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Mining Science In our Country the business of exploring & surveying mines is given to Geologists who are supposed to know all that the earth contains from the superficial soil to the molten central regions & the slightest smattering in the elements of that science is regarded as a sufficient claim to a commission or employment as a Mining Engineer. —Charles T. Jackson,“Remarks on Mining Operations” (1846) According to Charles Jackson, American geologists’ ability to discover , describe, and develop mineral resources had created a problem. Smatterers in science were capitalizing on their success by soliciting commissions as mining engineers. These so-called surveyors, who “know nothing about mines or minerals or the art of tracing a vein over irregular ground,” contributed directly , and unfortunately often, to the disappointment and loss attendant to so many mining ventures. For Jackson, mining was the foundation of American agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce. There was no profession more important than mining engineer, and no science more important than geology.1 Geology-based mining was a practical necessity and a business imperative. For most interests and purposes, geologists were the most knowledgeable and experienced experts in America. In large part, this was due to the absence of trained mining engineers, for unlike continental Europe, no mining schools existed in the United States or British North America until the 1860s. The handful of emigrant European-trained engineers available were uninformed or misinformed , or so Jackson claimed. The same applied to practical men. Jackson contrasted the experienced mine viewers of Britain, the other country without a mining school in the first half of the nineteenth century, with their American counterparts.British viewers worked in one region for years (even generations), whereas Americans lacked the required long-term familiarity with the land and its resources.All this combined to put geologists in a vital commercial position. 108 CHAPTER 4 Mining was also about science. Most geologists believed in the complementary relations of private and public surveying, of science paid for by mining companies and sponsored by state or federal government. Granted there were important differences in resources (equipment, personnel, and funding) and in scope (an entire state versus one property), but both activities provided geologists with opportunities to do fieldwork, the essence of their science. Mining, in other words, involved more than the routine application of elementary principles ; it meant research. Such research was valuable to both business and science, and in some cases, it was published in special consulting reports. These reports provide historians with evidence for evaluating the impact of mining on the development of American geology and, conversely, allow insight into the commercial influence of men of science. The reports contain not only what consultants did, but often how and why they did it, and to what purpose their expertise was put. In short, these reports represent a unique genre of scientific-commercial literature. American geologists generally conducted the business of exploring and surveying mines smoothly. There was nothing especially controversial or novel in Jackson’s demand for greater commercial involvement by geologists and for a more discriminating selection by those who hired them. The development of consulting is a story of interests more in common than in conflict. In this analysis , the practice unfolds as a series of engagements undertaken by a small group of geologists beginning in the 1820s and gathering steam by the 1850s.Although it is impossible to examine every geologist, conclusions can be drawn from select episodes (both common and uncommon) from the professional careers of the most prominent consultants during the first half of the nineteenth century. In this way, consulting and its contributions to geology (and to the relations between science and industry) can be explored and explained.2 Origins The origins of American consulting go back to the careers of Amos Eaton and Benjamin Silliman Sr., whose most active years (the 1820s and early 1830s) predated the era of the first geological surveys (the late 1830s and early 1840s). Eaton was well known for his geology and for founding the Rensselaer School in Troy, New York.3 His surveys (and to some extent his school) combined scienti fic and commercial interests. Both endeavors were carried out “under the direction and at the expense”of Stephen Van Rensselaer III. This would seem to place the surveys under the broad rubric of consulting. After all, Rensselaer owned some of the land Eaton covered.4 But Eaton’s personal relationship with Rensselaer should be regarded differently...


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