The Athenian Oracle - a sort of 17th-century version of Quora - had its roots in The Athenian Mercury, a magazine published twice a week in London between 1690 and 1697. Its Editor-in-Chief John Dunton had come upon the idea of having an advice column in the magazine, giving the readers a chance to send in their questions which would then be answered by a group of experts. This group, called The Athenian Society, consisted of a Dr Norris, the mathematician Richard Sault, the clergyman and author Samuel Wesley, as well as Dunton himself. The questions received by the society covered everything from natural sciences and philosophy to literature and religion, and in 1703, they were collected and published as The Athenian Oracle. Questions range from why horses neigh or how dew is produced, to asking if there is a cure for stammering, as well as philosophical questions on what happiness is - or what death is. Some of the questions were written by women, resulting in a spin-off called The Ladies' Mercury which was published for four weeks in 1693 and was the first periodical specifically aimed for women.
July 2, 2015