Imperialism and empiricism: Science and state in the age of empire

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

In the nineteenth century, geophysics and empire building developed in tandem. As a result, empirical science could utilize the imperial structure to conduct research on a worldwide scale. Scientific motives for such studies included the need to confront both weaknesses in the inductive approach to science as well as the reality of new scientific fields that could only be studied globally. In Britain and the United States, the interaction of science and state allowed a range of geophysical projects to develop. In both countries, scientists had to find ways to overcome the difficulties that made their governments hesitant to support such ventures. In Britain, John Herschel and Edward Sabine provided a crucial connection between the philosophical, political and social elements that made this research possible. At Herschel's instigation, colonial observatories were added to the British venture for an Antarctic expedition known as the Magnetic Crusade, initiating a worldwide system of physical observatories conducting a coordinated series of continuous observations. The British system expanded to include new outposts in America as well as throughout the British domains. As a result, new sciences such as geomagnetism and meteorology developed more fully than they could have when only local observations were available. I argue that the empire provided a setting where universal science could be practiced and legitimized, helping both to overcome the inherited problems of the inductive method and setting up an system by which scientists could study interconnected phenomena on a global scale.

Indexing (details)

Science history
0585: Science history
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Empire; Empiricism; England; Herschel, John; Imperialism; John Herschel; Sabine, Sir Edward; Science; Sir Edward Sabine
Imperialism and empiricism: Science and state in the age of empire
Carter, Christopher Ray
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542114137, 0542114135
Mauskopf, Seymour
Duke University
University location
United States -- North Carolina
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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