The English term "natural history" is a translation of the Latin historia naturalis. Its meaning has narrowed progressively with time, while the meaning of the related term "nature" has widened (see also History below). In antiquity, it covered essentially anything connected with nature or which used materials drawn from nature. For example, Pliny the Elder's encyclopedia of this title, published circa 77 to 79 AD, covers astronomy, geography, man and his technology, medicine and superstition as well as animals and plants. Until well into the nineteenth century, knowledge was considered by Europeans to have two main divisions: the humanities (including theology), and studies of nature. Studies of nature could in turn be divided, with natural history being the descriptive counterpart to natural philosophy, the analytical study of nature. In modern terms, natural philosophy roughly corresponded to modernphysics and chemistry, while natural history included the biological and geological sciences. The two were strongly associated. During the heyday of the gentleman scientists, many people contributed to both fields, and early papers in both were commonly read at professional science society meetings such as the Royal Society and the French Academy of Sciences – both founded during the seventeenth century. Natural history had been encouraged by practical motives, such as Linnaeus' aspiration to improve the economic condition of Sweden. Similarly, the Industrial Revolution prompted the development of geology to help find useful mineral deposits. Modern
Modern definitions of natural history come from a variety of fields and sources, and many of the modern definitions emphasize a particular aspect of the field, creating a plurality of definitions with a number of common themes among them. For example, while natural history is most often defined as a type of observation and a subject of study, it can also be defined as a body of knowledge, and as a craft or a...
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