In Search of Sir Thomas Browne: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century's Most Inquiring Mind

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne: The Life and Afterlife of the Seventeenth Century's Most Inquiring Mind

by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

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Overview

The extraordinary life and ideas of one of the greatest—and most neglected—minds in history.

Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682) was an English writer, physician, and philosopher whose work has inspired everyone from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Jorge Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf to Stephen Jay Gould. In an intellectual adventure like Sarah Bakewell's book about Montaigne, How to Live, Hugh Aldersey-Williams sets off not just to tell the story of Browne's life but to champion his skeptical nature and inquiring mind.

Mixing botany, etymology, medicine, and literary history, Aldersey-Williams journeys in his hero's footsteps to introduce us to witches, zealots, natural wonders, and fabulous creatures of Browne's time and ours. We meet Browne the master prose stylist, responsible for introducing hundreds of words into English, including electricity, hallucination, and suicide. Aldersey-Williams reveals how Browne’s preoccupations—how to disabuse the credulous of their foolish beliefs, what to make of order in nature, how to unite science and religion—are relevant today.

In Search of Sir Thomas Browne is more than just a biography—it is a cabinet of wonders and an argument that Browne, standing at the very gates of modern science, remains an inquiring mind for our own time. As Stephen Greenblatt has written, Browne is "unnervingly one of our most adventurous contemporaries."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393241648
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/15/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,294,643
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Hugh Aldersey-Williams is the author of many books, including The Tide, Anatomies, Periodic Tales, and The Most Beautiful Molecule, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He lives in Norfolk, England.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

Introduction 1

1 Biography 26

2 Physic 49

3 Animals 78

4 Plants 112

5 Science 143

6 Tolerance 170

7 Faith 200

8 Melancholy 228

9 Objects 255

10 The End 282

Timelines 293

Major Works of Thomas Browne 299

References and Further Reading 301

Illustration Credits 313

Acknowledgements 317

Index 319

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