ISBN 10: 190301865X / ISBN 13: 9781903018651
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Vom Verlag: The scientific and proto-scientific community of Elizabethan and Jacobean London has lately attracted much scholarly attention. This book advances the subject by means of an investigation of the life and work of Sir Hugh Plat (1552-1611), an author, alchemist, speculator and inventor whose career touched on the fields of alchemy, general scientific curiosity, cookery and sugar work, cosmetics, gardening and agriculture, food manufacture, victualling, supplies and marketing. Unlike many of his colleagues and correspondents, much manuscript material, in the form of notebooks and workings, has survived. Not much, however, is known of his personal life and among his manuscripts there are few letters, diaries or other private materials. What can be learnt about him is summarised by Malcolm Thick in the first chapter, before he proceeds to analyse various aspects of his public output. Plat has such a wide range of interests that modern scholars have tended to concentrate on that aspect of his work which most affects their own research. Most recently he has fallen amongst historians of science and whilst they have carefully examined his written and published works they have, in some cases, interpreted almost all that he wrote as a quest for scientific knowledge, in the same way that the gardening writers thought him primarily a gardener or the cookery writers treated his cookery book as his most important work. By devoting a whole book to his multifarious interests that Thick can show him in the round, as a gentlemen of varied interests, a Londoner trying to make his way in the world. He also shows Plat as a man of his time and place. The chapter on military inventions, for instance, reveals Plat as an inventor who talked to military commanders and bent his mind to their most pressing military needs. His work on famine relief was an immediate response to a run of bad harvests which threatened the food supply of by far the largest city in the country. The medicines he developed aimed to cure the diseases most feared by his friends and neighbours. Even something as frivolous as his work on cosmetics was of great value to those at court, where appearance might dictate fortune. Two important aspects of his research, alchemy and enquiries about the current technology of various trades, were not so immediately dictated by the needs of the time. Whilst his alchemical writings are the most esoteric and complex of his surviving manuscripts, much had a practical end in view - to develop powerful, effective medicines. His work on the technology of trades was by no means disinterested - in more than one instance he developed better ways of carrying out industrial processes than was then practised and tried, by patents or other means, to make money thereby.

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