I’m actually finding it remarkably easy to answer this question.
I’d have to go for the period after 1660, in London, and thus during the time of the Scientific Revolution. Sure, you had to be a gentleman of privilege, but the Royal Society of London had begun to consolidate informal attitudes that had developed in Gresham College. Inquiry was everywhere. Experiments – often gruesome and on the experimenter – were run. (This gruesomeness – particularly in basic medical research – would continue well into the Georgian period – witness the life of the father of modern surgery, John Hunter). Equally as interesting, specialization hadn’t balkanized the sciences – you had guys like Robert Hooke working in biology, physics, meterology, and indeed architecture, the latter with Christopher Wren.
Some great evocations to the time and period are in Neal Stephenson’s novel Quicksilver, our own Carl Zimmer’s Soul Made Flesh, Lisa Jardine’s The Curious Life of Robert Hooke, and (for the 1700′s), Wendy Moore’s The Knife Man.