Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Nick Wilding

Second Advisor

Dr. Jacob Selwood


Discovered in 1933 after having been hidden from the academic world for 271 years, the Hartlib Papers have been called the greatest 17th century research revelation of the 20th century. Yet 81 years later the author and collector of the papers remains a mystery and the content of the papers have been little appreciated. Who was this auctor prudens and what do his voluminous papers have to say about his time? This thesis argues that Hartlib is a critical link in a long chain of scholars who formed and shaped the development of science. An evolution which began with Roger Bacon, more fully developed into a new epistemology with Francis Bacon, is passed on by Hartlib to others who were founding members of the Royal Society. This new system of understanding, then known as experimentalism, is the empirical method which impacted the entire spectrum of modern academic disciplines.