16 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

For most of human history, fire has been a pervasive presence in human life, and so also in human thought. This essay examines the ways in which fire has functioned intellectually in Western civilization as mythology, as religion, as natural philosophy and as modern science. The great phase change occurred with the development of industrial combustion; fire faded from quotidian life, which also removed it from the world of informing ideas. Beginning with the discovery of oxygen, fire as an organizing concept fragmented into various subdisciplines of natural science and forestry. The Anthropocene, however, may revive the intellectual role of fire as an informing idea or at least a narrative conceit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150166
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume371
Issue number1696
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 5 2016

Fingerprint

Civilization
civilization
Fires
fire history
Mythology
Natural Science Disciplines
religion
Forestry
Natural sciences
industrialization
Religion
phase transition
forestry
combustion
oxygen
History
Oxygen
history

Keywords

  • Anthropocene
  • Fire
  • History
  • History of ideas
  • History of science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Fire in the mind : Changing understandings of fire in western civilization. / Pyne, Stephen.

In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 371, No. 1696, 20150166, 05.06.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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