Pliny the Elder, Roman philosopher

Pliny the Elder, Roman philosopher

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Credit: GARY BROWN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Pliny the Elder (AD23-79). Caricature of the Roman author, natural philosopher and naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundus (Pliny the Elder). Pliny's ' Naturalis Historia' (Natural History), written up to AD 77, was the first encyclopaedia and remained the major source of knowledge throughout the middle ages. It became one of the first books ever to be printed. In 'Naturalis Historia' Pliny concerned himself with many descriptions of animals and plants, from the everday, through the exotic to the fantastic. Authors such as Conrad Gesner were to rely heavily on his accounts - and discoveries of creatures like the famous 'Durer' Rhino of 1515 (which Pliny had described) seemed to support his broad validity. Pliny the Elder died while observing the eruption of Vesuvius and trying to rescue citizens in AD79.

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