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the new science

The emergence of the new science in the seventeenth century brought with it the need for new institutions. The informal gatherings of natural philosophers in Oxford and London, Paris and Florence soon revealed the need for patronage and more efficient means of communicating experimental findings and new ideas. The first scientific institution was formed in Florence, the Accademia del Cimento in 1657. It lasted only a decade. Then followed the Royal Society of London which was founded in 1660 and given Royal patronage and an imprimatur in 1662. The Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris quickly followed in 1666.

Both the Royal Society of London and the new science in general soon had critics and it was not long before a history of the Society was commissioned which was aimed at defending it. Sprat published his polemical 'history' in 1667, just seven years after the founding of the Society. Others also rose to the task of defending the new science such as Joseph Glanvill.

The new science continued to flourish even though the new scientific institutions waxed and waned in their influence and effectiveness. But throughout the early modern period critics and traditionalists continued to voice their concerns. By the end of the century a 'battle of the books' was being waged between the 'ancients' like Sir William Temple and the 'moderns' such as the young William Wotton. Jonathan Swift commented in his satire on this battle that 'In this quarrel whole rivulets of ink have been exhausted, and the virulence of both parties enormously augmented'.

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