David Wootton

Caricature of John Stuart Mill, by ‘Spy’, Leslie Matthew Ward, in Vanity Fair, March 1873.

‘The greatest good for the greatest number’ flounders when society cannot agree on what is ‘good’ – or ‘bad’. 

The Royal Society in Crane Court, London, 17th century

The rise of ‘the fact’ during the 17th century came at the expense of the power of authority. Could the digital age reverse how we decide what is true and what is not? 

Down to Earth: Comet over Nuremberg, 1680, by Johann Jakob von Sandrart

Halley’s Comet will not be visible again until 2061. But how did scientists discover how to accurately predict its return?  

Gathering bulbs: garlic harvested in a Latin version of an Arabic book on health, late 14th century.

The Scientific Revolution put an end to beliefs that were once considered rational but now seem bizarre. If we want to understand why, we need to look at the increasing importance of the ‘fact’, says David Wootton.

Few events in history have proved as momentous as Galileo's discovery of the moons of Jupiter. David Wootton explains why.