Knowledge exchange in the Seventeenth Century: from the Third University to the Royal Society

Maley, W. (2022) Knowledge exchange in the Seventeenth Century: from the Third University to the Royal Society. In: Sangster, M. and Mee, J. (eds.) Institutions of Literature, 1700-1900: The Development of Literary Culture and Production. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, pp. 24-43. ISBN 9781108830201

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Taking as its starting point a little-known text by George Buck entitled The Third Universitie, published in 1615, and as its endpoint the early years of the Royal Society, this chapter explores seventeenth-century knowledge exchange, research networks and innovation. What began as a challenge to Oxbridge ended in an outward-facing institutional sphere that drew its inspiration, founding figures and key personal from the archipelagic, imperial and colonial contexts within which its pioneering interests were developed. The origins of the first Royal Society lie in a range of institutions identified by Buck, including Gresham College, and in later developments such as the Invisible College and the Hartlib Circle, and in the idea for an Office of Address. The relatively late establishment of the Dublin Philosophical Society by William Molyneux in 1683 conceals the extent of the Royal Society’s Irish roots. “Avant-gardeners”, agricultural materialists, and bog-drainers active in Ireland and America from the 1580s to the 1660s were hard-wired into emerging networks of experts working across collaborative communities of scholar-practitioners. The advancement of knowledge was intimately intertwined in this period with political intelligence and economic exploitation. There was no new medicine without frontiers, no new husbandry without fresh fields to plant. And there was no knowledge exchange without satire. Long before Swift’s Modest Proposal, and two years before Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society, John Wilson’s comedy drama The Projectors (1665) satirized the scholar-speculator type. Daniel Defoe’s An Essay Upon Projects (1697) likewise takes skeptical literary aim at innovators with an eye to a quick profit.

Item Type:Book Sections
Keywords:Seventeenth Century, Royal Society, knowledge exchange, research networks, public engagement.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Maley, Professor Willy
Authors: Maley, W.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
Copyright Holders:Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2022
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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