Scientists and Swindlers: Consulting on Coal and Oil in America, 1820-1890

Scientists and Swindlers: Consulting on Coal and Oil in America, 1820-1890

by Paul Lucier
     
 

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In this impressively researched and highly original work, Paul Lucier explains how science became an integral part of American technology and industry in the nineteenth century. Scientists and Swindlers introduces us to a new service of professionals: the consulting scientists. Lucier follows these entrepreneurial men of science on their wide-ranging

Overview

In this impressively researched and highly original work, Paul Lucier explains how science became an integral part of American technology and industry in the nineteenth century. Scientists and Swindlers introduces us to a new service of professionals: the consulting scientists. Lucier follows these entrepreneurial men of science on their wide-ranging commercial engagements from the shores of Nova Scotia to the coast of California and shows how their innovative work fueled the rapid growth of the American coal and oil industries and the rise of American geology and chemistry. Along the way, he explores the decisive battles over expertise and authority, the high-stakes court cases over patenting research, the intriguing and often humorous exploits of swindlers, and the profound ethical challenges of doing science for money.

Starting with the small surveying businesses of the 1830s and reaching to the origins of applied science in the 1880s, Lucier recounts the complex and curious relations that evolved as geologists, chemists, capitalists, and politicians worked to establish scientific research as a legitimate, regularly compensated, and respected enterprise. This sweeping narrative enriches our understanding of how the rocks beneath our feet became invaluable resources for science, technology, and industry.

Editorial Reviews

Civil Engineering - Ray Bert
Extensively researched and replete with bibliographical citations, Scientists and Swindlers is a significant reference work for historians and will also be of interest to geologists, chemists, and other scientists interested in the history of their professions.

Canadian Journal of History - James B. McSwain
Gracefully written and well-researched study.

Technology and Culture - Christopher J. Castaneda
An insightful study of scientific consulting practices that integrates business, geology, and environmental issues with the larger context of the early history of the American 'fossil fuel' industry.

Journal of American History - James C. Williams
Scientists and Swindlers is a valuable addition to our understanding of the evolution of scientific practice in America. Lucier's work answers much and raises interesting questions. That makes it a worthy read.

Ambix - Gregory Tweedale
This is a well-written study, and covers a lot of ground.

Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences - Dan Bouk
Required reading for anyone interested in American science or in the interplay of science and industrial society.

Choice
This will be an especially appropriate library resource for history of science and technology and history of geology collections. Highly recommended.

Journal of American History
Scientists and Swindlers is a valuable addition to our understanding of the evolution of scientific practice in America. Lucier's work answers much and raises interesting questions. That makes it a worthy read.

— James C. Williams

Ambix
This is a well-written study, and covers a lot of ground.

— Gregory Tweedale

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781421402857
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
12/29/2010
Series:
Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
File size:
5 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Jim Secord
In a remarkable piece of historical detective work, Paul Lucier shows how the search for coal, oil, and other resources that led to the industrial transformation of America also fueled the development of the modern scientific career. Filled with surprising stories and extraordinary characters, Scientists and Swindlers offers a fresh perspective on the troubled relations between commerce and intellectual life we face today.

Jim Secord

In a remarkable piece of historical detective work, Paul Lucier shows how the search for coal, oil, and other resources that led to the industrial transformation of America also fueled the development of the modern scientific career. Filled with surprising stories and extraordinary characters, Scientists and Swindlers offers a fresh perspective on the troubled relations between commerce and intellectual life we face today.

Jim Secord, University of Cambridge

John Servos
Scientists and Swindlers is a model of how the history of science and technology ought to be done. Drawing on materials gleaned from the scientific journal and the courtroom, the textbook and the business prospectus, Paul Lucier weaves an exciting and original narrative about geology's relations with commerce in the nineteenth century. He shows us how geologists' efforts to classify and understand their materials interdigitated with entrepreneurial ambitions, how the expertise and pretensions of science intersected with the needs of commerce and law, and how geologists struggled to define and walk a line between the ethics of an aspiring profession and the ethics of the marketplace. Lucier enriches our understanding of geology's history while giving us a new appreciation of the continuities between the nineteenth century and our own era of commercialized science. His book prompts pleasure and reflection.

Meet the Author

Trained as a geophysicist, Paul Lucier holds a Ph.D. in history from Princeton University. His work as a historian of science and technology specializing in the earth and environmental sciences and the mining industries has received numerous prizes and has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation.

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