Cameron Strang takes American scientific thought and discoveries away from the learned societies, museums, and teaching halls of the Northeast and puts the production of knowledge about the natural world in the context of competing empires and an expanding republic in the Gulf South. People often dismissed by starched northeasterners as nonintellectuals--Indian sages, African slaves, Spanish officials, Irishmen on the make, clearers of land and drivers of men--were also scientific observers, gatherers, organizers, and reporters. Skulls and stems, birds and bugs, rocks and maps, tall tales and fertile hypotheses came from them. They collected, described, and sent the objects that scientists gazed on and interpreted in polite Philadelphia. They made knowledge.
Frontiers of Science offers a new framework for approaching American intellectual history, one that transcends political and cultural boundaries and reveals persistence across the colonial and national eras. The pursuit of knowledge in the United States did not cohere around democratic politics or the influence of liberty. It was, as in other empires, divided by multiple loyalties and identities, organized through contested hierarchies of ethnicity and place, and reliant on violence. By discovering the lost intellectual history of one region, Strang shows us how to recover a continent for science.