[O]ne of our countrymen, D. Gilbert, who to his everlasting praise, hath troden out a new path to Philosophy, and on the Loadstone had erected a large Trophie to commend him to posterity. This famous doctor being as pregnant in witty apprehension, as diligent in curious search of natural causes; after many experiments, and long inquiry, found the causes of most magneticall motions and proprieties hid in the magneticall temper and constitution of the Earth, and that the Earth it selfe was a meere Magneticall body challenging all those proprieties, and more then haue expressed themselues in the Load-stone. […] This new Philosophie I dare not commend as euerywhere perfect and absolute, being but of late yeeres invented, and not yet brought to mature perfection: yet would it sauour of little ingenuity or iudgement in any man, perversely to deny all such Magneticall affections in the Earth as are grounded on plaine experiments and obseruation, sith no Philosophie was euery way so exact, but required experience dayly to correct it. I intend not here an absolute discourse of Magneticall Bobies and Motions, but leaue it to their search whose experimentall industrie is more suteable to such a subiect.--Nathanael Carpenter (1625) Geography Delineated Forth in Two Books : 45.
My PhD student, Laura Georgescu, who is completing a terrific dissertation on (to use vocabulary she would partially reject) the experimental and conceptual of scientific revolutions with special focus on the history of magnetism, called my attention to the quoted passage from Carpenter. I had never heard of Carpenter before, but judging by Georgescu's analysis, he was an astute reader of Gilbert, and an early anti-Aristotelian. Gilbert is treated as the then recent founder of a "new philosophy." In the language of the age, he is one of the Novatores. [In what follows, I'll use the anachronistic, 'science,' where Carpenter has philosophy.]
In particular, Carpenter argues that because the magnetical philosophy is new, we should not expect it to be without problems. It is both founded on "plain experiments and observation" and more of these will be required to correct and mature it. In addition to the promised experimental fruitfulness, Gilbert's system is recommended because it is more "exact" than any rivals. Exact was a relatively recent English use connected to precision, measurement and demanding-ness (exacting). I am not suggesting Carpenter is the first to recommend a scientific theory on these grounds, but it is notable expression of a new kind of attitude toward scientific theories (which we tend to connect with Galileo and Kepler).
Carpenter presupposes a kind of teleological, natural life-cycle of scientific systems from immaturity to maturity. In the mature stage we can expect the system to be completed ("perfect and absolute.") The trope in which a science moves from immaturity to maturity is still with us in the Kuhnian conception of science. But in Kuhn the immature phase is pre-paradigmatic, whereas in Carpenter the immature phase occurs during the early stages of the paradigm, when it can guide research into the open questions bequeathed by the paradigmatic founder (in this case Gilbert, who, in context, is treated explicitly as a gift from God).
As an aside, it is unclear from what inspired Carpenter to adopt this image of natural life-cycle of sciences. But in context he clearly implies that the Aristotelian philosophy has exhausted its resources. If I understand him right, both the Aristotelian and Gilbert's magnetic philosophy are treated as distinct from more common sense (he uses 'vulgar' and 'ordinary'') understanding of the world. That is, he recognizes a distinction akin to one between the manifest and scientific image. It is unclear if Carpenter expects a succession of scientific images, each starting a new cycle of improvement to maturity (and decay?), or if he believes that once a system is "perfect and absolute," that's the end of inquiry.
Variants on the idea that sciences have a natural cycle from immaturity to maturity and that the cycle gets started with a semi-divine scientific legislator who guides inquiry onto the correct path is fairly common in the eighteenth century. As I have recounted elsewhere, for example, in his (1734) Letters on the English, Voltaire, echoing Isaiah 35:5, linked Descartes, ‘who brought us to the path of truth and gave sight to the blind’, with Bacon, Locke, and Newton and contrasted them favourably to Malebranche (see especially Letters 12–18; the quotation is from Letter 14). We find a similar strategy in Barbeyrac’s influential preface to his translation of Pufendorf’s Of the Law of Nature and Nations (1729), “Containing an Historical and Critical Account of the Science of Morality, and the Progress It has Made in the World, From the Earliest Times Down to the Publication of This Work”. According to Barbeyrac, reading Bacon inspired Grotius, who should ‘be regarded, as the first who broke the ice’ and put ‘progress’ in the science of the ‘law of nature’ on a solid footing; Grotius, in turn, was ‘bravely followed’ by Pufendorf (see especially sections XXIX–XXX).
Carpenter's set of tropes (that sciences move from immaturity to maturity and that the cycle gets started with scientific legislator who guides inquiry onto the correct path) has an incredible long after-life (recall here on J.N. Keynes and the impact on early 20th century economics) [or here]. It is echoed in Hume's History of England, who puts them in a larger historical sweep. The idea that there is a path to he true philosophy runs, as sub-theme, through many of its volumes. In volume 3, while commenting on the the impact of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, The minds of men, somewhat awakened from a profound sleep of so many centuries, were prepared for every novelty, and scrupled less to tread in any unusual path, which was opened to them. Later, in volume, 5, he notes that Bacon pointed out at a distance the road to true philosophy: Galileo both pointed it out to others, and made himself considerable advances in it. The theme gets its crescendo in volume 6: There flourished during this period a Boyle and a Newton; men who trod, with cautious, and therefore the more secure steps, the only road, which leads to true philosophy.
Strikingly, however, Hume ignores Gilbert's contribution to the scientific revolution. That's especially remarkable because, as Carpenter notes, Gilbert deserves pride of place in any history of experimental philosophy. But that's a mystery for another time.