I intended the written aspect of my div3 to comprise about 1/2 of my time and effort in the project- but it turned out something more like 3/4 of my time, effort and frustration. I've spent most of college in science classes, with the occasional lab report or research paper- and the kind of writing that made up "The Doctrine of Signatures in Renaissace Europe" was not something that i was familiar with. It required vocabulary, writing and research techniques that i knew little about.
Looking back, though, i feel pretty good about how far i've come. Writing about the history of science was in some ways a natural next step for me. It was interesting, and perhaps more challenging than sticking with scientific studies, to shift course toward history and philosophy.
My interest in the subject, the doctrine of signatures, began when i took a UMASS independent study course, ENVS 296: New England Medicinal Plants in spring of 2002. The professor was an herbal and homeopathic practitioner and she took us on walks in the woods, showing us medicinal plants. She referred to the doctrine of signatures often and, for example, taught that flowers with "sucking mouth parts," like ground ivy, were good for removing toxins and heavy metals from the body. It was fascinating to me that such a mystical philosophy still had its sincere believers. Of course, i wanted to know the orgin of this concept.
I didn't realize how much history and philosophy i had to learn in order to gain even a basic understanding of the context for the historical development of the doctrine of signatures. I learned much, but now i also see how much more there is to know!