Of all the inventions of the nineteenth century, the scientist is one of the most striking. In revolutionary France the science student, taught by men active in research, was born; and a generation later, the graduate student doing a PhD emerged in Germany. In 1833 the word ‘scientist’ was coined; forty years later science (increasingly specialised) was a becoming a profession. Men of science rivalled clerics and critics as sages; they were honoured as national treasures, and buried in state funerals. Their new ideas invigorated the life of the mind. Peripatetic congresses, great exhibitions, museums, technical colleges and laboratories blossomed; and new industries based on chemistry and electricity brought prosperity and power, economic and military. Eighteenth-century steam engines preceded understanding of the physics underlying them; but electric telegraphs and motors were applied science, based upon painstaking interpretation of nature. The ideas, discoveries and inventions of scientists transformed the world: lives were longer and healthier, cities and empires grew, societies became urban rather than agrarian, the local became global. And by the opening years of the twentieth century, science was spreading beyond Europe and North America, and women were beginning to be visible in the ranks of scientists.
Bringing together the people, events, and discoveries of this exciting period into a lively narrative, this book will be essential reading both for students of the history of science and for anyone interested in the foundations of the world as we know it today.
About the Author
David Knight is Emeritus Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Durham University.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vi
Preface: The Age of Science viii
Introduction: Approaching the Past 1
1 Science in and after 1789 12
2 Science and its Languages 33
3 Applied Science 56
4 Intellectual Excitement 82
5 Healthy Lives 105
6 Laboratories 129
7 Bodies, Minds and Spirits 151
8 The Time of Triumph 172
9 Science and National Identities 195
10 Method and Heresy 217
11 Cultural Leadership 238
12 Into the New Century 264
Notes and References 289