Science has been around almost a long as humans have, from the first time someonethought to wonder what those shiny points of light were in the night sky, or squatted down on hishaunches to study the comings and goings of ants, or started noting the monthly cycle of themoon. We've come a long way since then - from Lucretius's epic poem on the atomic theory of Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who lived about 300 B.C.E (Bolles 420), through the ScientificRevolution of the 17th and early 18th centuries, which brought us, among other things, "precisetime measurement, enhanced astronomical observation, selective animal and plant breeding,technical advances in navigation, [and] chemical substance analysis" (Jardine 7), to quantummechanics, chaos and string theory, molecular biology and black holes.
Rhetoric has been around almost as long as science has, perhaps formally beginning withIsocrates, Plato and Aristotle. Unlike science, however, rhetoric has fallen on somewhat hardtimes, becoming "a shabby little weasel word in most circles" (Harris 282). Putting the word
together with the "god term"
may seem like a contradiction in terms, but thispaper will demonstrate that science is actually, as Harris puts it, "profoundly rhetorical," and thelast few decades have seen a blossoming of the discipline now known as
rhetoric of science.
A Brief History of Science Writing
Around 444 B.C.E, Herodotus provided a detailed account of the silting of the Nile whichaccounted, he said, for the creation of the greater part of Egypt. Based on "personal observation,on curiosity about the natural processes that account for the observations, and on speculationabout what these processes mean generally for the natural world" (Bolles 125), his account is oneof the first examples of what we what we now call "science writing." Besides being a painter,sculptor, architect and engineer, Leonardo Da Vinci wrote about a curious phenomenon broughtto his attention by local peasants in Milan: seashells and corals which they had found in the