Where does the word "scientist" come from?

This account of the 19th-century debate over whether or not the word "scientist" is accurate and pleasing to hear is a great reminder that some of the best history stories are the ones you don't even think to ask about.

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  1. “I think we must be content to be anatomists, zoologists,
    geologists, electricians, engineers, mathematicians, naturalists,” he
    argued. “‘Scientist’ has acquired—perhaps unjustly—the significance of a
    charlatan’s device.”

    This reminds me a bit of the angst amongst engineers (in the UK, at least) about the 'appropriation' of that term by people who aren't. Seems to bother some people more than others...

    FWIW, on that subject, I prefer the European "Ingenieur", making the root from Latin ingenium, meaning "cleverness" and ingeniare, meaning "to contrive, devise" more clear.

  2. The Online Etymology Dictionary has an excellent entry on the derivation of the word "science". It may be that 19th-century scientists simply wanted a title with "oomph" (like "master of high new knowledge"), but IMO the word "scientist" is perfectly descriptive of who they are and what they do:

    • They cut apart a problem with intelligence to find knowledge.

  3. This exact sort of discussion is the root of the difference between Aluminum and Alumin-I-um.

    Humphry Davy, the man who discovered the element, named it "aluminum", and that should have been the end of things.

    But then some busybody wrote in to a British political-literary journal called the Quarterly Review complaining that aluminum "has a less classical sound", and proposed instead to call the metal "aluminium".

    Oh, of course! Let's disrespect the discoverer of the element's wishes and change the name of his discovery to suit our own petty differences of aesthetic taste!

  4. Being a naturalist always sounded a bit dirty to me...

  5. Boffins is good. And they've that whole multi-coloured beak thing going on for them.

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