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The History of Science and Encyclopedism

When it comes to the history of science, Aristotle (384 - 322 BCE) was one of the most influential thinkers of the Greco-Roman world.

Aristotle and his pupil Alexander

Aristotle was a student of Plato and the mentor of Alexander the Great. His writings in the fields of biology, physics, and cosmology consist of a philosophical outlook coupled with scientific discussion. While he believed scientific knowledge was acquired by observation and analysis, Aristotle’s philosophical method provided a systemic basis to generalize underlying rules or principles.

Natural History, written in the first century, was the first book to be called an encyclopedia - mid-12th century manuscript from the Abbaye de Saint Vincent, Le Mans, France

Aristotle’s framework would later dominate discussions in the study of nature. Partly derived from Aristotle’s logic, Natural History by Pliny the Elder, a Roman author and military commander who lived until 79 AD, served as the Western world’s primary source of scientific information and theory. Although Pliny did not distinguish between fact, opinion, and speculation in his 37-volume treatise, he can be credited with the creation of the first scientific encyclopedia.

Works cited:

Shields, Christopher. “Aristotle (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).”, 2015,

Humphreys, Justin. “Aristotle | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2018,

“Modeling the Sources and the Topics of Pliny’s Natural History.” Linda Hall Library,


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