During the eighteenth century, the study of insects became a worthy pastime, which many theologians endorsed as a spiritually uplifting activity, an opportunity to admire God’s handiwork. In the tradition of Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle or Algarotti, many writers encouraged women, in particular, to put down their copies of L’Astrée and to pick up a book about science. When properly presented, Fontenelle believed that science could be not only palatable, but also pleasurable to women. Passions normally stirred by fiction could be stimulated by scientific truths and directed towards useful ends. Louis de La Caze, physician to Louis XV, argued in favour of the inclusion of women in science, but his reasons for such a concession to equality only reinforced the notion that a woman’s capricious attention span would naturally reduce her involvement to mere flirtations with serious knowledge. Owing to their distinct physiological makeup, claimed La Caze, women naturally required continuous change and variety in their studies. In this light, the sciences became yet another possible diversion. For many, the promotion of God’s “Book of Nature” as a morally superior alternative to romance novels justified the (limited) inclusion of women in science as amateur naturalists.
"Gilles Auguste Bazin's 'True Novel' of Natural History,"
2, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol18/iss2/3