Robert Plot starts his chapter ‘Of Men and Women by noting that the methods used to describe species of plants and animals cannot be used in his description of men and women. God created male and female in his own image “little lower than angels, no new ‘species of men’ will be produced. What remains for Plot to be determined are ‘accidents’, which he classifies as unusual, yet has observed enough reported detail to arrive at three differing events in the life cycle into which they may be ordered.
at or before their birth
in their course of life
in their death or Grave
Narrative frame in which the natural history of man and women can unfold.
First example given occurs before ‘the birth of man’ with the Vagitus uterinus or the crying of the child in the mothers womb. Plot discusses a number of authorities on the subject.
He satisfies himself from the frequency of report that it is a matter of fact. He notes a dispute among physicians relating the subject to medical perspectives on respiration and wither the scream is a matter of necessity. Its a debate he does not want to stray into “let the Physicians dispute.”
Plot then seems to want to resolve what may be described as a vulgar error. That the cry is an act of prophecy signalling calamity. Plot notes reassuringly, that the ruin of kingdoms as the divines teach is related to the wickedness of people, living in contempt of God and his laws. Vagitus, therefore in an ideal state is nothing but a sign of happiness to the infant the mother and the state.
It’s an ‘index’ of its strength and perfection. It provides the mother with certainty that her child is living and healthy. The state is about to be blessed with an able subject. Any tragedy that may occur in pregnancy after this point is a matter of accident rather than design (plot here seems to be attempting to dispel the idea that a prodigy, portent of god or monstrous birth is an inevitable outcome).
Plots next subject brings further detail on aspects surrounding birth in the course of a mans life, detailing the secrets of sympathy and its relationship with birth.
Robert Plot, The Natural History of Oxfordshire, Being An Essay Towards A Natural History of England, 1705