Georgius Agricola's De Re Metallica (1556) is generally considered a mining text that had some important technical innovations but lacked broader philosophical consequences. This article shows that the opposite is true: Agricola's geological ideas, though innovative, had little immediate impact, but he inverted the contemporary concept of scholarship and its relation to artisanal knowledge by giving Latin scholarly form to the kind of observation-based studies of the earth that had previously been reserved for treatment in the vernacular. In doing so, he extended the early 16th-century trend toward observation-based medical practice to the study of the earth.

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