Human, Animal, and Machine in the Seventeenth Century

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century was characterized by numerous debates about how to distinguish humans from animals, and animals from machines. This chapter examines the intersections between the scientific investigations of Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Robert Boyle, Thomas Willis, and Edward Tyson, and literary works by John Webster, Thomas Shadwell, and the second Earl of Rochester. Both literary and scientific works employ a complex matrix of analogical thinking in order to explore the complex relationships between humans and their biological and mechanistic environments. Questions about the nature of God, human and animal souls, reason and instinct, and the usefulness of experimentation hinged, in various ways, on the languages of poetry as well as science. Analogical discourse not only created new disciplines (such as comparative anatomy) but began to articulate many of the assumptions and values that drive bioengineering and animal studies today.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Companion to British Literature
EditorsRobert DeMaria, Heesok Chang, Samantha Zacher
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781118827338
ISBN (Print)9780470656044
StatePublished - Jan 10 2014


  • Animal
  • Early of rochester
  • John webster
  • Machine
  • René descartes
  • Robert boyle
  • Science
  • Thomas hobbes
  • Thomas shadwell
  • Thomas willis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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