The Making of a Virtuoso

Ted McCormick

in William Petty

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199547890
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720529 | DOI:
The Making of a Virtuoso

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter explores Petty's work with Samuel Hartlib and others in London and his medical and academic career at Oxford and Gresham College. Drawing on extensive material from the Hartlib Papers, it shows Petty as a full participant in the Hartlib Circle's neo‐Baconian program of experimental philosophy, technological and economic improvement, and social reform. Through this activity he developed an empirical, practical and collaborative conception of natural philosophy, modeled on the work of Francis Bacon and marked by a distinct vision of the relationship between art and nature that would crucially inform Petty's later development of political arithmetic. At Oxford, he completed his medical studies and gained fame from his resuscitation of a hanged woman. His academic career, however, was short‐lived, and he left England in 1652 as Physician‐General to the Cromwellian Army in Ireland.

Keywords: Hartlib Circle; experimental philosophy; Francis Bacon; social reform; improvement; medicine; Oxford

Chapter.  19488 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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