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For context on this series, please read our editor’s note on this series.

Natural Philosophers get new term: Scientist

CAMBRIDGE, England, 1833 — The natural philosophers of the day have grown in number to the point that as a group, a new name is needed.  Trinity College priest and poet, William Whewell has applied his wordsmithing skills once again and come up with a term that all should readily embrace: Scientist.

In an effort to further his strongly held beliefs in consilience, the principle that evidence from independent and unrelated sources can converge to support strong conclusions, Dr. Whewell has suggested one way to facilitate such a collaboration would be to tether the members of the various branches of natural philosophy under the umbrella term of scientist. The good doctor is well known for his own dabblings in many areas of science such as ocean tides and to have collaborated with numerous other scientists of the day such as Dr. Michael Faraday.

The various activities undertaken by these gentlemen are almost universally connect to their main vacation as mere hobbies, but perhaps we will see a day when the role they play in our society will elevate these endeavors to a full time activity of its own, perhaps even to the extent that one’s livelihood could be supported. In fact the day may not be so far away when scientist enjoy the status of true professionals.

– John Jefferson, Ph.D.