Introduction to the Catalogue of the Scientific Community of the 16th and 17th Centuries
Richard S. Westfall
In addition to this Introduction, there are sixteen other WordPerfect (WordPerfect 5.1, DOS 3.1) files plus the dBase file (dBase III+) and two small program files designed for a particular manipulation of the dBase file. This Introduction intends briefly to explain what they are.

'Instrcns' contains the Instructions that I wrote out for the graduate assistants who have helped me collect the data in the catalogue. It explains what the catalogue is about, but let me also explain it here. I have taken as the scientific community (as far as this quantitative study is concerned) the scientists included in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography from the decade in which Copernicus was born through those born in the decade of the 1670's (and thus potentially active in science during the 17th century). Using the DSB allows me to have a large population of the most important scientists, selected by scholars expert in the field, but a population that I did not select and cannot then have slanted in any way. I did purge those in the DSB, eliminating twenty-one who do not appear to have been scientists in my definition of the term. The list of those purged, with brief justifications, appear as part of the file 'Thoughts.' On all of the 630 remaining scientists I have collected information under a number of headings. While I have used the DSB to define the group, I have gone far beyond it for the information I am collecting. 

I had to use graduate assistants because of the large size of the project. I maintained very close supervision over them, meeting with them every week to receive the reports they compiled, going over the reports carefully and often returning to the assistants with questions about individual reports. I am satisfied with the accuracy of the material they gathered for me.

I have done many of the reports myself, for example nearly all of the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and Italian scientists, quite a few of the French, and some of the Germans, and I have gone over all of the reports on English scientists expanding them. Those reports, mostly done by a graduate student who was not competent for research at this level in any European language except English, were completed first, when the project was just beginning. As time has passed, I have grown steadily more greedy in the amount of information I want to include in the reports, and I decided that I would go back over the English cohort, as I said, to expand them. 

My goal has been to get to the best secondary literature on each of the scientists in the catalogue. Every report starts from the biography in the DSB (which is assumed as one source but not listed in the bibliography), but goes on from there to more detailed sources. I am able to handle the major Western European languages, and graduate assitants worked only on national groups whose languages they could read facilely. There are a number of groups, however, for whom I had to seek other assistants--Danes (the largest group), Swedes, Poles, Czechs, Jugoslavs (as I have called Croats and Slovenes--the label seems increasingly inappropriate) and one Russian. I have been able to find other graduate students in the university to do the research on them. I have supervised these other graduate assistants in the same way, and I am very well satisfied with the reports they have given me. 

'Instrcns' (Instructions) contains the instructions I wrote out for the graduate assistants. It has then a general discussion of the categories of information I have tried to collect.

'Thoughts' contains various ruminations on the catalogue and the problems it presents and on material as I have collected it. I composed the early parts of it soon after I had set up the form of the catalogue and had begun to perceive various problems that had not presented themselves when I was only planning it. I then continued to enter 'thoughts' about the catalogue as they occurred to me while I was compiling it. Under several of the categories used in the catalogue, I have entered short statements about individual scientists who presented interesting cases that I did not want to forget. The number of these notes under 'Patronage' is extensive, and there are quite a few under "Technology." 'Thoughts' has become a fairly long file, and I am expecting to make extensive use of the information it contains.

'dBase,' a WordPerfect file, explains the structure of the dBase file and contains three pages with the various codes/contractions used for entering the material in the actual dBase file. It also has some information about manipulating the dBase file, and it discusses a special program written to manipulate the dBase file for one specific purpose.

'I1'- 'I13.' ('I' stands for individual. Originally there was one long file of individuals; I divided it into thirteen files, in alphabetical order, for easier access and for copying onto disks. The thirteen files together thus constitute one very long one that contains the reports or sketches on the 630 scientists from the DSB who make up the catalogue. The sketches are all organized according to the same numbered format to include information under the ten categories I am using. Most of them are between two and three pages long. A goodly number are only one page long, and some run beyond three pages. Sketches compiled late in the process tend to be at least three pages. These sketches are the heart of the catalogue. The information in them is entered into the dBase file, using the codes/con-tractions to keep the dBase file as short as possible.

Because file names can be only eight characters long, I have resorted to an excessively complex device for the few names longer than eight letters. Obviously the easiest thing would have been to use the first eight letters of any name, but I appear to be driven by the need to make things as complicated for myself as possible. Thus I have resorted to a free floating, bastard phonetic system which is wholly adhoc. In all cases, the first three letters of the name are preserved and thus the approximate alphabetic location. I tend to omit internal vowels (and silent final ones, as well as non-silent final e's) when I need to shorten a name--thus Aldrovandi becomes Aldrvndi. Where consonants are double, I tend to omit the second. Bernoulli becomes Bernouli, and Torricelli, Toriceli. Etc. Etc. When sufficiently exasperated, you can, as a last resort, list the files, and you are almost certain to recognize the scientist you are after. When there are more than one scientist with the same last name, the first three letters of the first name--there are limits to the extent I will torment myself--are used as an extension. There are two John Tradescants; they become Tradscnt.Jo1 and Jo2.

The WordPerfect files above fill seven and a half disks. On the other half (of the disk that I have numbered "One") are the explanatory files, including 'Intro' which you are now reading, the dBase III+ file, named 'SciCommy.dbf' (Scientific Community. Database File), and the two related program files, 'Expand.prg' and 'Exp_Tech.prg.'

The farther I have progressed with the dBase file, the more cautious I have become. In collecting data I have become increasingly aware how arbitrary the distinctions between categories frequently are and how infinitely human life varies, resisting efforts to establish categories the entries in which you can count. In my own mind, the reports are the principal product of this study, and I urge anyone using the dBase file to use it with extreme care. I think that it indicates gross phenomena, and by doing this suggests avenues of further research. I have been struck, for example, by the number of scientists who were sons of clergymen, by concentrations in certain universities, by the number employed as governmental officials of one sort or another, by the sources of patronage, and by the types of technological involvement. It was through this catalogue that I first became aware of the importance of cartography in the scientific community and of the status, as I am convinced, of cartography as the first modern scientific technology. In my considered opinion, however, you should beware of attributing meaning to precise counts.

I now consider the catalogue complete. I suspect that there will never be a time when I will not be willing to add more information if I happen to stumble upon it. However, with the expansion of the English cohort completed, I have ceased to work further on it in any consistent way.

With Permission,
G. Westfall (Dec.98)