Henry Fox Talbot, the father of photography, was a polymath, and among his many publications we find works on mathematics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, archeology, ancient history, mythology, and Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions. He was also at home in botany. In 1847 he brought out a thick book titled English Etymologies. His archive at Cambridge allows one to trace the preparatory stages for this work. Talbot's book is instructive as an example of how some talented, brilliantly educated, and industrious Englishmen in the forties of the nineteenth century went about discovering the origin of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and English words. Talbot was aware of sound correspondences but did not feel bound by them. A list of his sources gives a good idea of the state of the art in England. Talbot's etymologies are interesting only from this point of view. They should be studied as we study the efforts of much earlier researchers, that is, as part of the history of science.
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