Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Friday, February 11, 2011

The New Atlantis (final installment)

One last thought about The New Atlantis. Here’s how the Father of Salomon’s House describes the various roles of the members of his college:

For the several employments and offices of our fellows; we have twelve that sail into foreign countries, under the names of other nations, (for our own we conceal); who bring us the books, and abstracts, and patterns of experiments of all other parts. These we call Merchants of Light.

We have three that collect the experiments which are in all books. These we call Depredators.

We have three that collect the experiments of all mechanical arts; and also of liberal sciences; and also of practices which are not brought into arts. These we call Mystery-men.

We have three that try new experiments, such as themselves think good. These we call Pioneers or Miners.

We have three that draw the experiments of the former four into titles and tables, to give the better light for the drawing of observations and axioms out of them. These we call Compilers.

We have three that bend themselves, looking into the experiments of their fellows, and cast about how to draw out of them things of use and practise for man's life, and knowledge, as well for works as for plain demonstration of causes, means of natural divinations, and the easy and clear discovery of the virtues and parts of bodies. These we call Dowry-men or Benefactors.

Then after divers meetings and consults of our whole number, to consider of the former labours and collections, we have three that take care, out of them, to direct new experiments, of a higher light, more penetrating into nature than the former. These we call Lamps.

We have three others that do execute the experiments so directed, and report them. These we call Inoculators.

Lastly, we have three that raise the former discoveries by experiments into greater observations, axioms, and aphorisms. These we call Interpreters of Nature.

I think we see here a profitable way to reorganize institutions of higher learning. Who needs “departments” (English, Philosophy, Physics, Business)? We should have categories of people: we need Mystery-men, Inoculators, and Lamps.

It might also be interesting for each of us to ask, Which of these am I?

And as a P.S., please check out this overview of the book from the pages of this esteemed journal. It's an account very different from my brief and amateurish one.


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