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Lister's Early Contributions To Natural History, 1666–1668: The Influence Of John Ray

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Chapter Summary

After he returned to Cambridge, he also accomplished his first systematic observations of the behavior of arachnids and molluscs and developed his own views on controversial topics such as the spontaneous generation of insects. These endeavors were accompanied by an extraordinarily productive exchange of letters with his mentor John Ray. In these letters we see the discussions that resulted in Lister's first publications in the Philosophical Transactions. Lister was not only interested in grasses, but was also observing insects and spiders. This is not as abrupt a change of focus, as all branches of natural history were interconnected in the early modern period. Lister's letter also well demonstrates that the encyclopedic means of gathering previous knowledge in natural history was changing with a new emphasis on direct observation. Despite his enthusiasm for natural history, Lister was contemplating resigning his fellowship to pursue a more lucrative profession in medicine.

Keywords: Cambridge; encyclopedic; insects; John Ray; Martin Lister; medicine; natural history; Philosophical Transactions; spontaneous generation

10.1163/ej.9789004207035.i-478.16
/content/books/10.1163/ej.9789004207035.i-478.16
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    Web of Nature: Martin Lister (1639-1712), the First Arachnologist — Recommend this title to your library
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