A Prehistory of Peer Review: Religious Blueprints from the Hartlib Circle

Brent Tibor Ranalli


The conventional history of modern scientific peer review begins with the censorship practices of the Royal Society of London in the 1660s. This article traces one strand of the “prehistory” of peer review in the writings of John Amos Comenius and other members of the Hartlib circle, a precursor group to the Royal Society of London. These reformers appear to have first envisioned peer review as a technique for theologians, only later proposing to apply it to philosophy. The importance of peer review was as a technique that would permit a community of theologians or philosophers to resolve disputes internally rather than publicly, since public disputation would (they believed) sow doubt, error, and confusion, and disrupt the social order.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4245/sponge.v5i1.14973

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