6 Annotations

First Reading

PHE  •  Link

Friday 14 December 1660
"... to the Coffee House where we light upon very good company and had very good discourse concerning insects and their having a generative faculty as well as other creatures." We know that Pepys has an amateur interest in science, becoming later a fellow and then president of the Royal Society. This comment is a little tantalsing. Was he discussing the findings of a published work, or was it just everyday chat? Pressumably there was no question that insects 'mated' as mating insects are often seen.

Glyn  •  Link

"Presumably there was no question that insects mated."

Actually, I think there was. I'm fairly sure that scientists believed in the spontaneous generation of life at the most basic level, and it was disproved only during Pepys' lifetime. So, Pepys was discussing the cutting edge science of his time.

Incidentally, in case people dismiss Pepys and his contemporaries as being naive or foolish: there is nothing as such incredible in such a hypothesis. We believe similar things in other matters.

For example, until about 40 years ago, many respected physicists believed in the spontaneous generation of hydrogen atoms ("the steady-state" theory). Nowadays, many respected quantum physicists believe that the most basic sub-elementary particles are created continually by ripples in the space-time continuum. Maybe that's more complex but it's the same basic idea.

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