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Devilstower in Daily Kos has a modest proposal about blogging in the 18th century

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Image via Wikipedia

Here’s an excerpt:

However, the picture you get from reading Johnson’s book is not one of Joseph Priestley, super scientist.  Instead, the Priestley that Johnson describes in this book is a compulsive, unstoppable communicator.

He was the author of what was probably the first popular book on science. Not the first science book, there had been many of those, but the first popular science book. What’s the difference? As an example, Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica had been out for several decades before Priestley began writing, but as the title suggests, Newton chose to write his book in Latin, not English, and crafted a text both intentionally dense and painfully difficult. Despite the revolutionary wealth of information in Newton’s book, only the most advanced scholars could pry lose its secrets. Priestley broke with this scholarly tradition and wrote his works in English, being careful to explain enough background to address a general audience. Rather than go through the elaborate mental gymnastics that Newton presented, Priestley laid his work bare on the page.

Priestley advocated the same choice as a school instructor, setting aside the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew that had constituted the bulk of most curricula in favor of English, math, science, and more recent history.

These choices didn’t seem to be made with any intent on increasing his personal fame. In fact, Priestley made little from his discoveries and was quick to share with others who turned his ideas into commercial ventures. He was as content to talk about the discoveries that others had made as he was to put forward ideas of his own. He was a man who reveled in the openness of the science community of the Enlightenment, and the way in which ideas were readily passed from hand to hand. If he were alive today, I have little doubt he’d be writing at one of the science blogs, eager to relay the latest news.

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