Talk:Parson-naturalist

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Book not named[edit]

This article is missing information about: Name of book referred to and its author (possibly Robert Chambers). GeorgeLouis (talk) 06:42, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Bad article as is: list more useful[edit]

This extremely weak article is at present wrongly conceived: it would be useful as a simple list of parson-naturalists. So I propose redirection to List:Parson-naturalists and content to be replaced accordingly (biographical details belong in biographies of individual persons). Could usefully be paralled by Category:Parson-naturalists. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:06, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Oh, and the scope of 'parson' is ambiguous. I don't think a clear line exists bet. parson and vicar: both in literature and modern life I've seen/heard them used interchangeably. Seems right that parson is used for protestant denominations. Macdonald-ross (talk) 08:06, 12 May 2009 (UTC)
As a very weak generalization, "parson" is always rural while a "vicar" could be rural or urban. Thus, by extension, the naturalist in holy orders is a "Parson-naturalist". --Old Moonraker (talk) 08:34, 12 May 2009 (UTC)

Francis Linley Blathwayt[edit]

Not sure about this curious example - notability seems a bit doubtful, and as the only 19th century example along with Darwin (who wasn't), absolutely hopeless. If he gets his own article we can put him back. And yes, the comments about the article above were still accurate 4 years later, but I've now made a start at a decent list. Chiswick Chap (talk) 17:30, 28 April 2013 (UTC)

"For example, Francis Linley Blathwayt kept an ornithological diary from 1897 to 1953, and wrote wildlife articles based on his diary for The Times and local newspapers.[1]"
  1. ^ Kerry, Trevor (2006). "Newly discovered writings of a parson-naturalist: the journalism of the Revd Francis Linley Blathwayt". University of Lincoln, from The Naturalist 131 (1056) pp. 51-60. Retrieved March 31, 2013. 

Scope[edit]

I've only just come across this article (and the list one). I don't have any doubt that the contribution of clergymen to natural history (at least in England) in the 18th and 19th centuries was extremely important, so I think this is a useful article. I wonder, however, about two points:

  • As noted above, "parson" seems too exclusive a term. The illustrated Methodist William Dallinger could not be called a "parson". In the English Midlands, particularly Birmingham, there were also some useful contributions to natural history by Unitarian clergy.
  • The definition given is "who saw the study of natural science as an extension of his religious work". This seems rather strong to me. Some of the celebrated "clergyman-naturalists" certainly did make extensive statements about the relationship between the study of nature and the study and practice of religion (e.g. Leonard Jenyns here). Is it enough to have written as John Lightfoot did in the preface to Flora Scotica that if his work had the effect of "diverting any from foolish and unmanly pursuits to the rational study of God's works, and the contemplation of his sublime attributes, manifested therein, which is the natural tendency of such a study, my time and labour have not been employed in vain"? Surely this is little different from the conventional pieties which would be expected at the time. I've not found anything yet which suggests that Lightfoot explicitly saw the study of natural science as an extension of his religious duties. It's not surprising that "clergyman-naturalists" felt obliged to justify the time they spent on studying natural history rather than performing their duties, but it doesn't show that they saw them as an extension. I doubt that it's possible to verify the definition here for most of those in Category:Parson-naturalists.

Peter coxhead (talk) 17:24, 3 January 2015 (UTC)

Much useful thought here, but the term 'parson-naturalist' is the familiar one, as in the title of Patrick Armstrong's book, and he does there include people like William Turner, who reached the rank of dean, so the term has a history of being somewhat inclusive of other ranks of clergy: I suggest we stay with it. It's obviously not hard to find conventional pieties in the writings of clergymen; that doesn't contradict their practical interest in natural history when it existed, however they may have rationalised it for public consumption. Finally, if you can think of a better phrase than 'extension' - ('essential element of' ?) then go with it. Chiswick Chap (talk) 17:52, 3 January 2015 (UTC)
Um. Even "essential element of" requires that this is verified by reliable sources before someone can be called a "parson-naturalist" if this is part of the definition of the term, and my contention is that (a) this is difficult to do in some cases (b) it hasn't been done for all the people in Category:Parson-naturalists. Whereas if instead the article said something like "who often saw the study of natural science as an extension of his religious work", and it's accepted that "parson" can be any kind of clergyman, then the necessary verification is much easier. Peter coxhead (talk) 17:28, 12 January 2015 (UTC)
OK, if you think that'd work better. Chiswick Chap (talk) 18:51, 12 January 2015 (UTC)