
Newell, Julie R.
Lindsay, Debra J.
Morello, Nicoletta
Adelman, Juliana
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
História, Ciências, Saúde---Manguinhos
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
William and Mary Quarterly
Yale University Press
Éditions du Seuil
Columbia University Press
Geological Society of America
Montana State University
Earth sciences
Natural history
Steno, Nicolaus
Troost, Gerard
Dawson, John William
Logan, William Edmond
Descartes, René
Maillet, Benoît de
United States
Great Britain
Boston (Massachusetts, U.S.)
New York (U.S.)
Massachusetts (U.S.)
19th century
20th century
17th century
18th century
20th century, early
Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin
Università di Pavia
Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)

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