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The Morals of Measurement
Accuracy, Irony, and Trust in Late Victorian Electrical Practice


  • Date Published: February 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521187565

£ 37.99

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About the Authors
  • The Morals of Measurement is a contribution to the social histories of quantification and electrical technology in nineteenth-century Britain, Germany and France. It shows how the advent of commercial electrical lighting stimulated the industrialization of electrical measurement from a skilled labour-intensive activity to a mechanized practice. Challenging traditional accounts that focus on the metrological standards used in measurement, this book shows the central importance of trust when measurement was undertaken in an increasingly complex division of labour. Alongside ambiguities about the very nature of measurement and the respective responsibilities of humans and technologies in generating error-free numbers, the book also addresses controversies over the changing identity of the measurer through the themes of body, gender and authorship. The reader will gain fresh insights into a period when measurement was widely treated as the definitive means of gaining knowledge of the world.

    • Provocative historical study of electrical instruments in the science-technology cross-over
    • Historical examination of the moral issues of quantification in science and technology
    • New approach to the history of electricity that focuses on issues of trust, morals, genders, and domestic consumption
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: '… there is no doubt that The Morals of Measurement is a timely contribution to the history, as well as the historiography, of measurement.' Science

    Review of the hardback: 'Gooday's analysis offers a superb historical account of how technological developments within the electrical enterprise not only stimulated new techniques of measurement, but also raised crucial questions including what a measurement actually was, who counted as the measurer, and who would be trusted n the measuring process.' The Historical Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2011
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521187565
    • length: 312 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Moralizing measurement: (dis) trust in the people, instruments and techniques
    2. Meanings of measurements and accounts of accuracy
    3. Mercurial trust and resistive measures: rethinking the 'metals controversy' of 1860–94
    4. Reading technologies: trust, the embodied instrument user and the visualization of current measurement
    5. Coupled problems of self-induction: the unparalleled and the unmeasurable in AC technology
    6. Measurement at a distance: fairness, trustworthiness and gender in reading the domestic electrical meter.

  • Author

    G. J. N. Gooday, University of Leeds

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