Scientific report 2014

Scientific report

From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophy


Director of project: Dana Jalobeanu


The main result of 2014 is that we have placed our project on the map of European research in early modern scientific experimentation. We have established scientific connections with other research teams working on Francis Bacon’s natural histories in Oxford, Paris, Lyon and Berlin. During 2014 the members of the project published 8 papers (of which 1 ISI, 5 BDI and 2 chapters). 7 papers were accepted for publication (1 ISI, 1 BDI and 5 chapters). 2 papers are still under review (both ISI). In addition we have 1 forthcoming book (Jalobeanu, 2015). We are still working at 2 volumes of translations (Francis Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum and a reader of early modern cosmology) which are both included in the publication list for 2015 of the University of Bucharest Press. Our project organized or co-organized 6 international panels, colloquia and workshops in Bucharest, Bran, Vienna, and Paris. All in all, members of our project took part in 20 international conferences. We have edited 3 special issues of journals (Societate și Politică andJournal of Early Modern Studies).


Extended report

The project From natural history to science: the emergence of experimental philosophyhad three important objectives for 2014. The first objective was scientific and regarded our attempt to challenge the received view on the origins of experimental philosophy by bringing into the picture a wide array of natural historical investigations. The second objective regarded the dissemination of scientific results. Members of the project took part in conferences and colloquia, organized scientific events, published collective volumes and engaged in various forms of scientific collaboration with colleagues from Europe and the US. The third objective of 2014 was to obtain the first complete draft of a translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum.


  1. Scientific work and results: historical and philosophical revaluations of early modern natural historical investigations.


Our first objective was to work towards producing an increasingly refined picture of the diversity of natural historical approaches in the early and mid-seventeenth-century England and France, in order to show that most current historiographical and conceptual models of the “scientific revolution” fail to take into account the multi-layered impact of natural historical investigations upon the emergence and development of mid-seventeenth-century experimental philosophy (science). This was done by extending our historical and philosophical investigations, which, for the past two years, focused on Francis Bacon and the natural histories of the early seventeenth century in such a way as to include works by Giovan Battista della Porta, John Wilkins, Galileo Galilei, Samuel Hartlib, Gabriel Plattes, Hugh Platt, Jacques Rohault and Isaac Newton. Members of the project have traced the influence and impact of Francis Bacon’s natural historical project upon mid and late seventeenth-century experimental philosophers in both England and France. Some of our investigations focused upon key concepts such as “specialized observations,” and “expert reports,” while others centered upon questions regarding the organization and structure of natural historical projects and the inter-relations between natural history, natural philosophy, and natural magic. In terms of results, Dana Jalobeanu has published an ISI paper on the “Elements of natural history in Sidereus nuncius” (Revue Roumaine de Philosophie 58 (1): 55-77); Oana Matei has documented the emergence of a special kind of Baconian natural historical investigation in mid-seventeenth century England in her ISI article on “Husbandry Tradition and the Emergence of Vegetable Philosophy inside the Hartlib Circle,” (Philosophia. International Journal of Philosophy 16 (2015) (forthcoming)) and in another article, “Technologies of Amelioration: Husbandry, Alchemy and Vegetable Philosophy in the Works of Gabriel Plattes,” currently under evaluation at AMBIX. Dana Jalobeanu and Doina-Cristina Rusu have also worked on the investigation of several case studies regarding the inter-relationship between natural history and natural magic in Francis Bacon, Giovan Battista Della Porta and Hugh Platt. Doina-Cristina Rusu has published a paper on “Abolishing the Borders between Natural History and Natural Magic: Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and the Historia vitae et mortis,” (Societate și Politică 8 (2): 23-42). In parallel with the investigation of such case studies, members of the project were interested in conceptual and historiographical clarifications. Mihnea Dobre has discussed the most recent proposal to define a Baconian natural history in terms of a “Bacon-Boyle-Hooke (BBH)” type of natural historical investigation (Anstey, 2014), and has shown that it applies not only to the English context, but also to French Cartesians (most notably Jacques Rohault). Dobre’s article on this subject is a BDI article entitled “Considerații despre filosofia experimentului în perioada modernă timpurie,” (Revista de filosofie 61 (6): 631-642). Further work by Dobre on this matter has been presented at a number of conferences (see next section) and has been sent for publication (see the list at the end of the report).

An important direction of investigation this year was that regarding Francis Bacon’s reception in mid-seventeenth century France. This particular direction has proved extremely fruitful both in terms of ensuing publications and in terms of initiating international collaborations (see next section). Dana Jalobeanu has published an article on “The French Reception of Francis Bacon’s natural history in mid-seventeenth century,” (in a volume edited by E. Cassan, Bacon et Descartes: Genese de la modernite philosophique, Edition ENS, Lyon 2014). Another article by Jalobeanu investigates the first French translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum and has been accepted to publication in a special issue of Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture (2015). Mihnea Dobre has investigated the
“Experimental Cartesianism,” of the mid-seventeenth century in two articles, one soon to be published in a volume edited by Koen Vermeir and Jonathan Regier, Space, Knots and Bonds: At the Crossroads between Early Modern “Magic” and “Science” (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming 2015) and another one recently submitted for publication in an ISI journal, Early Science and Medicine (“What can a Cartesian philosopher learn from medicine? Francois Bayle on reason and experience”). In the same direction of investigating the impact of Bacon’s natural historical investigations, some members of our projects have inquired into Newton’s Baconianism and the peculiar “mixture” of Baconianism, Cartesianism and Newtonianism characteristic of late seventeenth-century physics. Dana Jalobeanu has published a paper on “Constructing natural historical facts: Baconian natural history in Newton’s first paper on light and colours,” (Zvi Biener, Eric Schliesser, eds., Newton and Empiricism, Oxford: 2014) and Mihnea Dobre has published a paper on “Mixing Cartesianism and Newtonianism: the Reception of Cartesian Physics in England.” (Gianna Gasiampoura ed., Scientific Cosmopolitanism and Local Cultures, Athens: 2014).

In parallel to these attempts to extend the investigations into early modern natural histories, “scientific observations,” and “expert reports,” members of our project have continued their work on Francis Bacon’s natural history, abstract physics and natural magic. Dana Jalobeanu has published a BDI paper on “A natural history of the heavens: Francis Bacon’s Anti-Copernicanism” (W. Neuber, T. Rahn, C. Zittel, The making of Copernicus, Brill: 2014). Also, two papers by Jalobeanu, on “Francis Bacon’s experimental construction of space,” and “The marriage of physics and mathematics: Francis Bacon on measurement, mathematics and the construction of a mathematical physics” were accepted for publication (in a volume edited by Jonathan Regier and Koen Vermeir, Space, Knots and Bonds: At the Crossroads between Early Modern “Magic” and “Science,” (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming); and in a volume edited by G. Gordon, B. Hill, E. Slowick and K. Waters, Language of nature, Minnesota Studies in Philosophy of Science (2015)). Doina-Cristina Rusu’s paper on “Manipulating matter and its appetites: Francis Bacon on natural laws and contingency,” has been accepted for publication (P.D. Omodeo, R. Garau, Contingency and Natural Order in Early Modern Science, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, forthcoming). Another paper by Rusu entitled “Critica autoritatii si folosirea surselor: Francis Bacon despre compilarea istoriilor naturale” will appear shortly in a volume edited by C. Stoenescu, Etica cercetării, Editura Universității din București (2014).

In order to achieve these scientific results, two members of our project, Doina-Cristina Rusu and Oana Matei have spent 3 weeks in London (26 August-13 September), working at the British Library and The Warburg Institute. Their research trip proved beneficial for both their paper-writing activities and for the activity of translating Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum.

  1. Dissemination of scientific results

The second objective for 2014 regarded the dissemination of scientific results achieved so far. This was done through conference participation, organizing international colloquia and workshops, and editing collective volumes with international participation. In addition, we have posted some of our scientific results and several questions regarding our current investigation on the project blog (

Our goal for 2014 was to make our results more visible internationally, as well as to establish forms of international collaborations with historians of science, historians of philosophy and philosophers of science. The main result for the year was the establishment of a collaborative project with the two international teams currently enrolled into large-scale projects of editing Francis Bacon’s natural histories in English (The Oxford Francis Bacon Project) and French. Subsequent results were collaborative projects initiated with Laboratoire SPHERE, Paris 7 and Technical University, Berlin. Thus, Dana Jalobeanu has organized an international panel in the conference Scientiae 2014 (Vienna, 23-25.04.2014): A higher kind of natural magic: Francis Bacon and Giovan Battista Della Porta on “philosophical instruments” and the creative powers of experimentation(Members of the panel: Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Cesare Pastorino (Technical University, Berlin), Koen Vermeir (Laboratoire SPHERE, Paris 7), Sergius Kodera (University of Vienna)). The panel proved to be influential towards an extended collaboration between the University of Bucharest and Universite Paris 7 and Technical University, Berlin. One of the first results of this collaboration is the organization of an international colloquium in Paris, Finding a path through the woods: analyzing Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum (December 12-13, 2014). At this international colloquium, participants from France, England, Germany, Argentina, Canada and Romania will discuss several important aspects of Francis Bacon’s natural historical project (in relation to Bacon’s natural magic) and will put together a book proposal for a collection of papers destined to clarify some key issues of Bacon’s Sylva. A second international colloquium also co-organized by our project will take place in March 2015 in Berlin (at the Technical University).

The members of the project also organized four international events in Romania: a round-table in the Princeton-Bucharest seminar in early modern philosophy (on Naturalism: Cardano, Telesio, Bacon; participants Doina-Cristina Rusu, Mihnea Dobre and Daniel Garber (Princeton)); two international workshops in Bucharest: 1. “Mechanicism, mathematics and experiment: Early modern intersections, January 16-17, having as participants Catherine Goldstein (CNRS, Paris), Sophie Roux (Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris), Charles Wolfe (University of Ghent), Tamas Demeter (Hungarian Academy, Budapest) and Tinca Prunea Bretonnet (New Europe College, Bucharest) and 2. “Histories and philosophy of scientific experimentation,” 27 November 2014, with John Henry (University of Edinburgh), Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Cesare Pastorino (Technical University, Berlin), Cornelis Schilt (University of Sussex), and the yearly Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (Invited speakers: John Henry (University of Edinburgh), Arianna Borrelli (Technical University, Berlin), Doina-Cristina Rusu). It is worth noting that the workshop on the Histories and Philosophy of Scientific experimentation was co-organized with New Europe College (more precisely, through a collaboration between our grant and an ERC Starting Grant managed by New Europe College). In the same direction of collaborating with other scientific projects developed in Romania, we have organized two research seminars at the newly founded Research Institute of the University of Bucharest (SSU-ICUB), within the series Archives in the Digital Age: Re-shaping the Humanities. The first was called “Reshaping the Humanities” and brought together papers on Bacon’s manuscripts by Dana Jalobeanu and Angus Vine (University of Stirling), on the Hartlib circle by Oana Matei, and on Henry Oldenburg’s letters by Iordan Avramov (The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences & New Europe College). The second seminar was entitled “Manuscrisul 2001 de la Biblioteca Mazarina. Un exercitiu de istorie intelectuala in jurul scrisorilor lui Descartes despre Euharistie” and was organized jointly with the team of the Cartesian framework project (directed by Vlad Alexandrescu, PN-II-ID-PCE-2011-3-0998). Participants at this seminar were Mihnea Dobre, Vlad Alexandrescu and Grigore Vida. These events at SSU-ICUB also helped our team disseminate its research results and network with Romanian researchers from other fields (notably history and theology).

In addition to organizing panels and international colloquia, the members of our project took part in the important conferences of the profession, Scientiae 2014 (Mihnea Dobre, Dana Jalobeanu), HOPOS 2014 (Mihnea Dobre, Doina-Cristina Rusu, Dana Jalobeanu). Furthermore, Dana Jalobeanu gave an invited talk at the conference All in pieces? New Insights into Newton’s Thought (The Huntington Library, Los Angeles, 10-11 October 2014) and Doina-Cristina Rusu gave an invited talk at the Hungarian Academy of Science, Budapest. Claudia Dumitru’s papers were also selected at three international conferences: the Dutch Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (Groningen, 29-30 January 2014), Bucharest-Princeton Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy (8-13 July 2014, Bran), and the Bucharest Graduate Conference in Early Modern Philosophy (28-29 November 2014).

Important and significant contributions to the objective of disseminating scientific results and making the project more visible are the collective volumes and the special editions we have published. Doina-Cristina Rusu has edited a special issue on Experimental Practices and Philosophical Traditions: Organizing and Disseminating Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Societate si Politica 8 (2) (2014) and Claudia Dumitru has edited a special issue entitled The Quest for Certainty at the Crossroads of Science, Religion, and Philosophy in the Early Modern Period, Societate si Politica 8 (1) (2014). Dana Jalobeanu has co-edited with Cesare Pastorino a special edition of the Journal of Early Modern Studies (Dana Jalobeanu, Cesare Pastorino, Instruments and arts of inquiry: natural history, natural magic and the production of knowledge in early modern Europe, special issue of the Journal of Early Modern Studies April 2014). All these three special issue feature peer-reviewed papers of authors coming from various research universities from the US and Europe.


  1. The translation project


The third major objective for 2014 was to finish the first draft of a complete translation of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum. This was a major undertaking, and the resulting manuscript represents more than 500 pages of text, footnotes and commentaries. All members of the project were involved in the translation project and they have contributed not only with translation but also to the extensive glossary and commentary. In the process of translation we have collaborated with the English team (coordinated by Kathryn Murphy, University of Oxford) and the French team (coordinated by Claire Crignon, CNRS Lyon). We plan to use year 2015 to discuss and correct the manuscript and to submit it for publication.

A second project of translation was developed throughout 2014, namely the attempt to put together a reader on early modern cosmology, containing texts by Francis Bacon, Rene Descartes, Galileo Galilei, John Wilkins, Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton and Berkeley. Texts were translated from English, Latin and French. This project also involved graduate students who, in this way, became natural collaborators of our team.

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