Robert Child (agriculturalist)

Robert Child (1613–1654) was an English physician, agriculturalist and alchemist. A recent view is that his approach to agriculture belongs to the early ideas on political economy.[1]

Early life

The son of John Child of Northfleet in Kent he was educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He then attended the universities of Leiden and Padua, taking a medical degree at Leiden in 1635, and his M.D. at Padua in 1638.[2][3]

In New England

Child did not practise medicine as a new graduate. In 1638 he travelled to New England, where his first stay lasted to 1641.[4] There he came to know John Winthrop the younger, and a supporter of his ironworks project. Residing in Watertown, he joined the Nashaway Company, who were interested in iron ore; but left to go back to England.[5][6]

Moore writes that, during the period from 1641, Child worked in England using good contacts, trying to make New England self-sufficient in iron.[7] He also travelled widely in continental Europe, meeting the alchemist Pierre Jean Fabre.[2]

On Child's return to New England in 1645, he was active in running the Saugus ironworks.[8] He took an interest in the fur trade; he was also prospecting for a vineyard, but became involved in local politics and religious matters.[9][5] This second visit ended in his departure in 1647, forced out as a Presbyterian.[10]

Child had taken part in agitation against the dominant Independents (congregationalists) in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, becoming the leader of the dissident Remonstrant group, who took their name from the "Remonstrance and Humble Petition" he wrote. Scholars disagree on its aims, but they included extending the Long Parliament's control across the Atlantic.[11][5][12] The group of seven signatories included also Samuel Maverick (the others being Thomas Burton, lawyer at Hingham, John Dand, Thomas Fowle, John Smith and David Yale).[13][14]

Pamphlets on the case, in the Massachusetts General Court, appeared in 1647. New-England's Jonas cast up in London was by Child's brother John, a major in the parliamentary army. New England's Salamander was by Edward Winslow, who had been instructed to counter the arguments of the Remonstrants and Samuel Gorton.[15][16][17] It has been suggested that the "Jonas" pamphlet was written by William Vassall.[18]

Alchemy

Child shared with John Winthrop the younger, and Richard Leader of the Saugus works, an interest in alchemy arising from the metallurgy of iron.[19] In the 17th century, a number of writers stated that Child was Eirenaeus Philalethes, the pseudonymous alchemist.[20] That view was circulated by Johann Ferdinand Hertodt, among others.[21]– It was incorrect, since the pseudonym concealed in fact his associate George Starkey from Massachusetts Bay Colony.[2] Child, along with Benjamin Worsley, also took an interest in the chemical work of Johann Glauber.[22]

Among Child's chemical contacts was John French who wrote on distillation.[23] He knew Robert Boyle well enough to introduce Starkey to him, in 1650. At that time he was also setting up a group including Thomas Henshaw, Thomas Vaughan and William Webbe, to gather and translate alchemical and chemical texts.[2]

Agriculture

Child was an advocate of intensive cultivation over traditional agriculture. His views were expressed in The Defects and Remedies of English Husbandry (1652) and put him at odds with conventional wisdom, as represented by Walter Blith. He is now considered to have been ahead of his time.[24] This work, known also as Child's "Large Letter", formed part of Samuel Hartlib His Legacie of 1651; others who contributed to the work include Cressy Dymock, Gabriel Plats (in the 1655 edition) and Richard Weston.[25][26][27][28] The farming use of marl provoked a comment by Child published in the Legacie, suggesting that "husbandmen" should take an interest in what could be dug out of the ground.[29]

Samuel Hartlib was an intelligencer whose wide-ranging group of correspondents is now identified as the Hartlib Circle; Child had joined it by 1645.[30] He was in agreement with other members of the Circle in approving of enclosures of land.[31] Gerard and Arnold Boate's Ireland's Naturall History was representative of the Circle's interests, and took up Child's suggestion in a survey of "Metals, Minerals ..." in Ireland.[29]

Last years

In 1651 Child was invited by Arthur Hill to his estate in Ulster. He remained there for the rest of his life, working on natural history and studying the agriculture of the area.[32]

References

  1. ^ Newell, Margaret E.. 1995. "Robert Child and the Entrepreneurial Vision: Economy and Ideology in Early New England". The New England Quarterly 68 (2). The New England Quarterly, Inc.: 223–56. doi:10.2307/366257.
  2. ^ a b c d Clucas, Stephen (2011) [2004]. "Child, Robert (1613–1654)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/53661.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ Ms Daniela Prögler (28 January 2014). English Students at Leiden University, 1575-1650: 'Advancing your abilities in learning and bettering your understanding of the world and state affairs'. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 288. ISBN 978-1-4094-8404-2.
  4. ^ David M. Powers (19 January 2015). Damnable Heresy: William Pynchon, the Indians, and the First Book Banned (and Burned) in Boston. Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. 161. ISBN 978-1-62564-870-9.
  5. ^ a b c John Winthrop (1 June 2009). The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649. Harvard University Press. pp. 624–5 notes. ISBN 978-0-674-03438-9.
  6. ^ David Jaffee (1999). People of the Wachusett: Greater New England in History and Memory, 1630-1860. Cornell University Press. p. 256. ISBN 0-8014-3610-9.
  7. ^ Susan Hardman Moore (2007). Pilgrims: New World Settlers & the Call of Home. Yale University Press. pp. 67 and 236 note 70. ISBN 0-300-11718-3.
  8. ^ Susan Hardman Moore (2007). Pilgrims: New World Settlers & the Call of Home. Yale University Press. p. 157. ISBN 0-300-11718-3.
  9. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (1 January 1935). The Founding of Harvard College. Harvard University Press. p. 372. ISBN 978-0-674-31450-4.
  10. ^ Raymond Phineas Stearns (1970). Science in the British Colonies of America. University of Illinois Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-0-252-00120-8.
  11. ^ Rodney L. Petersen (17 September 2014). Divinings: Religion at Harvard: From its Origins in New England Ecclesiastical History to the 175th Anniversary of The Harvard Divinity School, 1636–1992. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 124. ISBN 978-3-647-55056-5.
  12. ^ Thomas Hutchinson (16 March 2010). A Collection of Original Papers Relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay. Applewood Books. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-4290-2305-4.
  13. ^ Thomas Hutchinson (16 March 2010). A Collection of Original Papers Relative to the History of the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay. Applewood Books. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-4290-2305-4.
  14. ^ John Winthrop (1 June 2009). The Journal of John Winthrop, 1630-1649. Harvard University Press. p. 625. ISBN 978-0-674-03438-9.
  15. ^ The Edinburgh Review. A. and C. Black. 1855. pp. 282–3.
  16. ^ Samuel Austin Allibone (1871). A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors: Living and Deceased from the Earliest Accounts to the Latter Half of the Nineteenth Century. Containing Over Forty-three Thousand Articles (authors), with Forty Indexes of Subjects. J. B. Lippincott. p. 2792.
  17. ^ Thomas J. Curry (14 May 2014). The First Freedoms: Church and State in America to the Passage of the First Amendment. Ebsco Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-19-536400-2.
  18. ^ Susan Hardman Moore (2007). Pilgrims: New World Settlers & the Call of Home. Yale University Press. p. 236 note 70. ISBN 0-300-11718-3.
  19. ^ Marsha L. Hamilton (2009). Social and Economic Networks in Early Massachusetts: Atlantic Connections. Penn State Press. p. 147 note 29. ISBN 0-271-03551-X.
  20. ^ William R. Newman (15 February 2003). Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-226-57714-2.
  21. ^ William R. Newman (15 February 2003). Gehennical Fire: The Lives of George Starkey, an American Alchemist in the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press. p. 289 note 115. ISBN 978-0-226-57714-2.
  22. ^ Anna Marie Roos (13 August 2007). The Salt of the Earth: Natural Philosophy, Medicine, and Chymistry in England, 1650-1750. Brill. p. 34 and note 95. ISBN 978-90-474-2141-2.
  23. ^ Antonio Clericuzio (2000). Elements, Principles and Corpuscles: A Study of Atomism and Chemistry in the Seventeenth Century. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-7923-6782-6.
  24. ^ Joan Thirsk, ed. (1 March 1990). Chapters from The Agrarian History of England and Wales: Volume 3, Agricultural Change: Policy and Practice, 1500-1750. Cambridge University Press. pp. 151–2. ISBN 978-0-521-36882-7.
  25. ^ William R. Newman; Lawrence M. Principe (1 June 2005). Alchemy Tried in the Fire: Starkey, Boyle, and the Fate of Helmontian Chymistry. University of Chicago Press. p. 158 note 6. ISBN 978-0-226-57702-9.
  26. ^ Alicia Amherst (8 January 2015). A History of Gardening in England: (1896). BoD – Books on Demand. p. 180. ISBN 978-3-8457-1177-5.
  27. ^ Samuel Hartlib; Cressy Dymock; Robert Child; Sir Richard Weston (1651). Samuel Hartlib his legacie, or, An enlargement of the Discourse of husbandry used in Brabant and Flaunders: wherein are bequeathed to the common-wealth of England more outlandish and domestick experiments and secrets in reference to universall husbandry. Printed by H. Hills for Richard Wodenothe.
  28. ^ R. H. Inglis Palgrave (5 March 2015). Dictionary of Political Economy. Cambridge University Press. p. 291. ISBN 978-1-108-08038-5.
  29. ^ a b Allen G. Debus (21 March 2013). The Chemical Philosophy. Courier Corporation. pp. 421–2. ISBN 978-0-486-15021-5.
  30. ^ Marie Boas Hall (1958). Robert Boyle and Seventeenth-Century Chemistry. Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-107-45374-6.
  31. ^ Vittoria Di Palma (26 August 2014). Wasteland: A History. Yale University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-300-19779-2.
  32. ^ Armstrong, R. M. "Hill, Arthur". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/13269.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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