Science and Superstition in the Eighteenth Century: A Study of the Treatment of Science in Two Encyclopedias of 1725-1750: Chambers' Cyclopedia, London (1728); Zedler's Universal Lexicon, Leipzig (1732-1750)

By Philip Shorr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION

SHORTLY after the Peace of Nimwegen ( 1678), Leibnitz addressed two memorials to Louis XIV; one concerning a plan for the invention of a universal language, the other relating to "Precepts for the advancement of the sciences."1 In this latter memorial Leibnitz expressed the fear that false views in science and the strife of different opinions might bring about the return of the dark ages of ignorance. Therefore he proposed to the Grand Monarch "to extract the quintessence of the best books, to add to them the unwritten observations of the most tried in every profession, and in this manner to build systems of knowledge, based upon experience and demonstration for the further progress of mankind."2 Realizing the importance of the century in which he lived, he was eager to take stock of all the science that had been amassed. "What century", he asked, "was better fitted [for such a task] than ours, which will be designated in the future as a century of inventions and marvels?"2a

The interesting point in this memorial is that in the suggested project can be seen the first proposal in modern times to compile an encyclopedia of science. Encyclopedias of knowledge were not scarce in western Europe. Throughout the middle ages summations of knowledge were published. And in early modern times these medieval efforts were con-

____________________
1
Guhrauer, G. E., G. W. von Leibnitz--eine Biographie ( Breslau, 1842), pp. 336-337.
2
Ibid., p. 337.
2a
Ibid., p. 338.

-7-

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Science and Superstition in the Eighteenth Century: A Study of the Treatment of Science in Two Encyclopedias of 1725-1750: Chambers' Cyclopedia, London (1728); Zedler's Universal Lexicon, Leipzig (1732-1750)
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Table of Contents 5
  • Chapter I- Introduction 7
  • Chapter II- Chambers'' Cyclopedia and the History of Science 12
  • Chapter III- Zedler''s Grosses Vollständiges Universal Lexicon and the History of Science 35
  • Chapter IV- Conclusion 74
  • Bibliography 78
  • Index 81
  • Vita 83
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