The article reflects on the natural scientific variant of the philosophical essay, with discussions of the essays of James Clerk Marxwell, Steven Jay Gould, and Carlo Rovelli. It suggests that the natural scientific essay is an important source of the philosophical essay eclipsed by the prominence of the essay form in art and literary criticism. It assesses the role of chance and improvisation in the natural scientific essay and considers its potential as an avenue both of scientific research and of the wider dissemination of scientific thought.

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