Talk:Natural history

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Natural History in Education[edit]

According to how "Natural History" is described in this article, I believe it relates to an area of study (including field trips) that has been incorporated into public education, in the primary and junior-high levels. I'm sure that private schools often have this component, too.

I know that high schools begin to specialize, with biology being its own subject, and maybe some of the other components of Natrural history also are being taught in narrow-focus classes. Be that as it may.

In any case, I think the article would be more inclusive and fleshed-out if there was something in it on how natural history continues to be woven into education. -J.R.


This was Recently added; I've cut it for reasons explained below: "In 21st century it actually befits the increased understanding of the web of life, connections among ecosystems, organic and inorganic parts of the planet, and the relationships between the whole and the cosmos in general."

I don't disagree with the sentiment, but saying that it "befits the increased understanding…" is the kind of expression of opinion that should not be in the narrative voice of a Wikipedia article. It would be great if you could cite someone authoritative saying this, but we can't say it ourselves in the article. -- Jmabel | Talk 22:09, July 16, 2005 (UTC)

Rhode Island[edit]

Rhode Island Natural History Survey (in the external links) seems a bit narrow and specific; the other links are mostly museums and societies that present/study natural history worldwide, not in one very small region. -- Jmabel | Talk 05:29, 16 November 2005 (UTC)

Ernest Thompson Seton[edit]

We already have an article on Ernest Thompson Seton. Perhaps one related link in this article would be appropriate, but the following, which I cut from the article, is excessive and amounted to spam.

[Start cut material]

Ernest Thompson Seton Cimarron Museum

[End cut material] - Jmabel | Talk 00:34, 23 January 2006 (UTC)

Günther Witzany[edit]

Apologies: I know only a little about Günther Witzany, but how exactly is his work a reference for anything in this article, and what does his work have to do with "natural history" in the sense used here? I'm not saying it doesn't, I'm just trying to get clarification. - Jmabel | Talk 07:23, 21 November 2006 (UTC)


The article includes this paragraph:

Natural history is the scientific study of plants and animals in their natural environments. It is concerned with levels of organization from the individual organism to the ecosystem, and stresses identification, life history, distribution, abundance, and inter-relationships. It often and appropriately includes an esthetic component. S.G.Herman.

So, is this a quotation? And, if so, from where, exactly? - Jmabel | Talk 08:21, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

geology and climatology[edit]

The article says 'Natural history' includes "parts of geology and climatology" but does not other explain or expand on this. With this thin information, it is difficult to figure out what should be in 'natural history' categories and what should not be. Is there any help somewhere? Hmains 03:41, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

I've heard the term "geologic history" as well - is that a legitimate term? If so, what's its relation to "natural history"? Is one part of the other, or is one about rocks/soil/water while the other concerns plants/animals? -Pete 20:38, 12 June 2007 (UTC)
I forgot to mention, yes, geologic history is a legitimate term. —Viriditas | Talk 20:02, 13 June 2007 (UTC)
I've been reading some books on Natural history, so I can help out. To answer Hmains and Pete, yes, geology and climatology are both part of natural history. Geologic history in terms of natural history, is usually discussed in relation to the geography of a particular area. So, for example, a Natural history of Hawaii would discuss volcanology, the evolution of Hawaiian volcanoes, the terrestrial and ocean environment, climate, flora and fauna, and so on. This is one of the books I'm looking at:[1]. "This book brings together primary source materials on major theme in Hawaiian natural history: the geological process that have built the Islands; the physical factors that influence the Islands' terrestrial ecosystems; the dynamics of the sea that support coral reefs, fish, and mollusks; the peculiarities of animals and plants that have evolved in the Islands and are found nowhere else; and the human impact on the land, plants, and animals." I've been looking at a few other books and they all have the same/similar structure. It may help if I list the topics and categories discussed. In the meantime, Pete, check out how geologic history in terms of the Natural history of Chaco Canyon is handled in Chaco_Canyon#Geology. —Viriditas | Talk 12:36, 13 June 2007 (UTC)

My point is: however much some may write, the 'Natural history' article does not say much beyond 'plants' and 'animals': not climate, not geologic history, not human prehistory, etc Generally, WP categories should be based on the content of WP articles, not anything else. So the 'natural history' article needs to be re-written and accepted by WP editors before anything else changes. Hmains 17:56, 15 June 2007 (UTC)

The lack of specific information in an article does not justify inaccurate categorization. Feel free to browse the external links section and look at books and papers off-line. —Viriditas | Talk 03:35, 17 June 2007 (UTC)

Environment of foo[edit]

We have all these 'Natural history of foo' categories for each country and they are all subcategories of their 'Environment of foo' category which is in turn a subcat of the higher level 'foo' category for the country. We have at least one editor who says this is not right, that natural history is not part of environment, and objects to extending this same category scheme to the US state level--without saying where the natural history category should end up. What is correct? Where can this argument be justified by what is found in WP? Hmains 05:00, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

In the context of Natural history of foo, Environment of foo is supposed to be a subcategory. The current scheme is backwards. We don't justify arguments by what is found on Wikipedia. Look at any book on natural history and you will see that it contains environment-related articles, such as physical geography, wildlife, and climate, and many others. Start with A Natural History of California (1995) and A Natural History of the Hawaiian Islands (1994). Currently, if you go to, let's say, Category:Environment of Costa Rica the opposite scheme is in place. This needs to be fixed. I can't see why you would want to "extend" an inaccurate category scheme. —Viriditas | Talk 11:53, 27 June 2007 (UTC)
I think what is happening here is that Hmains is looking inside WP for clues for the category system, while Viriditas is looking outside. These are not leading to the same result. This leads to some questions in my mind:
  1. Is there any compromise here? If there are arguments for nesting category A within category B and B within A, should they perhaps be sister categories instead of nesting?
  2. Is there any guidance in WP:CAT or WP:MOS for preferring the inside-looking over outside-looking, or visa versa?
  3. Is there a better place for this discussion? For example, I can imagine that the folks at Wikipedia:WikiProject Environment or Wikipedia:WikiProject Ecology or Wikipedia:WikiProject Biology may care deeply about this.
Thanks! hike395 15:36, 27 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Item 9 in WP category guidelines states: "An article should normally possess all the referenced information necessary to demonstrate that it belongs in each of its categories. Avoid including categories in an article if the article itself doesn't adequately show it belongs there. For example, avoid placing a category for a profession or organization members or award unless the article provides some verification that the placement is accurate." Nothing stated about looking elsewhere for categories. Hmains 16:31, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Reply to Hike395[edit]

  1. It is true that Hmains claims that he is basing his categorization on WP, but he actually isn't. For example, Hmains writes: "...the 'Natural history' article does not say much beyond 'plants' and 'animals': not climate, not geologic history, not human prehistory, etc Generally, WP categories should be based on the content of WP articles, not anything else. So the 'natural history' article needs to be re-written and accepted by WP editors before anything else changes." This is false. In fact, the natural history article does mention these things, and nothing it states needs to be "re-written" and "accepted". If Hmains had familiarized himself with the topic on Wikipedia, he would see that natural history articles do cover these topics. Articles like, Natural history, Indian natural history, Natural history of Australia, and the museums listed in Category:Natural history museums all cover this topic. Additionally, many Geography articles have natural history sections that cover this material.
  2. Sister categorization is certainly an acceptable compromise, as multiple categories will solve the problem. So for example, instead of adding Category:Environment of California to Category:Natural history of California in order to access the climate cats, we just add Category:Climate of California instead. —Viriditas | Talk 22:37, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

Naturalist (redirect here)[edit]

Is it just me or does naturalist sound like someone who walks around naked? -- (talk) 08:41, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

You are confusing naturalist (natural scientist) with naturist. -- Alan Liefting (talk) - 17:55, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Repetitive paragraphs in "Description" section[edit]

The final paragraph before the quotation in this section looks like an almost verbatim copy of the first paragraph (in both cases "Natural history involves the research... climatology"). I'm not going to strip it out wholesale, because it has a reference that can be merged into the first paragraph, and it might have some other extras that I'm missing. I intend to come back and clean it up.

Pertusaria (talk) 14:59, 29 June 2009 (UTC)

I came back and merged the two paragraphs. In general, I think the description section repeats itself and rambles around the topic without always making clear points. It could probably stand some hard editing.

Pertusaria (talk) 11:24, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

Natural History Network[edit]

There's a paragraph about the Natural History Network at the bottom of the section on Natural History Societies. I don't think this organisation is of particular importance, except to the people who are in it; there are no clear Google hits to it other than its own website, which is not of very good quality. The current paragraph gives no great justification for being there. It seems out of place in an article that tries to provide an overview of a huge subject. I don't like to remove information, but if nobody contradicts this I'll take it out in a couple of days.

Pertusaria (talk) 11:31, 30 June 2009 (UTC)

Nuke it. I could belabor the point with references to WP:ADVERT and the like, but this is a pretty clear call, seems to me. Kingdon (talk) 20:02, 30 June 2009 (UTC)
Binned it. Thank you! Pertusaria (talk) 20:29, 1 July 2009 (UTC)


I've removed a lot of the material from the section on natural history museums. One paragraph was essentially a list of these museums; I've linked to an article giving a list of natural history museums at the start of the section. The other paragraph I've taken out was on the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This bordered on advertising. The museum didn't seem important enough to rate its own paragraph in an overview, and it already has an article, which is included in the aforementioned list.

I'm going to take out the image of the Denver museum, reluctantly as there's nothing much wrong with it, but it's no longer relevant (I can't include it as an example of a museum, since it's unclear whether it still houses the museum). Anyone with a good image of a natural history museum, please help illustrate the section.

Pertusaria (talk) 19:26, 10 July 2009 (UTC)


I feel uneasy about selecting specific natural history societies for mention in the article. I agree that natural history societies in general should be mentioned (and there is, I think, scope for an article about them – in particular their historic contributions to knowledge). To be specific: I'm currently the President of the Birmingham Natural History Society, so with this hat on, I'm pleased to see that someone else has mentioned the Society in the article and added an external link. However, I'm also currently the Secretary of the Sutton Coldfield Natural History Society, so, with this hat on, it would be nice to see it mentioned in the article and have an external link. The problem is that the same could be argued for any other natural history society in Britain or elsewhere in the world. Can someone come up with some criteria for including references to specific societies? Otherwise I'm inclined to remove them. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:23, 29 November 2009 (UTC)


I think this is quite an important article. However, it has become, in my view, rather confused. There is a lot of useful and relevant information, but it has too obviously been added by different editors at different times, with the result that it is often repetitious and difficult to read.

I have re-drafted the previous "Description" section, calling it "Definitions". It's quite clear that there isn't a single definition of the term 'natural history'; it has changed over time, and is used in different ways now. The lead paragraph needs to be re-written to match my changes – IF they are generally acceptable. I'd like some reactions please before doing anything more. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:29, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Additional point: both the original and my re-draft (which has attempted to clarify, NOT add new material) contain what appears to be WP:SYNTH because there isn't enough inline referencing. So I've added a 'reference improve' warning. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:42, 30 November 2009 (UTC)

Hello Peter - I reworked the modern definition section, trying to get a more complete set of modern definitions for natural history included in the text. My objective was also to increase the flow, and point to some common themes in the definitions of natural history. I liked your starting point, and I first attempted to edit from your text, but it was hard to keep the flow intact. Because natural history draws from a number of disciplines both inside and outside of science, getting a well-referenced article requires some broad contribution, and while I think the text I inserted does a fairly good job of articulating the defining features of natural history from a natural sciences perspective, it still needs additional content and references focused on modern definitions that come from both the physical sciences, and the arts and humanities perspectives (Tewksjj (talk) 12:18, 13 June 2011 (UTC)).

I've done some copy-editing on your contribution to fit it to WP style (e.g. punctuation before reference; no smart quotes). Generally I think it's a considerable improvement, although WP purists might think there are too many quotations (see Wikipedia:Quotations#Overusing_quotations). Peter coxhead (talk) 09:50, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Misuse of sources[edit]

Jagged 85 (talk · contribs) is one of the main contributors to Wikipedia (over 67,000 edits; he's ranked 198 in the number of edits), and practically all of his edits have to do with Islamic science, technology and philosophy. This editor has persistently misused sources here over several years. This editor's contributions are always well provided with citations, but examination of these sources often reveals either a blatant misrepresentation of those sources or a selective interpretation, going beyond any reasonable interpretation of the authors' intent. Please see: Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Jagged 85. I searched the page history, and found 5 edits by Jagged 85 (for example, see this edit). Tobby72 (talk) 15:33, 18 June 2010 (UTC)


The link to German Naturgeschichte is misleading because that word is no more used in the modern German language. --13Peewit (talk) 09:29, 6 August 2011 (UTC)

Section on decline of natural history in education[edit]

I have removed the section which is copied below this comment, not because the idea of such a section is not relevant – I think it most certainly is – but because as written it consists almost entirely of two quotations from a single source, and so is not compatible with WP:LONGQUOTE. If the long quotation is summarized, there really isn't enough left for a section. There's also an issue about WP:NPOV in using only one person as the source for the section. I hope some editor or editors can create a section which is in the proper Wikipedia style. Peter coxhead (talk) 21:08, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Decline of Natural History in Education
In July 2003 noted naturalist Paul K. Dayton wrote the following in The American Naturalist:

The last century has seen enormous environmental degradation: many populations are in drastic decline, and their ecosystems have been vastly altered. There is an urgent need to understand the causes of the decline... These environmental crises coincide with the virtual banishment of natural sciences in academe, which eliminate the opportunity for both young scientists and the general public to learn the fundamentals that help us predict population levels and the responses by complex systems to environmental variation. Science and management demands that complex systems be simplified, but the art of appropriate simplification depends on a basic understanding of the important natural history. It seems unlikely that meaningful conservation and restoration can be accomplished unless we recover the tradition of supporting research in and the teaching of natural history. We must reinstate natural science courses in all our academic institutions to insure that students experience nature first-hand and are instructed in the fundamentals of the natural sciences.[1]

When asked what could be done to improve this situation, Dayton replied that "Not only is there a huge elitist prejudice against natural history and for microbiology, [but] simple economics almost rule out a change, because good natural history classes must be small." Nevertheless he suggested that institutions of higher learning "offer the courses and hire young professionals eager to do the right thing." [2]


  1. ^ Paul K. Dayton (2003), "The Importance of the Natural Sciences to Conservation", The American Naturalist, 162: 1–13, doi:10.1086/376572 
  2. ^ Louv, Richard (2005), Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, Algonquin Books, p. 143, ISBN 1565123913  More than one of |pages= and |page= specified (help)

Why history?[edit]

If you go to a natural history musuem you'll find lots of "history" as we understand the term. But in most natural history before Darwin there isn't much "history". The average natural history text would be much more concenred with classification of contemporary species, rather than the development of species over time (didn't they think everything had remained the same since Creation, anyway?). I was hoping the article would shed light in the shift in the definition of "history" but I didn't see anything relevant, other than a hint that "history" is an artifact of translation from Latin. (talk) 07:14, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

This is well-explained at History#Etymology, but I agree could be added to this article. Peter coxhead (talk) 10:38, 5 January 2012 (UTC)

19th Century[edit]

The nineteenth century section is oddly titled 'Birth of scientific biology', with some quite dismissive text. This is close to being off topic for a natural history article - unless the sense is 'Death of natural history' - surely a bit premature, like Huck Finn's announcement. The section should be about the great flowering of NH in that century, and biology should be mentioned with links to other articles.

Also, it's funny that the image is of Buffon when he's not even discussed, while none of the great figures discussed are pictured... Chiswick Chap (talk) 10:55, 2 November 2013 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

Prior content in this article duplicated one or more previously published sources. The material was copied from: Europe 1450 to 1789: encyclopedia of the early modern world, Volume 4, page 246, Urtica: The genus Urtica. Page 15, here, and elsewhere. Copied or closely paraphrased material has been rewritten or removed and must not be restored, unless it is duly released under a compatible license. (For more information, please see "using copyrighted works from others" if you are not the copyright holder of this material, or "donating copyrighted materials" if you are.) For legal reasons, we cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or published material; such additions will be deleted. Contributors may use copyrighted publications as a source of information, and according to fair use may copy sentences and phrases, provided they are included in quotation marks and referenced properly. The material may also be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Therefore such paraphrased portions must provide their source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously, and persistent violators will be blocked from editing. While we appreciate contributions, we must require all contributors to understand and comply with these policies. Thank you. Diannaa (talk) 02:03, 25 July 2014 (UTC)

New material[edit]

An IP has proposed the following (which was in the lead section). It contains some useful ideas but seems to be sourced mainly from Herpetology, which may be all right. I think it needs some reworking before incorporation into the body, and then summarizing for use in the lead:

Much confusion exists, even within the scientific community due to the term "Natural History" because early natural history studies were largely unscientific and often utilized large degrees of inductive reasoning.[1][2][3][4] The coloquial use of the term natural history refers back to its early roots rather than its modern expression as a true scientific field. Modern modern natural history is a field set squarely within the auspices of fisheries and wildlife ecology for animals, and consevation ecology for both plants and animals.[5] The largest area of natural history study focuses on one organism, Homo sapiens, and is encompassed by medicine and clinical research, including the natural history of diseason.[6] Natural history study is an important area of medical research. One can argue that the entire field of behavioral ecology is a branch of natural history. Many Natural history studies are published in a multitude of academic journals such as the Journal of Wildlife Mangement, Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, ichthyology and herpetology journals and regional outlets such as state academy journals and naturalist journals like the Southeastern Naturalist, Southwestern Naturalist, Great Basin Naturalist, Northeastern Naturalist, American Midland Naturalist, and Maryland Naturalist. Ornithology journals tend to publish fewer descriptive natural history studies outside of conservation-related studies because this discipline largely filled in the blanks decades prior to others thanks to the large numbers of hobbiest birdwatchers.[7] Although natural history encompasses scientific research, many popular articles in magazines and televised nature programs provide popularized accounts of natural history that are presented in a manner similar to that used by early natural historians, but they are largely based on the scientific study. Programs such as those by David Attenborough and the old Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdome are good examples.[8] Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study of any category of natural objects or organisms.[9] That is a very broad designation in a world filled with many narrowly focused disciplines. So while natural history dates historically from studies in the ancient Greco-Roman world and the mediaeval Arabic world, through to European Renaissance naturalists working in near isolation, today's field is more of a cross discipline umbrella of many specialty sciences. For example, geobiology has a strong multi-disciplinary nature combining scientists and scientific knowledge of many specialty sciences.
A person who studies natural history is known as a naturalist or "natural historian"; however, many scientists label themselves as organismic biologists, wildlife biologists, or life history biologists to distance themselves from the stigma of the early natural historians.[10]


  1. ^ McCallum ML, McCallum, JL. 2006. Publication trends in natural history and field studies in herptology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1:62-68.
  2. ^ Greene HW. 2005. Organisms in nature as a central focus for biology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20:23-27.
  3. ^ Greene, H.W. 1986. Natural history and evolutionary biology. Pp. 99-108 In Predator-Prey Relationships: Perspectives and Approaches from the Study of Lower Vertebrates. Feder, M.E. and G.V. Lauder (Eds). University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois, USA.
  4. ^ 1993. What’s good about good natural history? Herpetological Natural History 1:3.
  5. ^ Bury, R.B. 2006. Natural history, field ecology, conservation biology and wildlife management: Time to connect the dots. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1:56-61.
  6. ^ Bhopal, RS (2008). "Interrelated concepts in the epidemiology of disease: Natural history, spectrum, iceberg, population patterns, and screening". Concepts of epidemiology: Integrating the ideas, theories, principles, and methods of epidemiology (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199543144.001.0001. ISBN 9780199543144.
  7. ^ McCallum ML, McCallum, JL. 2006. Publication trends in natural history and field studies in herptology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1:62-68.
  8. ^ Natural History WordNet Search,
  9. ^ Brown, Lesley (1993), The New shorter Oxford English dictionary on historical principles, Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon, ISBN 0-19-861271-0 
  10. ^ McCallum ML, McCallum, JL. 2006. Publication trends in natural history and field studies in herptology. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 1:62-68.

Help would be appreciated. Chiswick Chap (talk) 18:26, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

I support the removal from the lead and article. That material has a clear US-bias, an essay-like tone ("one can argue"), and appears to unduly name-drop journals (the list of journals was simply unsightly and indiscriminate). That particular IP has a recent contribution history focused on a small group of herpetologists, including editing biographical articles and citing references by them, and may possibly be affiliated with them. Herpetology is but one aspect of natural history, and care should be taken to introduce any new material with an eye towards how it balances the article as a whole, not shift focus. Some material might plausibly be incorporated to Natural_history#Modern, with care to avoid redundancy and to mesh with content already there. --Animalparty-- (talk) 01:17, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
I also support the removal, as the material is. It doesn't belong in the lead, for sure, and definitely has a US-centric bias and a somewhat polemical tone, both not suitable for Wikipedia. But the better-sourced material, carefully chosen, can be incorporated into the article, as Animalparty suggests. Peter coxhead (talk) 12:02, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

Natural History vs the history of life[edit]

I've removed a recently-added timeline of life. The reason: Natural History is a human activity, conducted by people over the past few centuries (arguably, Pliny's use of the term in classical times referred to something entirely different, but if you like, then say 'millennia' for centuries). It observed the state of life on earth, certainly, but it is not equivalent to it; nor is it the scientific study of life, Biology in all its forms (genetics, evo devo, taxonomy, ...). So the timeline doesn't fit here. If a timeline were to be provided, it would reflect the development of the study of NH itself, and it would have a much shorter span. Chiswick Chap (talk) 17:02, 11 January 2016 (UTC)

@Chiswick Chap: Thank you *very much* for your comments - and edit - yes - agreed - no problem whatsoever - Thanks again for your comments and all - and - Enjoy! :) Drbogdan (talk) 22:10, 11 January 2016 (UTC)