Archive for October, 2012

The origins of “scientists”

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

(Hello all! I haven’t touched this blog in months. I really should post an update soon…)

So, today is Ada Lovelace Day. I’m working on preparing some material for the Royal Society event we’re running on Friday (more of which anon), and looking at Orlando to find what content is in there.

To my surprise, for Mary Somerville, it notes:

March 1834: Mathematician William Whewell’s anonymous assessment of On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences by MS in the Quarterly Review took up the question of gender difference (and proposed the adoption of a new word, ‘scientist’). This word, which Whewell had coined in a talk in 1833, he now proposed in print as necessary to embrace all enquirers into different aspects of the natural world.

Well, that was an unexpected footnote. The word “scientist” first appeared in print in response to a review article by a woman writing to argue for a uniform model of the natural sciences.

scientist, n. 1. A person with expert knowledge of a science; a person using scientific methods. [citations:] 1834 Q. Rev. LI. 59.