Contributors; Preface; Introduction; Part I. Instruments in Experiments: 1. Scientific instruments: models of brass and aids to discovery; 2. Glass works: Newton’s prisms and the uses of experiment; 3. A viol of water or a wedge of glass; Part II. Experiment and Argument: 4. Galileo’s experimental discourse; 5. Fresnel, Poisson and the white spot: the role of successful predictions in the acceptance of scientific theories; 6. The rhetoric of experiment; Part III. Representing and Realising: 7. ’Magnetic curves’ and the magnetic (...) field: experimentation and representation in the history of a theory; 8. Artificial clouds, real particles; 9. Living in the material world; 10. Justification and experimentation; Part IV. The Constituency of Experiment: 11. Extraordinary experiment: electricity and the creation of life in Victorian England; 12. Why did Britain join CERN?; Part V. Hallmarks of Experiment: 13. From Kwajalein to Armageddon? Testing and the social construction of missile accuracy; 14. The epistemology of experiment; Select bibliography; Name index; Subject index. (shrink)
There seems to be an important historical connexion between changes in the concept of evidence and that of the person capable of giving evidence. Michel Foucault urged that during the classical age the relationship between evidence and the person was reversed: scholasticism derived statements’ authority from that of their authors, while scientists now hold that matters of fact are the most impersonal of statements.1 In a similar vein, Ian Hacking defines a kind of evidence which ‘consists in one thing pointing (...) beyond itself’, and claims that until the early modern period ‘testimony and authority were primary, and things could count as evidence only insofar as they resembled the witness of observers and the authority of books’.2 This captures a rather familiar theme of the ideology of early modern natural philosophy. Nullius in verba was the Royal Society of London’s motto. Robert Boyle, doyen of the Society’s experimental philosophers, tried to build up the credit of laboratory objects at the expense of untrustworthy humans. He reckoned that ‘inanimate bodies … are not capable of prepossessions, or giving us partial informations’, while vulgar men may be influenced by predispositions, and so many other circumstances, that they may easily give occasion to mistakes’. So an inanimate body’s deeds could function as signs of some other state of affairs in a way that the stories of vulgar humans could not.3 1. See Michel Foucault, L’Ordre du discours: Leçon inaugurale au Collêge de France prononcée le 2 décembre 1970 .2. Ian Hacking, The Emergence of Probability: A Philosophical Study of Early Ideas about Probability, Induction and Statistical Inference , pp. 34, 33.3. Quoted in Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump , p. 218. See also Peter Dear, ‘Totius in verba:’ Rhetoric and Authority in the Early Royal Society’, Isis 76 : 145-61. Simon Schaffer lectures in history and philosophy at the University of Cambridge. He is the coauthor of Leviathan and the Air Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life and coauthors of The Uses of Experiment: Studies in the Natural Sciences. (shrink)
William Whewell was a giant of Victorian intellectual culture. His influence, whether recognized or forgotten, is palpable in areas as diverse as moral philosophy, mineralogy, architecture, the politics of education, physics, engineering, and theology. Recent studies of the place of the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain have repeatedly indicated the significance of Whewell's sweeping and critical proposals for a reformed account of scientific knowledge and moral values. However, until now there has been no detailed study of the context and impact of (...) his project. This collection of essays by recognized authorities in the fields of history, history of science, and philosophy thus represents the first attempt to do justice to a magisterial nineteenth-century intellectual. More generally, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian intellectual life and its aftermath. (shrink)
There has been much scholarly attention to definitions of the term “scientific instrument.” Rather more mundane work by makers, curators, and users is devoted to instruments' maintenance and repair. A familiar argument holds that when a tool breaks, its character and recalcitrance become evident. Much can be gained from historical study of instruments' breakages, defects, and recuperation. Maintenance and repair technologies have been a vital aspect of relations between makers and other users. Their history illuminates systems of instruction, support, and (...) abuse. These systems were, for example, evident in the development of astronomical instruments around 1800 within and beyond the European sphere. Episodes from that milieu are used to explore how instrument users sought autonomy, how instruments' mutable character was defined, and how judgments of instruments' failure or success were ever secured. (shrink)
Nick Hopwood, Simon Schaffer and Jim Secord , “Seriality and scientific objects in the nineteenth century”, History of Science, xlviii . Series represent much that was new and significant in the sciences between the French Revolution and the First World War. From periodical publication to the cinema, tabulation to industrialized screening, series feature in major innovations in scientific communication and the organization of laboratories, clinics, libraries, museums and field - XIXe siècle – Nouvel article.
Nick Hopwood, Simon Schaffer and Jim Secord, “Seriality and scientific objects in the nineteenth century”, History of Science, xlviii. Series represent much that was new and significant in the sciences between the French Revolution and the First World War. From periodical publication to the cinema, tabulation to industrialized screening, series feature in major innovations in scientific communication and the organization of laboratories, clinics, libraries, museums and field - XIXe siècle – Nouvel article.
The celebrated Swedish natural philosopher and visionary theologian Emanuel Swedenborg devoted major efforts to the establishment of a reliable method for the determination of longitude at sea. He first formulated a method, based on the astronomical observation of lunar position, while in London in 1710–12. He issued various versions of the method, both in Latin and in Swedish, throughout his career. In 1766, at the age of 78, he presented his scheme for judgment by the Board of Longitude in London. (...) The rich archive of Swedenborg's career allows an unusually detailed historical analysis of his longitude project, an analysis rather better documented than that available for the host of contemporary projectors who launched longitude schemes, submitted their proposals to the Board of Longitude, and have too often been ignored or dismissed by historians. This analysis uses the longitude work to illuminate key aspects of Swedenborg's wider enterprises, including his scheme to set up an astronomical observatory in southern Sweden to be devoted to lunar and stellar observation, his complex attitude to astronomical and magnetic cosmology, and his attempt to fit the notion of longitude into his visionary world-view. Swedenborg's programme also helps make better sense of the metropolitan and international networks of diplomatic and natural philosophical communication in which the longitude schemes were developed and judged. It emerges that his longitude method owed much to the established principles of earlier Baroque and Jesuit natural philosophy while his mature cosmology sought a rational and enlightened model of the universe. (shrink)
In his comprehensive survey of the work of William Herschel, published in the Annuaire du Bureau des Longitudes for 1842, Dominique Arago argued that the life of the great astronomer ‘had the rare privilege of forming an epoch in an extended branch of astronomy’. Arago also noted, however, that Herschel's ideas were often taken as ‘the conceptions of a madman’, even if they were subsequently accepted. This fact, commented Arago, ‘seems to me one that deserves to appear in the history (...) of science’. From the time Herschel published his first paper in the Philosophical transactions in 1781, he was subjected to the suggestion of lunacy. His patron and friend William Watson, told him that after his claims for the extraordinary power of his telescopes, ‘your prognosis that some would think you fit for Bedlam has been verified’. On learning of Herschel's supremely accurate new micrometer, the astronomer Alexander Aubert exclaimed to Herschel that ‘we would go to Bedlam together’: Aubert wrote to Herschel in January 1782 that he should ‘mind not a few jealous barking puppies: a little time will clear up the matter, and if it lays in my power you would not be sent to Bedlam alone, for I incline much to be of the party’. (shrink)
During high summer 1721, while rioters and bankrupts gathered outside Parliament, Robert Walpole's new ministry forced through a bill to clear up the wreckage left by the stock-market crash, the South Sea Bubble, and the visionary projects swept away when it burst. In early August the President of the Royal Society Isaac Newton, a major investor in South Sea stock, and the Society's projectors, learned of a new commercial scheme promising apparently automatic profits, a project for a perpetual motion. Their (...) informants were a young Viennese courtier Joseph Emmanuel Fischer von Erlach, a contact of Desaguliers recently engaged in industrial espionage in northern England, and the Leiden physics professor Willem 'sGravesande, who had visited London five years earlier. They reported that they had been summoned to a remarkable series of demonstrations in the castle of Weissenstein, the seat of the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. In a carefully guarded room of the castle there was set up a hollow wooden wheel covered in oilcloth, about 12 feet in diameter and 18 inches thick on an axle 6 feet in length. Its designer, a Saxon engineer and clockmaker Johann Bessler, who travelled Germany under the name Orffyreus, had been in Kassel for four years, published schemes for perpetual motion and been appointed commercial councillor. The Landgrave, well-known as a patron of advanced engineering schemes, commissioned him to build a new machine and put it on show before expert witnesses. (shrink)
Franz Anton Mesmer’s 1766 thesis on the influence of the planets on the human body, in which he first publicly presented his account of the harmonic forces at work in the microcosm, was substantially copied from the London physician Richard Mead’s early eighteenth century tract on solar and lunar effects on the body. The relation between the two texts poses intriguing problems for the historiography of medical astrology: Mesmer’s use of Mead has been taken as a sign of the Vienna (...) physician’s enlightened modernity while Mead’s use of astro-meteorology has been seen as evidence of the survival of antiquated astral medicine in the eighteenth century.Two aspects of this problem are discussed. First, French critics of mesmerism in the 1780s found precedents for animal magnetism in the work of Paracelsus, Fludd and other early modern writers; in so doing, they began to develop a sophisticated history for astrology and astro-meteorology.Second, the close relations between astro-meteorology and Mead’s project illustrate how the environmental medical programmes emerged. The making of a history for astrology accompanied the construction of various models of the relation between occult knowledge and its contexts in the enlightenment. (shrink)