NATURAL HISTORY

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NATURAL HISTORY is the description of all bodies belonging to nature, in one qf the narrow senses of the word nature, in. which it is confined to the visible objects of this earth, including, of course, the phenomena of their growth and formation. The systems of the different kingdoms of nature will be found under their respective heads; and our limits do not permit us to give here an account of the general systems which have attempted to classify all the phenomena of created objects. Generally speaking, only the external description of the objects of nature is comprised in natural history, and chemistry (q. v.) and natural philosophy (q. v.) are excluded, leaving only four chief divisions : 1. geology, or mineralogy in its most extensive sense; 2. phytology, or botany (the natural history of plants); 3. zoology (description of animals) ; and, 4. anthropology (the natural history of man). Another division has been made, by German naturalists, with reference to the form of bodies, their composition, and their functions (if they are endowed with life), which gives rise to the three departments of morphology, chemistry, and biology or physiology. Aristotle is to be regarded as the founder of natural history. (See Aristotle.) Of the Romans, Pliny the Elder (q. v.) deserves to be particularly mentioned. He left a collection of notices respecting natural history, though deformed by a mass of incorrect observations and fabulous reports. In the darkness which the middle ages spread over the West, the natural sciences suffered severely; nature was dealt with in a most barbarous and absurd manner by the schoolmen. With the revival of learning, a new day dawned on natural history; Bacon !ed the way to closer observation, and much was done, in the last century, by Conrad Gesner in Zurich (q. v.), Aldrovandi at Bologna, Ray in England, Tournefort in France, and others; but Linnaeus first collected and systematized the treasures of natural science. He gave us the first system of nature ; and though it is an artificial system, and not founded in nature itself, he has done more for natural history than almost any man for any other branch of knowledge. Since his time, natural history has been cultivated with the greatest zeal in Germany, Englandj France, Sweden, Russia, and of late in the U. States. Buffon did much for this science, by the splendid style in which he taught it. The desire to treat natural history according to a natural system, not only in single branches, like botany, but, if possible, in its whole range, became more and more general. Oken (q. v.) has occupied himself with the latter task particularly, and given to the public several results of his labor. The number of works, in the various departments of natural history, is very great. Bohmer's Bibliotheca Scriptorum Hist, natural. (Leipsic, 1785 et seq., in 5 parts, 10 vols.), gives those which appeared before the beginning of this century, when a very interesting period commences. A complete view of the present state of this science may be found in Cuvier's Dictionnaire ties Sciences Naturelles, which has been publishing, since 1816, in Paris, in large 4to. Among the manuals on natural history, Blumenbach's Naturgeschichte is one of the most distinguished. Not unworthy to be mentioned here is the JYaturhistoiischer Atlas, by Goldfuss (Dusseldorf, 1824), which is to contain 480 lithographed plates.