Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750

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Zone Books, 1998 - Science - 511 pages
5 Reviews
"Historians of science Daston and Park's sweeping investigation into the place of wonder and wonders in natural philosophy and history--from the High Middle Ages to the Enlightenment--is dense with erudition and pleasingly light on its scholarly feet."
-- "Kirkus Review" "This book is about setting the limits of the natural and the limits of the known, wonders and wonder, from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment. A history of wonders as objects of natural inquiry is simultaneously an intellectual history of the orders of nature. A history of wonder as a passion of natural inquiry is simultaneously a history of the evolving collective sensibility of naturalists. Pursued in tandem, these interwoven histories show how the two sides of knowledge, objective order and subjective sensibility, were obverse and reverse of the same coin rather than opposed to one another."
-- From the Introduction

"Wonders and the Order of Nature" is about the ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world. Monsters, gems that shone in the dark, petrifying springs, celestial apparitions--these were the marvels that adorned romances, puzzled philosophers, lured collectors, and frightened the devout. Drawing on the histories of art, science, philosophy, and literature, Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park explore and explain how wonder and wonders fortified princely power, rewove the texture of scientific experience, and shaped the sensibility of intellectuals. This is a history of the passions of inquiry, of how wonder sometimesinflamed, sometimes dampened curiosity about nature's best-kept secrets. Refracted through the prism of wonders, the order of nature splinters into a spectrum of orders, a tour of possible worlds.

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Review: Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750

User Review  - Allison DeVito - Goodreads

Read this for a class, but really enjoyed the examples and the complex philosophy of wonder and curiosity. Read full review

Review: Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750

User Review  - Ben Michael - Goodreads

Interested in freaks and wonders, but also want to know how they got that way in the first place? Think about how huge the world was, when ostrich eggs and alligators inspired maps that contained ... Read full review


The Topography of Wonder
The Properties of Things

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About the author (1998)

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. She is the coauthor of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750 and the editor of Things That Talk: Object Lessons from Art and Science (both Zone Books).

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