Magnetic Fever: Global Imperialism and Empiricism in the Nineteenth Century (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-4, ISBN: 9781606189948)

July 4, 2010 at 1:38 am Leave a comment

Magnetic Fever: Global Imperialism and Empiricism in the Nineteenth Century
(American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-4, ISBN: 9781606189948)
by Christopher Carter (Paperback, 168 pages, 2009, $35.00)

Magnetic FeverExplores the links between science and empire in the 19th century, focusing on the mutual interactions of British imperialism and geophysical empiricism.

The 19th century was a time when science was becoming global, in part due to European colonial and imperial expansion. Colonies became not just propagation points for European science, but also collection points for geophysical investigations that could be carried out on a worldwide scale.

Just as European politics influenced the expansion of scientific projects, these “colonial observatories” influenced the type of science that could be done. Comparing the development of British and American geomagnetic research during this period shows the dependency between the two influences. Both the scientific theories and the geopolitical realities played a role in creating the tool for studying global science still in use today.

“Carter (history of science, Duke U.) argues that the British Empire provided a broad setting where universal sciences such as geomagnetism and meteorology could be practiced and legitimized, both helping to overcome the inherited problems of the inductive method, and setting up a system by which scientists could study interconnected phenomena on a global scale,” writes Book News in a review.

“Central to his story are the efforts and successes of John Herschel (1792-1871) in convincing the government to support far-flung scientific endeavors. He covers a fitting enterprise of a maritime people, the knowledge of many attainable by one, worthy of a great national undertaking, Britains contributing their mite, an ample harvest of precious facts, and knowledge and philanthropy among the nations of the earth.”

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Choosing Selection: The Revival of Natural Selection in Anglo-American Evolutionary Biology, 1930-1970 (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-3, ISBN: 9781606189931) Playing With Fire: Histories of the Lightning Rod (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-5, ISBN: 9781606189955)

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