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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Natural history or (in Latin) Naturalis Historia is the scientific study of plants or animals.

Natural History may also refer to:

In science and medicine:

In music:

In literature:


See also

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Natural History
by Pliny the Elder
Translated into English by Philemon Holland


Wikipedia logo Wikipedia has more on:
Natural History.
  • Book 1: Table of contents, index, and bibliography
  • Book 2: Astronomy and meteorology
  • Book 3: Geography of the Western Mediterranean
  • Book 4: Geography of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, continental and northern Europe.
  • Book 5: Geography of Africa, the Middle East and Turkey
  • Book 6: Geography of Asia; summary overview and wrap-up of world geography
  • Book 7: Anthropology and human physiology
  • Book 8: Land animals: elephants, lions, tigers, panthers; cows, horses, asses, mules, sheep, goats; mice, dormice and a few others
  • Book 9: Marine animals: whales, dolphins, fish, shellfish, etc
  • Book 10: Birds; animal reproduction; the five senses
  • Book 11: Insects, then comparative zoology, fumblings toward a taxonomy
  • Book 12: Exotic plants, spices and perfumes: from India, Egypt, Mesopotamia etc
  • Book 13: More plants, including aquatic plants
  • Book 14: Plants: the vine and wine
  • Book 15: Plants: the olive tree; oil and its uses; fruit and nut trees
  • Book 16: More trees, mostly evergreens
  • Book 17: Fruit trees and vines and the art of planting them
  • Book 18: How to run a farm
  • Book 19: Garden plants, including a long section on flax
  • Book 20: More garden plants: mostly vegetables.
  • Book 21: Flowers.
  • Book 22: Miscellaneous plants, including dye plants.
  • Book 23: Medicinal properties of wine, vinegar, oil, nuts, fruit.
  • Book 24: Medicinal properties of trees and herbs.
  • Book 25: Medicinal properties of herbs.
  • Book 26: Major medicinal herbs. The book opens with a section on new diseases.
  • Book 27: Minor medicinal herbs, in roughly alphabetical order.
  • Book 28: Medicinal uses of the human body's own products (and discussion of charms); of animal products.
  • Book 29: Medicinal uses of animal products, continued; but the book starts with a long stiff diatribe against doctors.
  • Book 30: Medicinal uses of animal products, continued; this time the book starts with a preamble about magic arts.
  • Book 31: Medicinal uses of marine products: salt, plants, sponges, etc.
  • Book 32: Medicinal uses of marine animals.
  • Book 33: Metals: mostly gold, silver and mercury.
  • Book 34: Metals: bronze and lead; but mostly a discussion of statues, in fact.
  • Book 35: Uses of earth; but starting with pigments, is mostly a discussion of painters, although the end of the Book goes back to sulphur.
  • Book 36: Stone. One of the better books. The first half is about sculpture; then a bit of fascinating architecture (obelisks, the Pyramids, the Cretan labyrinth), finally various building materials (plaster, sand, stone), then glass. Ends with a paean to fire and an utterly peculiar story in the very last paragraph.
  • Book 37: Stones: rock crystal, amber, gemstones; semi-precious stones. At the very end of the Book, Pliny gives his list of "best of categories"; the best of countries is Italy

Simple English

Natural history is the study of plants and animals in the wild, and the environments they live in. Also included are those aspects of geology which can be done in the field.

The work of naturalists is observation, interpretation, collecting and classification, rather than experiments. People who study natural history are called naturalists. Charles Darwin was a naturalist. They were among the first to explore the world. They were the first to study the Amazon and other tropical places. Naturalists find new species and classify plants and animals. They study ecology.

Naturalists developed some theoretical ideas which were valuable. They noticed that living things more or less fitted the lives they led. This was adaptation. They noticed a struggle for existence between animals. They thought they could see a chain of being from lower animals to higher, which they thought was the work of God. The idea that such things might happen by natural means began to surface in the 18th century, but did not become the majority view until the time of Charles Darwin.

Before Darwin, most naturalists did not think of themselves as scientists. When they looked at nature, perhaps as explorers, they looked at everything. They looked at the land, the people, the plants and animals. After Darwin, they did see themselves as scientists. Early on, Darwin called himself a geologist. Huxley was an anatomist. Hooker was a botanist. Lyell was a geologist. Their education changed, too. They often took degrees in science. That sort of education was rare before Darwin.

Naturalists were educated amateurs; scientists are trained professionals. The change happened slowly, during the 19th century.[1] The very word scientist was invented in 1937 by William Whewell. Before then, the term was natural philosopher (for the physical sciences) or natural historian (for the biological sciences and geology). Naturalist is short for natural historian.

in the Amazon]]
in Brazil]]
went round the world on this ship. He found his wife in Sydney, Australia]]

Important naturalists

These men are important. They are just some well-known names amongst the many who investigated nature before science existed in its modern form.


  1. Barber, Lynn 1980. The heyday of natural history 1820–1870. Cape, London.

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