In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries what we would call scientists were called natural philosophers.  Their focus was thinking and theorising and observing the natural world.  Most used what we would now call scientific method: observe, analyse, theorise, test, review.  I won’t go into the difference between theory and hypothesis here. 

Princeling Fred does those things with the world around him.  He observes, he notes things that interest him.  He explores them further, pulls his ideas together, maybe has to gather more information or detailed observation and measurement, then he analyses and comes up with reasons why things happen.  The theme throughout the trilogy is his work on wind mapping.  He has observed that the wind blows the reeds in different directions around his castle, and wants to know why.  He engages George in making a machine to measure which way the wind is blowing when, so he gathers a huge amount of data on this.  Fred continues his wind mapping at Buckmore and there he is even more reliant on George’s wind mapping machines since Buckmore is surrounded by far less mobile vegetation.

I imagine he is marking on his plan of the area around the castle lines of direction and strength (vectors).  These give a visual representation of the deflection of the wind by the castle when the wind is coming from different directions itself.  Maybe he should have one map for an easterly wind, one for a westerly, and so on.  I think if he does that he’ll come up with some interesting thoughts on wind behaviour.

Fred (or George) also mentions work they’ve done to understand tides and their effect on the water levels in the marsh.

It is interesting that little literature on these aspects of natural philosophy has made its way into the Castle Marsh library, since there are papers that are of interest to both of them in the Arbor one.  Fred and George find papers and journals relating to their interests once they leave Marsh, so they quickly connect with others interested in the same fields.  This enables George to enter even more exciting areas of engineering since he quickly links up with the pioneers of flight. I wonder whether Fred’s wind mapping is overtaken by or contributes to George’s interest in flying.  Have the pioneers got this far in the theory of flight? What ‘lifts’ the wings?  Do they have a concept of fluid and aerodynamics or are they still just experimenting?

One thing that falls under the aegis of natural philosopher is cartography or map-making.  Strangely, it seems that maps of the realms are unheard of.  The introduction of powered flight seems to be likely to change this.  What sort of maps will they be?  Physical geography? Routes, habitations and safe areas? Underlying structures and geology? I hope Fred won’t be prevented from following this through to a natural conclusion by the pressures of government.  The summer school he introduces will bring more talented people to Marsh, though, so maybe he will become the project director.  I hope he still gets to spend time Thinking, though.

Footnote: Fred ‘wrote’ a series of Think Pieces on the boys’ blog at  They might turn up in a future book with the working title The Chronicles of Marsh.


Natural Philosophy
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