Curiosity Killed the Cat: Vivisections in Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century England




Fill, Amber

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University of Victoria


'In eighteenth century England, there was a rise in empirical experimental methodology that coincided with the growing interest in human anatomy. A roadblock in this was the lack of both human volunteers and human cadavers available to experiment on. Thus, the trend of animal experimentation became the backbone of scientific discoveries. A primary vessel for vivisections was the Royal Society of London for Improving of Natural Knowledge. Opening in 1660 as an enlightened establishment for scientific research, it brought together the virtuosi of science to expand natural knowledge. Early members of the Royal Society included Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke, whose experiments laid the groundwork for the practices and values of vivisections. Public reactions to these experiments varied from satirical to sentimental, with others condemning the Royal Society for wasting resources on inferior species. Overall, the transactions, personal correspondences, newspapers, and artwork of the era all work to reveal the English populace's attitudes towards vivisections in the eighteenth century.



vivisection, early modern England, Robert Boyle, Royal Society, Joseph Wright of Derby