PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Gaius Plinius Secundus, army commander, naturalist and author (23AD to 25 August 79AD). Copperplate engraving from Andre Thevet's 'Portraits et vies des hommes illustres' publ Guillaume Chaudiere 1584. Plny's 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 his "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 79AD.
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