Although natural philosophy underwent dramatic transformations during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, studying its evolution as a whole remains problematic. In this paper, we present a method that integrates traditional reading and computational tools in order to distil from different resources (the four existing Dictionaries of early modern philosophers and WorldCat) a representative corpus (consisting of 2,535 titles published in Latin, French, English, and German) for mapping the evolution of natural philosophy. In particular, we focus on gathering authors and works that were (directly or indirectly) engaged with the teaching of natural philosophy in the early modern academic milieu. We offer a preliminary assessment of the relevance of our corpus by investigating one aspect of this evolution, namely the trends in the acknowledgments of authorities linked with different and competing approaches to natural philosophy (scholastic, Cartesian, and Newtonian). The results not only corroborate existing knowledge, but they also show distinctive features and differences within these trends that were not observed previously, thus illustrating the heuristic potential of our computational method for corpus collection.
- early modern natural philosophy
- digital humanities