4 November: The first issue of science journal “Nature” was published on this day in 1869

In the 19th century one was wont to address Nature writing it with a capital N. Not out of deference, but in order to sew together a relationship that was extremely multifaceted. Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, for example, views Nature as a priestess, an austere and severe keeper of time. In an imaginary dialogue written by him, Nature tells a man that he has been a fool to think that the world was made for his benefit; and it is thus no coincidence that he, an Icelander, dies just a few seconds after their dialogue has taken place (owing to unknown causes…).

At the same time, though in a more northerly country, another poet was carrying on a different dialogue: “To the solid ground of Nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye…” These words by William Wordsworth were printed on the cover of the first issue of “Nature” on 4 November 1869. It was a declaration of intents. Indeed, we could describe the English people’s relationship with nature as picturesque, a concept most clearly exemplified in the English garden, a quiet match between two players: human artifice and the Mistress of the house. Nowadays we fluctuate between two extremes: from calling Nature by her name, we’ve gone on to be so overly familiar with her that if she could speak, she would say that we’re shouting in her face. At the same time, other buzz words have come to the fore, “Gaia” being merely one of the more commonly used; this word is used to denote a line of thought according to which Mother Nature possesses the means to regenerate herself, in spite of the pollution and global warming caused by us, and the plastic we unload into the sea.

We wish journals such as “Nature” the best of luck: today it’s harder than ever to ensure one’s buttons are securely sewn on and that one isn’t going to lose one’s thread amidst the tangled-up strands of science, journalism, science fiction and fake news. The latter is forever lurking, ready to camouflage and pass itself off as the real thing.

Name Day:
St Charles Borromeo