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Science, Technology, and Mathematics > History of Science and Technology
Science, Exploration, and the Theory of Continental Drift
Alfred Wegener aimed to create a revolution in science which would rank with those of Nicolaus Copernicus and Charles Darwin. After completing his doctoral studies in astronomy at the University of Berlin, Wegener found himself drawn not to observatory science but to rugged fieldwork, which allowed him to cross into a variety of disciplines. The author of the theory of continental drift—the direct ancestor of the modern theory of plate tectonics and one of the key scientific concepts of the past century—Wegener also made major contributions to geology, geophysics, astronomy, geodesy, atmospheric physics, meteorology, and glaciology. Remarkably, he completed this pathbreaking work while grappling variously with financial difficulty, war, economic depression, scientific isolation, illness, and injury. He ultimately died of overexertion on a journey to probe the Greenland icecap and calculate its rate of drift. This landmark biography—the only complete account of the scientist’s fascinating life and work—is the culmination of twenty years of intensive research. In Alfred Wegener, Mott T. Greene places Wegener’s upbringing and theoretical advances in earth science in the context of his brilliantly eclectic career, bringing Wegener to life by analyzing his published scientific work, delving into all of his surviving letters and journals, and tracing both his passionate commitment to science and his thrilling experiences as a polar explorer, a military officer during World War I, and a world-record–setting balloonist. In the course of writing this book, Greene traveled to every place that Alfred Wegener lived and worked—to Berlin, rural Brandenburg, Marburg, Hamburg, and Heidelberg in Germany; to Innsbruck and Graz in Austria; and onto the Greenland icecap. He also pored over archives in Copenhagen, Munich, Marburg, Graz, and Bremerhaven, where the majority of Wegener’s surviving papers are found. Written with great immediacy and descriptive power, Alfred Wegener is a powerful portrait of the scientist who pioneered the modern notion of unified Earth science. The book should be of interest not only to earth scientists, students of polar travel and exploration, and historians but to all readers who are fascinated by the great minds of science.
Naturalists, Collectors, and Biodiversity, 1850-1950
We humans share Earth with 1.4 million known species and millions more species that are still unrecorded. Yet we know surprisingly little about the practical work that produced the vast inventory we have to date of our fellow creatures. How were these multitudinous creatures collected, recorded, and named? When, and by whom?
Here a distinguished historian of science tells the story of the modern discovery of biodiversity. Robert Kohler argues that the work begun by Linnaeus culminated around 1900, when collecting and inventory were organized on a grand scale in natural history surveys. Supported by governments, museums, and universities, biologists launched hundreds of collecting expeditions to every corner of the world. Kohler conveys to readers the experience and feel of expeditionary travel: the customs and rhythms of collectors' daily work, and its special pleasures and pains.
A novel twist in this story is that survey collecting was rooted not just in science but also in new customs of outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, and sport hunting. These popular pursuits engendered a wide scientific interest in animals and plants and inspired wealthy nature-goers to pay for expeditions. The modern discovery of biodiversity became a reality when scientists' desire to know intersected with the culture of outdoor vacationing. General readers as well as scholars will find this book fascinating.
Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective
Besides being the right thing to do for Mother Earth, recycling can also make money—particularly when it comes to upcycling, a zero waste practice where discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater economic or cultural value. In Upcycling Aluminum, Carl A. Zimring explores how the metal’s abundance after World War II—coupled with the significant economic and environmental costs of smelting it from bauxite ore—led to the industrial production of valuable durable goods from salvaged aluminum.
Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015.
By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire, Upcycling Aluminum tells a story of profound interest to anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.
The Galvani-Volta Controversy on Animal Electricity
How do ideas become accepted by the scientific community? How and why do scientists choose among empirically equivalent theories? In this pathbreaking book translated from the Italian, Marcello Pera addresses these questions by exploring the politics, rhetoric, scientific practices, and metaphysical assumptions that entered into the famous Galvani-Volta controversy of the late eighteenth century. This lively debate erupted when two scientists, each examining the muscle contractions of a dissected frog in contact with metal, came up with opposing but experimentally valid explanations of the phenomenon. Luigi Galvani, a doctor and physiologist, believed that he had discovered animal electricity (electrical body fluid existing naturally in a state of disequilibrium), while the physicist Alessandro Volta attributed the contractions to ordinary physical electricity. Beginning with the electrical concepts understood by scientists in the 1790s, Pera traces the careers of Galvani and Volta and explains their laboratory procedures. He shows that their controversy derived from two basic, irreducible interpretations of the proper nature of a common domain: Galvani saw the frog phenomenon as the work of biological organs, Volta as that of a physical apparatus. The initial preference for Volta's theory, maintains Pera, depended not on clear-cut methodological rules, but on a dialectical dispute for which the renowned physicist was better equipped, partly because he shared the dominant metaphysical views of his time.
Originally published in 1991.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
Nuclear Testing in Alaska
“Amchitka and the Bomb reconstructs thoroughly the decision by the Atomic Energy Commission to use Amchitka Island in the Aleutians as a test site for nuclear missile weaponry . . . utterly disregarding the fact that the island was a wildlife refuge. It will be an important contribution to environmental and Alaska studies and to national defense studies.” - Stephen Haycox, University of Alaska, Anchorage
A Design History of Coastal Rescue Craft Used by the USLSS and Uscg
William Wilkinson and Timothy Dring provide detailed history and technical design information on every type of small rescue craft ever used by the United States Life-Saving Service and United States Coast Guard, from the early 1800s to current day. By looking at these vessels, many of which featured innovative designs, the authors shed light on the brave men and women who served in USLSS and USCG stations, saving innumerable lives.
In the book and on the accompanying CD, rare photographs and drawings of each type of boat are enhanced by detailed design histories, specifications, and station assignments for each craft. Including motorized, wind-powered, and human-powered vessels, this work will become an important reference for maritime historians, rescue craft preservation groups, and museums, as well as members of the general public interested in these craft.
American historians tend to believe that labor activism was moribund in the years between the First World War and the New Deal. Jon Huibregtse challenges this perspective in his examination of the railroad unions of the time, arguing that not only were they active, but that they made a big difference in American Labor practices by helping to set legal precedents.
Huibregtse explains how efforts by the Plumb Plan League and the Railroad Labor Executive Association created the Railroad Labor Act, its amendments, and the Railroad Retirement Act. These laws became models for the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act. Unfortunately, the significant contributions of the railroad laws are, more often than not, overlooked when the NLRA or Social Security are discussed.
Offering a new perspective on labor unions in the 1920s, Huibregtse describes how the railroad unions created a model for union activism that workers’ organizations followed for the next two decades.
In dark skirts and bloodied boots, Clara Barton fearlessly ventured on to Civil War battlefields to tend to wounded soldiers. She later worked with civilians in Europe during the Franco-Prussian War, lobbied legislators to ratify the Geneva conventions, and founded and ran the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross from Clara Barton to the New Deal tells the story of the charitable organization from its start in 1881, through its humanitarian aid during wars, natural disasters, and the Depression, to its relief efforts of the 1930s. Marian Moser Jones illustrates the tension between the organization’s founding principles of humanity and neutrality and the political, economic, and moral pressures that sometimes caused it to favor one group at the expense of another. This expansive book narrates the stories of: • U.S. natural disasters such as the Jacksonville yellow fever epidemic of 1888, the Sea Islands hurricane of 1893, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake • crises abroad, including the 1892 Russian famine and the Armenian massacres of 1895–96 • efforts to help civilians affected by the civil war in Cuba • power struggles within the American Red Cross leadership and subsequent alliances with the American government • the organization's expansion during World War I • race riots in East St. Louis, Chicago, and Tulsa between 1917 and 1921 • help for African American and white Southerners after the Mississippi flood of 1927 • relief projects during the Dust Bowl and after the New Deal An epilogue relates the history of the American Red Cross since the beginning of World War II and illuminates the organization's current practices as well as its international reputation.
In this first effort to define an American scientific community, originally published in 1968, George Daniels has chosen for special study the 56 scientists most published in the 16 scientific journals identified as “national” during the period 1815 to 1845. In this reprint edition, with a new preface and introduction, Daniels shows how American scientists emerged from a disorganized group of amateurs into a professional body sharing a common orientation and common goals.