The polite world took little interest in the Alps before the 18th century. The local inhabitants had ventured far enough to shoot chamois and to search for crystal (i.e. quartz), but few of the educated took any notice. The earliest natural philosophers to study the botany and mineralogy of these regions were from the German–speaking towns of Switzerland. Their first conclusions have not always stood the test of time; one of them, J.J. Scheuchzer (F.R.S., 1703) even reported the presence of dragons. Such frivolities did not appeal to the Calvinists of the city republic of Geneva. They could see the ‘montagnes maudites’ of Savoy to the south–east, but they never went to them. The first serious attempts to describe this world of snow and ice were made in 1741 and 1742.