“She erected schools, and founded several societies”: Reimagining Margaret Cavendish’s Visit to The Royal Society
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In academic discourse, Margaret Cavendish’s attendance at a meeting of the Royal Society on May 30, 1667 is often cited as proof that she was deeply hostile towards early scientific experimentalism. While some scholars have noted the disdain with which the Society supposedly viewed Cavendish, others have pointed to various passages in her published writing as evidence of this conflict. In this paper I examine the sources that these arguments are built upon, arguing that the first-hand accounts of the visit found in Samuel Pepys’ Diary and Thomas Birch’s The History of the Royal Society are problematic as accurate historical records of the event. Further, I demonstrate that excerpts from Cavendish’s The Blazing World which deal with scientific experimentalism are more nuanced than previous commentators have proposed. This approach challenges the narrative surrounding her visit and suggests that the relationship between Cavendish and the Royal Society was characterised more by mutual respect than has previously been acknowledged.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
Copyright DateAugust 2020