How cultural categories shaped--and were shaped by--new ideas about controlling nature
Ranging from alchemy to necromancy, "books of secrets" offered medieval readers an affordable and accessible collection of knowledge about the natural world. Allison Kavey's study traces the cultural relevance of these books and also charts their influence on the people who read them. Citing the importance of printers in choosing the books' contents, she points out how these books legitimized manipulating nature, thereby expanding cultural categories, such as masculinity, femininity, gentleman, lady, and midwife, to include the willful command of the natural world.
During the nineteenth century, much of the modern scientific enterprise took shape: scientific disciplines were formed, institutions and communities were founded, and unprecedented applications to and interactions with other aspects of society and culture occurred.
In this book, eleven leading historians of science assess what their field has taught us about this exciting time and identify issues that remain unexamined or require reconsideration. They treat both scientific disciplines—biology, physics, chemistry, the earth sciences, mathematics, and the social sciences—in their specific intellectual and sociocultural contexts as well as the broader topics of science and medicine; science and religion; scientific institutions and communities; and science, technology, and industry.
Providing a much-needed overview and analysis of a rapidly expanding field, From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences will be essential for historians of science, but also of great interest to scholars of all aspects of nineteenth-century life and culture.
Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Jed Z. Buchwald, David Cahan, Joseph Dauben, Frederick Gregory, Michael Hagner, Sungook Hong, David R. Oldroyd, Theodore M. Porter, Robert J. Richards, Ulrich Wengenroth
Isaac Newton is one of the greatest scientists in history, yet the spectrum of his interests was much broader than that of most contemporary scientists. In fact, Newton would have defined himself not as a scientist, but as a natural philosopher. He was deeply involved in alchemical, religious, and biblical studies, and in the later part of his life he played a prominent role in British politics, economics, and the promotion of scientific research. Newton’s pivotal work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which sets out his laws of universal gravitation and motion, is regarded as one of the most important works in the history of science.
Niccolò Guicciardini’s enlightening biography offers an accessible introduction both to Newton’s celebrated research in mathematics, optics, mechanics, and astronomy and to how Newton viewed these scientific fields in relation to his quest for the deepest secrets of the universe, matter theory and religion. Guicciardini sets Newton the natural philosopher in the troubled context of the religious and political debates ongoing during Newton’s life, a life spanning the English Civil Wars, the Restoration, the Glorious Revolution, and the Hanoverian succession. Incorporating the latest Newtonian scholarship, this fast-paced biography broadens our perception of both this iconic figure and the great scientific revolution of the early modern period.
The Life and Legend of James Wattoffers a deeper understanding of the work and character of the great eighteenth-century engineer. Stripping away layers of legend built over generations, David Philip Miller finds behind the heroic engineer a conflicted man often diffident about his achievements but also ruthless in protecting his inventions and ideas, and determined in pursuit of money and fame. A skilled and creative engineer, Watt was also a compulsive experimentalist drawn to natural philosophical inquiry, and a chemistry of heat underlay much of his work, including his steam engineering. But Watt pursued the business of natural philosophy in a way characteristic of his roots in the Scottish “improving” tradition that was in tension with Enlightenment sensibilities. As Miller demonstrates, Watt’s accomplishments relied heavily on collaborations, not always acknowledged, with business partners, employees, philosophical friends, and, not least, his wives, children, and wider family. The legend created in his later years and “afterlife” claimed too much of nineteenth-century technology for Watt, but that legend was, and remains, a powerful cultural force.
In this volume, distinguished scholar Edward Grant identifies the vital elements that contributed to the creation of a widespread interest in natural philosophy, which has been characterized as the "Great Mother of the Sciences."