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  • Cyclones & Earthquakes: The Jesuits, Prediction, Trade, & Spanish Dominion in Cuba & the Philippines, 1850–1898 by Aitor Anduaga
  • Kerby C. Alvarez
Aitor Anduaga
Cyclones & Earthquakes: The Jesuits, Prediction, Trade, & Spanish Dominion in Cuba & the Philippines, 1850–1898
Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2017. 375 pages.

Possessing a command of both social and physical science research, Aitor Anduaga writes about the history of meteorology and seismology, institutional scientific networks, and scientific ideologies and discourses in the second half of the nineteenth century, an important period in Spanish contemporary history. Evident in his works, namely, Geofísica, Economía y Sociedad en la España Contemporánea (CSIC Press, 2009), Meteorología, Ideología y Sociedad en la España Contemporánea (CSIC and AEMET, 2012), and Geophysics, Realism and Industry: How Commercial Interests Shaped Geophysical Conceptions, 1900–1960 (Oxford University Press, 2016), are the correlations between scientific development and the greater social and economic milieus. Anduaga demonstrates that science and society do not exist in a vacuum.

His latest opus, Cyclones & Earthquakes: The Jesuits, Prediction, Trade, & Spanish Dominion in Cuba & the Philippines, 1850–1898, is a historical assessment of the institutional and bureaucratic transformations in two of the remaining Spanish colonies in the second half of the nineteenth century and of how these scientific makeovers helped institutionalize meteorology and seismology as indispensable bodies of knowledge in advancing colonial [End Page 95] economy and education. In this historical context, Anduaga ventures into a multifaceted, albeit geographically specific, field of the history of science and technology—the development of institutional meteorology and seismology in the Philippines and Cuba. The author guides readers through the complicated nineteenth-century Spanish bureaucracy and details how scientific institutions flourished in the intricate ministerial structure that connected the Madrid government to its colonies.

The book's arguments revolve around four aspects: (1) the institutionalization of science, mainly, meteorology and seismology, and the role of Jesuit scientists and Spanish state engineers in scientific advancement in the colonies; (2) knowledge production through experiments, observations, and scientific publications; (3) the engagement of the economic elite in scientific development; and (4) an evaluation of Spanish peninsular and overseas bureaucracy through the lenses of scientific governance and network building by state and nonstate actors.

In the late–nineteenth-century Philippines and Cuba most of the scientific accounts and studies about typhoons and earthquakes were made by Jesuits and Spanish colonial state engineers, including military (inginieros militares), civil (inginieros coloniales), and mining (inginieros de minas) engineers. They played active roles in developing the colonial economy, even though Madrid was often hesitant to invest in new and risky scientific projects. The Jesuits and state engineers established their presence as "scientific architects" in the colonies.

At the vanguard of the emergence and maturation of modern scientific ideas in the colonies were Philippine and Cuban observatories that generated innovative ideas and instrumentation. These observatories—the Observatorio Meteorológico de Manila (OM), the Observatorio Fisico-Meteorológico de Havana (OFMH), and the Observatorio del Colegio de Belén (OCB) in Cuba—equipped the colonies with the basics of environmental science, particularly meteorology and seismology. These observatories' scientists and engineers mastered the craft of measuring patterns of weather influences and terrestrial movements. Jesuits were behind these institutions during their formative years: Federico Faura and José Algué (OM), Benito Viñes (OCB), and Andrés Poey (OFMH).

In the case of state engineers, not only did they help develop seismology as a discipline but they also institutionalized it through the inclusion of scientific knowledge in policies pertaining to building regulations. In the [End Page 96] Philippines, state engineers like Rafael Cerrero Sáenz, José Centeno García, and Manuel Cortés led the production of scientific knowledge. In Cuba, colonial military engineers and officials such as José Gutiérrez de la Concha, Francisco Serrano, Domingo Dulce, and Francisco Lersundi played active roles in the promotion of institutional meteorology and seismology.

Anduaga narrates the development of these sciences in the Spanish colonies from the point of view of the state and how state agencies and actors were the protagonists in this nineteenth-century imperial project. On the one hand, the book "highlights the ambiguous role of the state...


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