The Language of Mineralogy
John Walker, Chemistry and the Edinburgh Medical School, 1750-1800 (Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945)
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|Format:||Hardback, 278 pages|
|Other Information: ||includes 19 b&w illustrations|
|Published In: ||United Kingdom, 28 December 2008|
The specific methods used to construct Enlightenment systems of natural history have proven to be the bete noir of studies that address eighteenth-century culture. One of the reasons that systematic classification has received so little attention can be attributed to the fact that natural history was an extremely diverse subject that appealed to a wide range of practitioners; from wealthy patrons to professionals and educators. In order to show how the classification practices of a defined institutional setting enabled naturalists to create systems of natural history, this book focuses on developments at the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh and in particular the teaching of one of Scotland's most influential Enlightenment naturalists, Dr John Walker, who was the professor of natural history at the medical school from 1779-1803. The first half of the book traces Walker's early career to find out how a naturalist became a naturalist during the Enlightenment.Walker did not live in a chemical vacuum and there was more to his life than the analytic processes of chemistry. He was a traveller, cleric, author and advisor to extremely powerful aristocratic and government patrons, and his primary concern was the usability of any system and the way in which it allowed for improvements, therefore as well as showing how naturalists were taught systematics this section also highlights the institutional and social context that fostered their careers. The second half of this book looks at how the language of Enlightenment natural history drew from a large and multifaceted canon of texts, and not just the standard canon of Linnaeus' "Systema Naturae" and Buffon's "Histoire Naturelle". We trace this language of natural history from chemistry, to mineralogy and geology, and finally into Walker's own lecture notes and his own revisions of classification methods, which were then passed on to his students.As many of Walker's students would go on to become influential industrialists, scientists, physicians and politicians, this book therefore also provides a unique insight into how many of Britain's leading Regency and Victorian intellectuals were taught to think about the composition and structure of the material world. By explicitly connecting eighteenth-century geology to the chemistry being taught in medical settings, this book offers a new interpretation of the nascent earth sciences as they were practiced in Enlightenment Britain.
Table of Contents
Introduction; Who was John Walker? The life of a notable naturalist; Sorting the evidence: analysis and the nomenclature of matter; Becoming a naturalist: travel, classification and patronage; Systematic mineralogy: arranging the fabric of the globe; Ordering the Earth: the chemical foundations of geology; Conclusion; Appendices; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author
Matthew D. Eddy is a Lecturer at the University of Durham, UK.
'The Language of Mineralogy ranges far beyond the traditional canon of philosophical texts to fashion important new perspectives on the intellectual and social world of the Scottish Enlightenment. John Walker's multi-faceted life as a teacher, field naturalist, clergyman, and advisor and companion to powerful aristocratic patrons is a rich quarry that Matthew Eddy exploits with authority and elegance. His book brings to centre-stage the painstaking tasks of classification in which Walker excelled. In doing so, it sets systems of natural history as a matter of central concern at the fertile interface between chemistry and mineralogy within the Edinburgh Medical School. As Eddy shows, such systems were anything but the static impediments to creative thought that they have too often been taken to be. The rehabilitation they receive in this book is long-overdue. This is cultural history of a high order.' Professor Robert Fox, University of Oxford 'In this detailed study of the scientific career of John Walker, Professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh in the late eighteenth century, Matthew Eddy has created a rich intellectual and social tapestry that greatly enhances our understanding of the scientific mindsets and activities of the Enlightenment. Eddy uses Walker's principal scientific interest in mineralogy to illustrate the relations and interactions between different sciences of the time, such as chemistry, medicine and geology. He also provides a detailed study of the commercial, industrial, social and cultural contexts of Walker's science and shows concretely how Walker participated in the international scientific 'republic of letters'. Eschewing retrospective "Whig" evaluation enables Eddy to present and analyze Walker's scientific theories and practices in mineralogy and geology with great historical empathy. We really get to feel what the sciences of chemistry, mineralogy and geology were like in the era before the triumph of Lavoisier, Lyell and Darwin.This book should be of interest to anyone working in Enlightenment cultural studies, in particular the Scottish Enlightenment, the history of chemistry, mineralogy and geology, and the history of modern science in general.' Seymour Mauskopf, Duke University, USA 'Eddy's reconstruction of the chemical basis of Walker's mineralogy and its importance to early geological ideas helps to rescue our understanding of eighteenth-century thinking about the earth sciences from Victorian "back-projections," from the tyranny of, as he puts it, "the various revolution models that still influence the history of science, philosophy and even culture" - The Language of Mineralogy offers carefully researched and well-considered insights into the practice of mineralogical classification, and its theoretical and institutional contexts, in eighteenth-century Scotland and beyond. Matthew Eddy makes a significant contribution to a more detailed and carefully contextual understanding of the natural history sciences of the Enlightenment.' David P. Miller, Isis ' - any historian interested in broadening his or her knowledge of Enlightenment-era classification and any historian of chemistry convinced that the period between Boyle and Lavoisier - when chemistry of fluids and principles dominated in practice - deserves more focused study will profit from Eddy's text and helpful appendices.' Bulletin for the History of Chemistry '[A]n important study of the methods used to order the earth so that its products might be made intelligible, here in medicine, to enlightened audiences, initially students, who would take these ideas into different social and intellectual communities. It is thus-perhaps surprisingly, given the intrinsic nature of the subject matter-an engaging account of the ways in which earth knowledge was made useful, of the importance of collecting and observational practices, and of work in the field and in the classroom - it ought not to be overlooked by all those interested in the ways in which ideas were taught, discussed, and categorically placed before being, if ever they were at all, printed and patronized by enlightened others.' Charles Withers, University of Edinburgh, in Eighteenth-Century Scotland 'Matthew D. Eddy succeeds in making a significant contribution to [the] recent and more nuanced approach to post-Kuhnian history of science - Students of eighteenth-century Scottish culture and medicine will find much of value here, as will students of eighteenth-century geology and chemistry.' American Historical Review ' - Eddy has done a magnificent job in further clarifying the puzzling and fascinating development of the history of chemistry from its alchemical beginnings. His portrayal of the rich interdisciplinarity of early modern natural history, chemistry, and natural philosophy is an important addition to the field - ' Anna Marie Roos, Journal of British Studies 'It is thus with great pleasure... that I read Matthew Eddy's polemically (semi-)biographical study of John Walker, professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh's medical school from 1779 to 1803. While most of Eddy's book reads quite easily, his argument is complex in terms of both its historiographical import and the many facets of its composition and historical implications... I take it as a sign of a good book that at the end the reader wishes to pursue its inquiries further. In The Language of Mineralogy, Eddy - so generous here with creative ideas for future research - has given us just this kind of book.' Lissa Roberts, British Journal for the History of Science 'Eddy's work is of value for anyone interested in the historiography of science, scientific pedagogy, the role of philosophy of science in historical narrative, or the Scottish Enlightenment. For students, there are also useful reflections on the effective use of archival sources as well as signposts for future research and suggestions for new approaches to the histories of mineralogy, geology, and chemistry. - Eddy seems to have mastered the art of satisfying those readers who want their history of science to include as much of the detail of the science as possible, as well as those who prefer to reflect on the more sociological or philosophical aspects of the environment in which it was practised.' Georgette Taylor, Ambix
|Publisher: ||Ashgate Publishing Limited|
|Dimensions: ||23.0 x 15.0 centimeters|