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Pleasures and perils of family-based natural history in early modern Europe

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  • UserAlix Cooper (SUNY-Stony Brook)
  • ClockMonday 30 May 2022, 13:00-14:00
  • HouseZoom.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Olin Moctezuma.

Among the many settings in which the activities of natural history were practiced in early modern Europe and its colonies, the home is one which has been receiving increasing attention. This talk, part of a larger project, will explore some of the ways in which interactions between family members helped to shape the pursuit of natural history in domestic spaces and beyond. In particular, the talk will examine the complications that natural-historical interests seem to have sometimes created for family members like siblings. While a son (or, under some circumstances, a daughter) might go on to ‘follow in the footsteps’ of a father (or, under some circumstances, a mother, or other family member), siblings sharing a passion for plants or other natural objects might, if they both wanted to pursue natural history as a career, find themselves competing for scarce positions in this not-always-well-financially-rewarded field. The talk will explore the cases of some of the Scheuchzer and Baier siblings (in early modern Switzerland and Germany respectively), contrasting their situation with those of other naturally-inclined brothers and sisters elsewhere. As the talk will aim to show, doing natural history in the family context sometimes created challenges of its own.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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