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Science and Philosophy

George Edwards was a man of many interests, but, after returning from a series of travels in Europe, he began to devote himself to natural history, particularly the natural history of birds. He, like his contemporaries Eleazar Albin and Mark Catesby, was

A Natural history of uncommon birds and of some other rare and undescribed animals ©

Scientific advances in this period were due less to theoretical discoveries and more to the practical application of those already made.

The single most significant advance was the introduction of inoculation, courageously supported by Queen Caroline, who had her own children inoculated and who won the praise of Voltaire for doing so.

The precision with which Sir Isaac Newton and the Greenwich astronomers could predict the movement of heavenly bodies was a matter of particular pride. Their achievement was celebrated in one of James Thornhill's paintings in the Great Hall at Greenwich which included an eclipse predicted by the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed. In zoology and botany, this was the period during which colonial expansion exposed European scientists to a new world of flora and fauna. Carolus Linnaeus set out the classification system which is the foundation of modern botany.

The Royal Botanical gardens at Kew, established in the mid-eighteenth century, were founded on the botanical work of Princess Augusta, whose fascination for plants had seen the establishment of the gardens. This interest in the natural world was carried into the decorative arts, with the Chelsea porcelain factory producing detailed works decorated with, or formed into, animals and plants.