- Global Scientific Practice in an Age of Revolutions, 1750–1850 ed. by Patrick Manning and Daniel Rood
The past several decades witnessed a "global turn" in the field of history of science. The master narrative centering on the rise of modern science within Western Europe and its subsequent diffusion around the world is being increasingly effaced as more scholars joined in the search for a polycentric, inclusive framework for studying the "global histories" of science.1 The volume under review is a timely and welcome intervention in this rapidly growing discourse. Global Scientific Practice in an Age of Revolutions, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press effectively expands a conversation between historians of science and scholars working in world/global/transnational history and invites all to contemplate seriously the possibility of a "world history of science."
The essays collected here were first presented in 2012 at the conference convened by World History Center of the University of Pittsburgh titled "Linnaean Worlds: Global Scientific Practice during the Great Divergence." The temporal focus, 1750 to 1850, is chosen because of the profound worldwide transformations taking place during this time in the realms of economy, [End Page 256] society, politics, and culture. Particularly, this period witnessed the "Great Divergence" in economic life between Europe and China that was observed by Pomeranz and others, at the same time when what came to be known as "modern science" gradually crystalized. The bulk of this science, the thematic focus of these essays, consisted of the bio-and field sciences that take the earth, natural species, humans, and their immediate environs as their subjects. The diffusionist narrative about this science spotlights the works of great European minds such as Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778), French naturalist Georges-Louis Leclerc (Comte de Buffon, 1707–1788), and German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). In contrast, contributors to this volume, through their richly documented case studies and bold yet judiciously enunciated syntheses, deconstruct that neat and heroic narrative by highlighting the multifarious origins of modern science in and outside Europe, its complex itineraries, its spontaneous, fragmentary, mobile, and incongruous nature, and its deep embedment in networks of power of varying scopes crisscrossing the (early) modern world.
The book consists of five parts, preceded by an insightful introduction by Patrick Manning. Part I explores the dynamics of knowledge exchange in the Americas between Europeans and other local inhabitants. Matthew James Crawford's study of the Spanish Crown's failure in maintaining a royal reserve of quina (with the active ingredient quinine) in the Viceroyalty of New Granada in the 1790s reveals how the power of the empire was circumscribed by the way of knowing of their distant colonial subjects. Eleonora Rohland tells how early French settlers in Louisiana and other Europeans in North America struggled to comprehend the formation and patterns of hurricanes, and how the knowledge they gained through exchanges with Amerindians, inhabitants in the Caribbean, and Atlantic sailors helped them launch a meteorological discourse and eventually a largescale knowledge infrastructure for hurricane prediction spanning North America and the Caribbean. Kay Etheridge's chapter focuses on the role of German naturalist Maria Merian as a "go-between" of two vastly different ways of seeing the world. Merian ushered in an artistic revolution among European naturalists by depicting fauna specimens not in isolation but as part of their natural habitat. The richness of her illustrations of the local fauna of Dutch Suriname drawn during her extended travel there served as a basis for the taxonomical works of Buffon, Linnaeus and his students, and her vivid depiction of a bird-eating tarantula inspired Charles Darwin's idea of struggle for survival. And yet we learned that in creating these illustrations Merian [End Page 257] received help from her African and Amerindian servants whose names she never revealed.
Part II contains three chapters centering on the works of Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) and his associates. Kenneth Nyberg and Hanna Hodacs propose two complementary perspectives on how...