The Encyclopedia Britannica and the 'neuroscientist' encyclopedists,
Thomas Young and Peter Mark Roget
The prominent scientists of the Royal Society contributed significantly in structuring the ‘encyclopedist’ trend by the early 19th century when the editor of the Encyclopedia Britannica, Napier, struggled with finding appropriate authors for difficult and exotic subjects. The extraordinary polymathic natural philosopher and physician Thomas Young proved one of the most prolific and versatile of EB contributors (many initially anonymous), including important treatises on vision and the physics of ‘light’, but demurred from Napier’s invitation to expound on ‘craniology’ and the fad of ‘mind science’ or phrenology, which Young designated “trash”. Thus the ‘hot’ topic of faith and notoriety was given to the writer of an extensive treatise on physiology, Peter Mark Roget, physician-scientist and secretary of the Royal Society, who later headed the Royal Commission dedicated to solving the problem of London’s environmental pollution and in his latter years produced a systematic word book, known as the “thesaurus”. This essay provides commentary on how the controversial scientific and religious issues underlying ‘cranioscopy’ contributed to the emergence of a ‘brain science’.
Session VIII. Sources (Books and Brains)
12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the
History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)