Johnson: Observation and Enquiry

Image: Samuel Johnson. John Jackson, History of the City and Cathedral of Lichfield (London, 1805).

Image from: Local Studies and History, Birmingham Central Library

The value of a work must be estimated by its use; it is not enough that a dictionary delights the critick, unless, at the same time, it instructs the learner.

Samuel Johnson was born in Lichfield on 7 September 1709 and died in London on 13 December 1784. His father, Michael Johnson was a bookseller, but he began his business with the sale of velum and parchment and set up a small parchment factory a third of a mile from his shop in Lichfield. Various tanners worked for Michael and he travelled around the Midlands to buy skins for the business. Samuel Johnson would have known the stink of the tannery and the nature of industrial activity from an early age. He was an acute observer, intellectually curious and a storehouse of information. His friend Hester Thrale wrote: “The life of this man was indeed expanded beyond the common limits of human nature, and stored with such variety of knowledge.”   Theoretical knowledge and experiential observation were integral parts of his mind.


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4215-0The occurrences of common life: Samuel Johnson, Practical Science and Industry in the Midlands 3537-0Johnson: Observation and Enquiry 3715-0Johnson and Science 2875-0Johnson, the Natural World and Industry 545-0Johnson, Bridges and John Gwynn 3755-0Johnson and Practical Improvement: Iron 2877-0Johnson and the Midlands Landscape 4217-0Johnson and Derby Porcelain 2878-0Johnson and Silk Production in Derby 4059-0Johnson in Birmingham 3661-0Johnson, John Wyatt and Lewis Paul: Improvements to Cotton Spinning 4219-0Johnson, the Society of Arts and the Transformation of the Cotton Industry 946-0Johnson and John Baskerville 2145-0Johnson, John Taylor and Henry Clay 4218-0Johnson and Matthew Boulton 4064-0Johnson: “a longer stay”