Robertson, Haileigh (2019) A gunpowder controversy in the early Royal Society, 1667–70. Notes and Records: the Royal Society Journal of the History of Science. ISSN 1743-0178

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Abstract

In 1667, ‘The History of Saltpetre and Gunpowder’ by Thomas Henshaw was published in Thomas Sprat's The History of the Royal Society. Three years later, Henshaw's work was subject to a scathing review by the notorious anti-Royal Society pamphleteer, Henry Stubbe. I argue that, for Stubbe, Henshaw was not merely a passive representative of the Royal Society through which he could direct his ire, but gunpowder, the subject of Henshaw's research, was important. Both Henshaw and Stubbe employed gunpowder deliberately and strategically. In this article I explore the reasons behind the Royal Society deciding to publish a ‘Baconian history’ of gunpowder. First I argue that the high status of gunpowder was used as a justification for experimental pursuits, and it provided a direct connection to the Society's forebear Francis Bacon. But Stubbe, who was already a critic of the Royal Society, happened to have knowledge that made him uniquely placed to write animadversions against Henshaw's paper. Secondly, gunpowder can shed light on the Baconian histories and the challenges faced by Baconian scholars in putting this project into practice.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: gunpowder; saltpetre; Francis Bacon Royal Society; Baconianism
Subjects: A General Works > AS Academies and learned societies (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Q Science > Q Science (General)
T Technology > TP Chemical technology
Theme: Collections & collecting
Department: Science and Technology
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ross Anderson
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2019 12:18
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2019 12:18
URI: http://repository.nms.ac.uk/id/eprint/2184

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