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The word scientist comes from the Latin scientia, but when did its usage become more prevalent than the term natural philosopher?

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I'm having trouble figuring out whether you're treating the two as synonyms. They're not, but a question about the relative growth of two different professions would be off-topic on english.se. Are you studying historic media interest in the two fields? –  Ben Voigt Mar 9 '11 at 1:02
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Think about it this way: English speakers in the UK and US know of Sir Isaac Newton as one of the greatest scientists of all time, but he would not likely understand the term nor apply it to himself. I guess I'm asking about the words themselves, as it has been more than a century since people used the term natural philosopher in anything other than historical contexts, especially the mainstream. Perhaps it would be off-topic for english.se but it would be a great question to learn about the relative growth of the two professions and the birth of science as a career path even. –  Jared Updike Mar 9 '11 at 18:08
    
I suspect the one question would answer the other. The ability of science to create phenomena that are not naturally occurring (for example, lasing) would influence the abandonment of terms such as natural philosopher and naturalist in favor of a term that isn't restricted to the study of natural occurrences. –  Ben Voigt Mar 9 '11 at 19:28
    
@Ben: Do you think there was a general feeling in academia in the late 1800s that science was harnessing nature 'unnaturally' (cf. Shelley's Frankenstein 1818), enough to change terminology? –  Jared Updike Mar 12 '11 at 1:07
    
I can't offer an expert opinion on that, but it is a very reasonable conjecture. –  Ben Voigt Mar 12 '11 at 3:00
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4 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

From the data reported from the Corpus of Historical American, scientist started to be used more frequently than natural philosopher between 1860 and 1869.

CoHA

The CoHA finds 538 phrases containing scientist dated 1960-1969, and 589 phrases dated 2000-2009.

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+1; Very nice to have it on a log scale, but it seems a little odd to present the n.p. data as bars instead of as a line? –  PLL Mar 8 '11 at 19:54
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I also added a logarithmic trend line. –  kiamlaluno Mar 8 '11 at 20:09
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According to this blog post (and this), William Whewell proposed the term in 1835.

Opposition continued into the late 1800s and early 1900s, but according to this Google Labs ngram, the crossing point appears to be a little after 1870:

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Asked and answered. Very nice. –  Dusty Mar 8 '11 at 19:56
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Wikipedia also mentions that scientist took longer to be accepted in the UK than the US. This I presume explains the difference between your graph (both combined) and @kiamlaluno’s (US only). Unfortunately WP’s reference for the fact, this article, doesn’t seem to be freely available anywhere I can find… –  PLL Mar 8 '11 at 20:54
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Here's the full one. –  muntoo Mar 9 '11 at 3:03
    
@Muntoo: It can also go back to 1500, you know. –  Cerberus Mar 9 '11 at 17:44
    
@Cerberus Sorry, I meant the "almost" full one. ;) Also, at this time, the 1500s haven't happened yet. –  muntoo Mar 9 '11 at 22:23
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I present a different picture:

enter image description here

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What's up with those random bumps for science? (1710-1720; 1730-1740) –  muntoo Mar 9 '11 at 2:04
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@Muntoo: I suspect that the total number of words from books scanned before ca. 1790 is just too low to render significant results. So they are probably random, as you say. –  Cerberus Mar 9 '11 at 2:33
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"books scanned before 1790"? You need to turn off your time machine and stop exporting technology into the middle ages. –  Ben Voigt Mar 9 '11 at 5:09
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@Ben: Hey they had large boxes with monkeys in them that would digitize the books into punched cards. –  Cerberus Mar 9 '11 at 12:55
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I was hoping those bumps were on 1885, 1955, 1985 and 2015 :( –  Nick Bedford Apr 14 '11 at 4:41
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scientist vs. natural philosopher ngram macro

it probably happened in 1870 - just refined the Book Ngram Viewer

here's a more granular view - "natural philosopher" rallied but ultimately gave way to "scientist" before June of 1874

scientist vs. natural philosopher ngram micro/granular

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+1 For the detailed view. P.S. Are you aware of the fact that you can copy a link to the graph-that-is-an-image directly from the page on Ngrams? No need for screenshotting. –  Cerberus Apr 24 '11 at 0:15
    
@Cerberus I was looking for that facility - how would you do that? Sorry, I'm a n00b in english.stackexchange.com ;) –  Paul Amerigo Pajo Apr 24 '11 at 0:24
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You right-click on the graph on your Ngram page, click "copy image location/link/url". Then you simply upload the picture as a link here in your answer: click "add image", click "add image from URL" (not sure what the buttons are called exactly, but something like that), and paste the link you copied from Ngrams. –  Cerberus Apr 24 '11 at 0:54
    
@Cerberus thanks for that! Will try that next time! :) –  Paul Amerigo Pajo Apr 24 '11 at 1:43
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