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Document Details :
Title: An Eighteenth-Century Thought Experiment on Climate Change
Subtitle: Johann Jakob Scheuchzer's De ignis seu caloris certa portione heluetiae adsignata (1708)
Author(s): BARTON, William , MIGLIETTI, Sara
Volume: 42 Issue: 2 Date: 2015
Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s De ignis seu caloris certa portione Heluetiae adsignata (1708) is one of a series of scientific papers that the prominent Swiss physician and naturalist (1672-1733) sent to the Royal Society in the early 1700s. This particular essay provides an original contribution to physico-theological thought. Unlike most natural-theological works, it emphasises the dangers of human intervention in nature. As an early modern thought-experiment on climate warming and its expected consequences on Alpine and European ecosystems, it seems to anticipate modern anxiety over climate change. But it is also a fine piece of Neo-Latin mountain-writing in the tradition of earlier authors such as Henricus Glareanus (1488-1563) and Conrad Gesner (1516-1565). This article offers the first edition of De ignis seu caloris certa portione, based on Scheuchzer’s autograph in the Royal Society collections in London. Scheuchzer’s text is accompanied by an English translation, a full textual commentary, a short biography of the author, and an appendix providing the details of Scheuchzer’s papers and letters to the Royal Society for 1703-1708.