The term "natural history" is a translation of the Latin phrase historia naturalis meaning "the story of nature". Nowadays denoting the study of life, it originally also covered astronomy.

Why has there been the notion of "story" here, even in studies that by themselves have taken the form of the classification of collections using a principally synchronic approach that has paid little attention either to changes that organisms experience during their lifetimes or to evolution?

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question, might it be better over at hsm.stackexchange.com ? $\endgroup$ – gilleain Mar 12 '18 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ This is two questions. SE prefers just one. I suspect the linguistic asumptions in the first question may be over-simplistic, and that question better put (after some research) to SE English Language and Usage. For the second (recent usage in astronomy) it may be better follow @gilleain suggestion. Neither are questions of biology. $\endgroup$ – David Mar 12 '18 at 16:33
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    $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about biology. It may be appropriate for the History of Science and Mathematics StackExchange site. $\endgroup$ – mgkrebbs Mar 12 '18 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ Argh, the annoyance of button-selected "reasons". @gilleain has a point. I'm not sure which is best, but I think probably here because it's mainly about biology insofar as "natural history" mainly covers topics within biology nowadays, and even if you take something like the Natural History Museum in London, it's all about living species, biology. I do accept that you can say well at some point for a few writers the term encompassed astronomy as well, which isn't in biology, which is a fair argument. Maybe offer your thoughts, mgkrebbs, before clicking a button? $\endgroup$ – user40471 Mar 12 '18 at 22:33
  • $\begingroup$ I think the question is better combined, because it could get an answer from someone who can write at length about the history of the term and it's not as if the two parts can sensibly be considered totally separately. "Why has the term 'natural history' been used recently to denote the study of life?" would obviously be about biology, @David, and equally obviously neither part of the question is principally about English language and usage - see the reference to Latin in the question. $\endgroup$ – user40471 Mar 12 '18 at 22:37

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