Mapping the evolution of early modern natural philosophy: corpus collection and authority acknowledgement

Andrea Sangiacomo*, Raluca Tanasescu, Silvia Donker, Hugo Dirk Hogenbirk

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-39
Number of pages39
JournalAnnals of Science
Issue number1
Early online date15-Nov-2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2022


  • early modern natural philosophy
  • digital humanities

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