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Listing People

James Delbourgo
Vol. 103, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 735-742
DOI: 10.1086/669046
Stable URL:
Page Count: 8
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ABSTRACTHistorians and commentators have long discussed tensions between specialist and lay expertise in the making of scientific knowledge. Such accounts have often described quarrels over the distribution of expertise in nineteenth-century “popular” and imperial sciences. The “crowdsourcing” of science on a global scale, however, arguably began in the early modern era. This essay examines the lists of specimen suppliers, the artifacts of a worldwide collecting campaign, published by the London apothecary James Petiver at the turn of the eighteenth century. Listing suppliers helped Petiver advertise his status as a global specimen broker in the Republic of Letters. However, publicly listing his sources drew criticism over the social character of his collecting project, while lists became synonymous with the debasement of learning in polemics over natural history.