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Experiencing Nature Cover

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Experiencing Nature

The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution

By Antonio Barrera-Osorio

“A very significant contribution. . . . This book tells a story that is usually left out of the master narrative of the history of exploration. . . . Moreover, it tells a story based on real expeditions and experiences, and it quotes liberally and effectively from engaging reports and sixteenth-century treatises, so it should appeal to general readers as well.” -Carla Rahn Phillips, Union Pacific Professor in Comparative Early Modern History, University of Minnesota As Spain colonized the Americas during the sixteenth century, Spanish soldiers, bureaucrats, merchants, adventurers, physicians, ship pilots, and friars explored the natural world, gathered data, drew maps, and sent home specimens of America's vast resources of animals, plants, and minerals. This amassing of empirical knowledge about Spain's American possessions had two far-reaching effects. It overturned the medieval understanding of nature derived from Classical texts and helped initiate the modern scientific revolution. And it allowed Spain to commodify and control the natural resources upon which it built its American empire. In this book, Antonio Barrera-Osorio investigates how Spain's need for accurate information about its American colonies gave rise to empirical scientific practices and their institutionalization, which, he asserts, was Spain's chief contribution to the early scientific revolution. He also conclusively links empiricism to empire-building as he focuses on five areas of Spanish activity in America: the search for commodities in, and the ecological transformation of, the New World; the institutionalization of navigational and information-gathering practices at the Spanish Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade); the development of instruments and technologies for exploiting the natural resources of the Americas; the use of reports and questionnaires for gathering information; and the writing of natural histories about the Americas.

Experimental Life Cover

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Experimental Life

Vitalism in Romantic Science and Literature

Robert Mitchell

If the objective of the Romantic movement was nothing less than to redefine the meaning of life itself, what role did experiments play in this movement? While earlier scholarship has established both the importance of science generally and vitalism specifically, with regard to Romanticism no study has investigated what it meant for artists to experiment and how those experiments related to their interest in the concept of life. Experimental Life draws on approaches and ideas from contemporary science studies, proposing the concept of experimental vitalism to show both how Romantic authors appropriated the concept of experimentation from the sciences and the impact of their appropriation for post-Romantic concepts of literature and art. Robert Mitchell navigates complex conceptual arenas such as network theory, gift exchange, paranoia, and biomedia and introduces new concepts, such as cryptogamia, chylopoietic discourse, trance-plantation, and the poetics of suspension. As a result, Experimental Life is a wide-ranging summation and extension of the current state of literary studies, the history of science, cultural critique, and theory.

Exploring Mars Cover

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Exploring Mars

Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery

By Scott Hubbard; Foreword by Bill Nye

The Red Planet has been a subject of fascination for humanity for thousands of years, becoming part of our folklore and popular culture. The most Earthlike of the planets in our solar system, Mars may have harbored some form of life in the past and may still possess an ecosystem in some underground refuge. The mysteries of this fourth planet from our Sun make it of central importance to NASA and its science goals for the twenty-first century.  

In the wake of the very public failures of the Mars Polar Lander and the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999, NASA embarked on a complete reassessment of the Mars Program. Scott Hubbard was asked to lead this restructuring in 2000, becoming known as the "Mars Czar." His team's efforts resulted in a very successful decade-long series of missions--each building on the accomplishments of those before it--that adhered to the science adage "follow the water" when debating how to proceed. Hubbard's work created the Mars Odyssey mission, the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Phoenix mission, and most recently the planned launch of the Mars Science Laboratory

Now for the first time Scott Hubbard tells the complete story of how he fashioned this program, describing both the technical and political forces involved and bringing to life the national and international cast of characters engaged in this monumental endeavor.  Blending the exciting stories of the missions with the thrills of scientific discovery, Exploring Mars will intrigue anyone interested in the science, the engineering, or the policy of investigating other worlds.
 

The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915 Cover

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The Extraterrestrial Life Debate, Antiquity to 1915

A Source Book

Edited with commentary by Michael J. Crowe

This book presents key documents from the pre-1915 history of the extraterrestrial life debate. Introductions and commentaries accompany each source document, some of which are published here for the first time or in a new translation. Authors included are Aristotle, Lucretius, Aquinas, Nicholas of Cusa, Galileo, Kepler, Pascal, Fontenelle, Huygens, Newton, Pope, Voltaire, Kant, Paine, Chalmers, Darwin, Wallace, Dostoevski, Lowell, and Antoniadi, among others. Michael J. Crowe has compiled an extensive bibliography not available in other sources. These materials reveal that the extraterrestrial life debate, rather than being a relatively modern phenomenon, has extended throughout nearly all Western history and has involved many of its leading intellectuals. The readings also demonstrate that belief in extraterrestrial life has had major effects on science and society, and that metaphysical and religious views have permeated the debate throughout much of its history.

Faith in Nature Cover

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Faith in Nature

Environmentalism as Religious Quest

by Thomas Dunlap

Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930 Cover

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Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought, 1830–1930

Crista DeLuzio

In this groundbreaking study, Crista DeLuzio asks how scientific experts conceptualized female adolescence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Revisiting figures like G. Stanley Hall and Margaret Mead and casting her net across the disciplines of biology, psychology, and anthropology, DeLuzio examines the process by which youthful femininity in America became a contested cultural category. Challenging accepted views that professionals "invented" adolescence during this period to understand the typical experiences of white middle-class boys, DeLuzio shows how early attempts to reconcile that conceptual category with "femininity" not only shaped the social science of young women but also forced child development experts and others to reconsider the idea of adolescence itself. DeLuzio’s provocative work permits a fuller understanding of how adolescence emerged as a "crisis" in female development and offers insight into why female adolescence remains a social and cultural preoccupation even today.

Finding Oil Cover

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Finding Oil

The Nature of Petroleum Geology, 1859-1920

Brian Frehner

Oil has made fortunes, caused wars, and shaped nations. Accordingly, no one questions the idea that the quest for oil is a quest for power. The question we should ask, Finding Oil suggests, is what kind of power prospectors have wanted. This book revises oil’s early history by exploring the incredibly varied stories of the men who pitted themselves against nature to unleash the power of oil.

Brian Frehner shows how, despite the towering presence of a figure like John D. Rockefeller as a quintessential “oil man,” prospectors were a diverse lot who saw themselves, their interests, and their relationships with nature in profoundly different ways. He traces their various pursuits of power from 1859 to 1920 as a struggle for cultural, intellectual, and professional authority, over both nature and their peers. Here we see how some saw power as the work they did exploring and drilling into landscapes, while others saw it in the intellectual work of explaining how and where oil accumulated. Charting the intersection of human and natural history, their story traces the ever-evolving relationship between science and industry and reveals the unsuspected role geology played in shaping our understanding of the history of oil.

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Francis Galton

Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry

Michael Bulmer

If not for the work of his half cousin Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory might have met a somewhat different fate. In particular, with no direct evidence of natural selection and no convincing theory of heredity to explain it, Darwin needed a mathematical explanation of variability and heredity. Galton's work in biometry—the application of statistical methods to the biological sciences—laid the foundations for precisely that. This book offers readers a compelling portrait of Galton as the "father of biometry," tracing the development of his ideas and his accomplishments, and placing them in their scientific context. Though Michael Bulmer introduces readers to the curious facts of Galton's life—as an explorer, as a polymath and member of the Victorian intellectual aristocracy, and as a proponent of eugenics—his chief concern is with Galton's pioneering studies of heredity, in the course of which he invented the statistical tools of regression and correlation. Bulmer describes Galton's early ambitions and experiments—his investigations of problems of evolutionary importance (such as the evolution of gregariousness and the function of sex), and his movement from the development of a physiological theory to a purely statistical theory of heredity, based on the properties of the normal distribution. This work, culminating in the law of ancestral heredity, also put Galton at the heart of the bitter conflict between the "ancestrians" and the "Mendelians" after the rediscovery of Mendelism in 1900. A graceful writer and an expert biometrician, Bulmer details the eventual triumph of biometrical methods in the history of quantitative genetics based on Mendelian principles, which underpins our understanding of evolution today.

From Warfare to Welfare Cover

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From Warfare to Welfare

Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America

Jennifer S. Light

During the early decades of the Cold War, large-scale investments in American defense and aerospace research and development spawned a variety of problem-solving techniques, technologies, and institutions. From systems analysis to reconnaissance satellites to think tanks, these innovations did not remain exclusive accessories of the defense establishment. Instead, they readily found civilian applications in both the private and public sector. City planning and management were no exception. Jennifer Light argues that the technologies and values of the Cold War fundamentally shaped the history of postwar urban America. From Warfare to Welfare documents how American intellectuals, city leaders, and the federal government chose to attack problems in the nation's cities by borrowing techniques and technologies first designed for military engagement with foreign enemies. Experiments in urban problem solving adapted the expertise of defense professionals to face new threats: urban chaos, blight, and social unrest. Tracing the transfer of innovations from military to city planning and management, Light reveals how a continuing source of inspiration for American city administrators lay in the nation's preparations for war.

Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases Cover

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Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases

Elizabeth Potter

Gender and Boyle's Law of Gases

Elizabeth Potter

Re-examines the assumptions and experimental evidence behind Boyle's Law.

Boyle's Law, which describes the relation between the pressure and volume of a gas, was worked out by Robert Boyle in the mid-1600s. His experiments are still considered examples of good scientific work and continue to be studied along with their historical and intellectual contexts by philosophers, historians, and sociologists. Now there is controversy over whether Boyle's work was based only on experimental evidence or whether it was influenced by the politics and religious controversies of the time, including especially class and gender politics.

Elizabeth Potter argues that even good science is sometimes influenced by such issues, and she shows that the work leading to the Gas Law, while certainly based on physical evidence, was also shaped by class and gendered considerations. At issue were two descriptions of nature, each supporting radically different visions of class and gender arrangements. Boyle's Law rested on mechanistic principles, but Potter shows us an alternative law based on hylozooic principles (the belief that all matter is animated), whose adherents challenged social stability and the status quo in 17th-century England.

Elizabeth Potter, Alice Andrews Quigley Professor of Women's Studies at Mills College, is co-editor of Feminist Epistemologies and author of numerous articles on feminist epistemology and feminist philosophy of science.

Race, Gender, and Science
Anne Fausto-Sterling, general editor

June 2001
232 pages, 5 figs., 6 x 9, index
cloth 0-253-33916-2 $34.95 L /

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