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Science as Public Culture

Science as Public Culture
Chemistry and Enlightenment in Britain, 1760–1820

$39.99 (P)

  • Date Published: June 1999
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521659529

$ 39.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Science as Public Culture joins a growing number of recent studies examining science as a practical activity in specific social settings. Professor Golinski considers the development of chemistry in Britain in the period from 1760 to 1820, and relates it to the rise and subsequent eclipse of forms of civic life characteristic of the European Enlightenment. Within this framework the careers of prominent chemists such as William Cullen, Joseph Black, Joseph Priestly, Thomas Beddoes, and Humphry Davy are interpreted in a new light. The major discoveries of the time, including nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and the electrical decomposition of water, are set against the background of alternative ways of constructing science as a public enterprise. The book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the relations between scientific activity and processes of social and political change in a period of great transformations in chemistry and in the conditions of public life.

    • Provides a new interpretation of the careers of prominent chemists of the period
    • Makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the relationship between scientific activity and the processes of social and political change
    • Sets the major discoveries of the time in the context of the European Enlightenment
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Jan Golinski has written an excellent account of 18th-century British elegant volume, written in a clear and cogent manner....Golinski is a first-rate historian." John G. McEvoy, American Scientist

    "A valuable contribution to our understanding of the transformation of chemistry into its modern form." J.L. McKnight, Choice

    "...I can whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone interested in the beginnings of modern chemistry or the ways in which science interacts with society." Chris Reynolds, New Scientist

    "...the ambitious scope and precise detail enable Golinski to do what no other historian of chemistry has done: unite the major chemists of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in a wider British context, rather than presenting them merely as representatives of disparate local schools....Science as Public Culture is an important addition to the history of chemistry and of British science generally. It will be of interest to historians of science and of the Enlightenment." Lisa Rosner, Albion

    "Golinski has succeeded not only in creating a superb synthesis of the history of chemistry for the period but also in making a readable and persuasive case for the usefulness of the sociology of knowledge in the study of the social history of science. He offers vividly fresh readings of the careers of Priestly, Beddoes, and Davy; and not the least interesting aspect of his story is the way he demonstrates that elements of Enlightenment cooperative and public science lived on in radical, self-improvement, and mechanics'-institute circles." William H. Brock, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

    "Jan Golinski's fine book amply demonstrates how dramatically the history of chemistry is being transformed by robust historical contextualism....tracks in various settings the move from private acts of investigation to public presentations of scientific claims. Audiences for science had to be constructed, and acceptable procedures for invoking reason and experimental demonstration had to be negotiated." Arthur Donovan, ISIS

    "...fine and multifaceted book....I recommend that readers turn to this book for an engrossing exposé of chemistry and culture in the eighteenth century." Lissa Roberts, Configurations

    " important contribution to our understanding of how science functions as a part of society." Hugh L. Guilderson, Journal of Social History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 1999
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521659529
    • length: 358 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.53kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Introduction: science as public culture
    2. 'The study of a gentlemen': chemistry as a public science in the Scottish Enlightenment
    3. Joseph Priestley and the English Enlightement
    4. Airs and their uses
    5. The coming of the chemical revolution
    6. 'Dr Beddoes's Breath': nitrous oxide and the culmination of Enlightenment medical chemistry
    7. Humphry Davy: the public face of genius
    8. Analysis, education and the chemical community

  • Author

    Jan Golinski, University of New Hampshire

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