We started watching an interesting youtube video by Philip Ball on history of science, where he showed the trend in use of the word ‘curiosity’ to discuss how the scientific culture of Anglo-Saxon countries began in the mid-16th century.
That got us curious about what happened since then, and the results are quite astounding. In the following charts, we present google ngrams trends for the words ‘curious’ and ‘curiosity’ since 16th century.
Going by Philip Ball’s argument, our scientific culture is well into decline, which should not come as a surprise to the author of following commentary.
You can watch the rest of Philip Ball’s presentation below. He mentioned Galileo, but, given that we are less ‘curious’ than early 1600s, the person more worthy of mention is possibly Giordano Bruno burned at the stake for promoting heresy.
In April 1583, Bruno went to England with letters of recommendation from Henry III as a guest of the French ambassador, Michel de Castelnau. There he became acquainted with the poet Philip Sidney (to whom he dedicated two books) and other members of the Hermetic circle around John Dee, though there is no evidence that Bruno ever met Dee himself. He also lectured at Oxford, and unsuccessfully sought a teaching position there. His views spurred controversy, notably with John Underhill, Rector of Lincoln College and from 1589 bishop of Oxford, and George Abbot, who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. Abbot poked fun at Bruno for supporting the opinion of Copernicus that the earth did go round, and the heavens did stand still; whereas in truth it was his own head which rather did run round, and his brains did not stand still, and reports accusations that Bruno plagiarized Ficino’s work.