T.H. Huxley famously complained that the word "scientist" was a "vulgar Americanism." This was in the 19th Century!

Query: what did they call Sir Isaac Newton in the 18th Century?

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    This has been popping up around the internet recently. May 18, 2023 at 20:27
  • 6
    In the 18th Century they would have called Isaac Newton "Master of the Royal Mint" as he'd quit the science game by then. May 18, 2023 at 20:33
  • Your title query is not the same as your text query.
    – Anton
    May 20, 2023 at 7:20
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    I'm traveling and away from my sources, but I have this hazy memory of the word "scientist" being used for the first woman something. Maybe for Florence Sabin being elected to the Academy of Science. The previous terms were male-gendered, and so they used "scientist" to describe her. I know the word existed prior, but I've read somewhere that this event is when the word "made it." I'll try to remember to check next week.
    – B. Goddard
    May 20, 2023 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


Natural philosophy or philosophy of nature (from Latin philosophia naturalis) is the philosophical study of physics, that is, nature and the physical universe. It was dominant before the development of modern science.

also, on Newton in particular

Sir Isaac Newton FRS (25 December 1642 – 20 March 1726/27) was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, alchemist, theologian, and author who was described in his time as a natural philosopher.

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    Newton wrote (of his own works) "Philosophy is such an impertinently litigious lady that a man had as good be engaged in lawsuits as have to do with her". This was in a 1685 letter to his publisher, in relation to a feud with Hooke who accused Newton of plagiarism. May 19, 2023 at 6:49
  • So it should be no surprise that in English, the terminal academic degree in all scientific disciplines is called "doctor of philosophy". May 20, 2023 at 14:18
  • @JohnBollinger Except when it isn't.
    – Andrew Leach
    May 20, 2023 at 19:38
  • The University of Melbourne's Natural Philosophy department was renamed the Physics department in 1945.
    – Peter
    May 21, 2023 at 8:35

A scholar is a learned person, an erudite; someone who has acquired a deep knowledge in one or more disciplines.

As illustrated by ngram, this term was significantly used from the middle of 18th century.

Nowadays, it is mostly used in the sense of student. However, it is still employed for scientist, e.g. :

Eminent scholar means world-class, distinguished and established investigators recognized nationally for their research, achievements and ability to garner significant federal funding on an annual basis. Eminent scholars are recognized for their scientific knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to enhance the innovative research that leads to economic gains. Eminent scholars are either members of or likely candidates for the national academy of sciences or other prominent national academic science organizations. < source >

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    Would Isaac Newton have been called an "imminent scholar"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 19, 2023 at 4:42
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    @Mari-LouA Maybe just before his mother gave birth to him? May 19, 2023 at 14:29
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    @Mari-LouA You probably men ‘eminent’, not ‘imminent’, and yes he could have been called such. May 19, 2023 at 17:53
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    @AustinHemmelgarn dang! In any case the user has not provided evidence showing that Sir Isaac Newton was referred to as an eminent scholar
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 19, 2023 at 18:02
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    Not all scholars are scientists, and not all scientists are scholars. It's merely something of a coincidence that many scientists of that time were also scholars.
    – R Mac
    May 19, 2023 at 19:39

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