Francesco Luzzini deposited Harvesting Underground: (re)generative theories and vegetal analogies in the early modern debate on mineral ores (I) in the group Science Studies and the History of Science on Humanities Commons 2 months, 3 weeks ago
The early modern use of vegetal terms to explain the origin and growth of ores was widespread in mining industry, alchemy, and natural philosophy. In the writings of authors from many different backgrounds, mineral veins were often described as ‘trees’ which moved upwards, bore fruits, and underwent a life cycle. Accordingly, the existence in ores of ‘seeds’ (and, therefore, of a (re)generative power) was frequently invoked to explain the apparent similarities between minerals and plants. This method of describing mineral processes—called here the botanical model—also had a lasting terminological influence, as is attested by various expressions that are still common among miners and scientists. The notions underlying these terms are part of a larger body of ‘organic interpretations’ of mineral resources that endured into the eighteenth century and contributed to the development of the Earth sciences, mining industry, and the human–environment relationship. In focusing mainly on the rise of the botanical model in Renaissance Europe, this essay is the first part of a more extensive study (to be completed in a forthcoming paper) on the evolution of this important concept and its interaction with the new science throughout the early modern period.