The Works of the Learned Sir Thomas Brown…
Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682)
London: Printed for Tho. Basset, Ric. Chiswell, Tho. Sawbridge, Charles Mearn, and Charles Brome, 1686
First collected edition
PR3327 A1 1686
Sir Thomas Browne took up a suggestion made by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) in his Advancement of Learning that there should be a list compiled of erroneous beliefs in the fields of natural sciences and general knowledge. Browne, a tireless observer, used a combination of authoritative testimonies, reason, and experimentation in an attempt to dispose of hundreds of current common fallacies.
One of the most fantastic of Browne’s studies is in part 3 of Works, “Urn-Burial: Together with the Garden of Cyrus.” Browne begins with the Garden of Eden and traces the history of horticulture down to the time of the Persian King Cyrus. The king is credited with having been the first to plant trees in a quincunx, a distinctive spatial arrangement of five objects. Browne claimed to have discovered that this quincuncial arrangement also appeared in the hanging gardens of Babylon, leading him into a discussion about the mystical qualities of the number five.
And so science goes.