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We often hear scientists write of the Queen of Sciences. To what were they referring? And is it relevant in today's research?

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    $\begingroup$ Theology was “the queen of the sciences” and philosophy “her handmaiden”. Later Locke declared philosophy "the handmaiden of the sciences" and later still Gauss proclaimed:"Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics." Philosophy never got a break. $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ If mathematics is the queen, what discipline is the king? $\endgroup$
    – DJohnson
    Commented May 7, 2023 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ it hardly matters. These are cringeworthy metaphors. You would make better use of your time actually studying the things you keep referring to as your kings and queens $\endgroup$
    – Hisham
    Commented May 29, 2023 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ @DJohnsonIt mattered to the philosophers and scientists (legitimate scholars) for centuries. Would you discount their research, credibility, contributions? It is on their shoulders which you stand, eh? $\endgroup$
    – user18391
    Commented May 30, 2023 at 23:07

2 Answers 2

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There were at least two Queens:

In the late Middle Ages, Theology was called Queen of the sciences. See, e.g., "How Theology Stopped Being Regina Scientiarum—and How Its Story Continues"

Subsequently in the 1700s, the title was transferred to mathematics. E.g., Gauss who said "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences and number theory is the queen of mathematics."

(There's a lot more if you google "Queen of the Sciences"...)

Mathematics is, of course, relevant. And in some areas -- String Theory, for example -- there seems to be no hope left but prayer...

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    $\begingroup$ Is there an authentic German/Latin quote of Gauss? $\endgroup$
    – ACR
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ "Die Mathematik ist die Königin der Wissenschaften und die Zahlentheorie ist die Königin der Mathematik." -- attributed to Gauss $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2023 at 16:58
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There is a much-quoted description of the elaborately sculpted tomb of Isaac Newton, repeated (for instance) in the April 1731 (vol 1, number 4, p.159) issue of Gentleman's Magazine, in the year Westminster Abbey says the statuary was unveiled.

... On the globe sits the figure of Astronomy weeping, with a sceptre in her hand (as Queen of the Sciences) and a Star over her head on the Pyramid. ...

Other publications with almost identical descriptions include The Political State of Great Britain, April 1731, vol. 41, p.412,413; The Present State of the Republick of Letters, April 1731, vol. 7, pp.317-320; and The Pennsylvania Gazette, 22-29 July 1731, No. 141 (p.512 in the 1968 reprint). The Republick version has some added content, including a quotation of Pope's "All Nature and its Laws lay in Night; God said let Newton be, and all was Light".

Astronomy is not far removed from mathematics, and so on, but Q of S can have other meanings than Theology and Mathematics.

Added 7 May 2023: An earlier English instance is in John Gadbury's 1677 interestingly titled book The Just and Pious Scorpionist..., where the preface (flatteringly titled "To the Honest and Intelligent Reader") states

For it is the Divine Urania! and she alone ! that is the Mistris and Queen of all Natural Sciences.

Alas, it is clear that the author means Urania the muse of astrology not astronomy.

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