Ralph Thoresby

So this little gem is in the slightly less salubrious part of Kirkgate that is filled with knockdown bacon roll prices and sofas bought on credit.  But in amongst that is a blue plaque to Ralph Thoresby – the historian of Leeds.


This is one of the few plaques I was already very familiar with as it was on my walk to and from the bus station every day for two years.  It was one of those “I should really look him up” moments regularly but I never did.  Now of course the point of this blog is not to just show you what you could see on Wikipedia so today I’ve been searching not for blue plaques but for more on Ralph Thoresby.

The Leeds City Museum provided me with a really strong starting point.  They have tried to recreate what Thoresby’s collection would look like if it had not been sold and given away after his death. It’s a fascinating insight into the world of those Royal Society members whose interests were to study, learn and document all they could about the world around them. The Royal Society first came to my notice through the excellent Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, which weaves adventures in amongst the interactions of Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, Robert Hook and many of the other great minds of their time.  It’s an amazing fiction read but the reality of the lives of the fellows of the Royal Society were equally intriquing.  Their commitment to true knowledge instead of assumptions based on accepted beliefs makes them extremely worthy of respect to me.  They wanted to check the science underlying all our ideas.  Leeds City Museum has a wonderful recreation of what the office of a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) would have looked like at the turn of the 17th to 18th century and it’s filled with books and microscopes and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs.  The FRS of those days, like Thoresby, did not limit themselves to one pursuit over another.  Everything was science and everything was worthy of further study. So it seems right to start by writing about Ralph Thoresby as althought I’ve written very little about him the process of writing this blog is helping me get back into research, fascinated by every little thing out there.  I hope to learn more about Ralph Thoresby as time goes on and plan to come back to him.  In the meantime if you want to do your own reading I highly recommend The Thoresby Society. But for now I think Ralph shall just be my inspiration to keep researching.



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