“HMS Beagle in the Galápagos” by John Chancellor. © Dr Gordon Chancellor and reproduced with his kind permission.
About the painting see p. 49-60 of this special issue of the Linnean, “Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Darwin-Wallace theory of evolution” (3.7Mb PDF):
From the Australian National Maritime Museum:
In the wake of the Beagle – Science in the southern oceans from the age of Darwin
Start Date: 20 March 2009
End Date: 21 March 2009
A major symposium in conjunction with the Australian National Maritime Museum’s exhibition Charles Darwin – Voyages and ideas that shook the world. Internationally acclaimed speakers provide new insights into the world of collecting, surveying and cross-cultural exchange in the antipodes in the age of Darwin and take a modern look at Darwin and his contemporaries’ influence on today’s cutting-edge scientific research.
“For a small ten-gun brig belonging to what sailors wryly called the ‘coffin class’, HMS Beagle has created the largest wake of any ship in history.”
Professor lain McCalmanStrange as it may seem, the long wake of HMS Beagle stretches from the nineteenth century into the future of our globe. Charles Darwin spent only three months in Australia, but Australasia and the Pacific contributed to his evolutionary thinking in a variety of ways. One hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species and on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, the museum is proud to present In the Wake of the Beagle – a celebratory symposium of internationally acclaimed speakers providing new insights into the world of collecting, surveying and cross-cultural exchange in the antipodes in the age of Darwin.
They explore the groundbreaking work of Darwin and his contemporaries Joseph Hooker, Thomas Huxley and Alfred Wallace, shed light on their interaction with the region’s indigenous voyagers, and take a very modern look at the naturalists’ influence on today’s cutting-edge scientific research, at a time when global warming has raised
This conference has been made possible thanks to the support of an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant, Seeing Change: Science, Culture and Technology in the Antipodes from the age of Darwin.
Dr Chris Ballard, Fellow Division of Pacific & Asian History, Australian National University;
Mike Bluett Producer, Becker Group;
Dr Lissant Bolton, Senior Curator Oceania, British Museum;
Dr John Collee, novelist and screenwriter;
Dr Jim Endersby, Sussex University;
Dr Nigel Erskine, Curator, Australian National Maritime Museum;
Mr Julian Holland, researcher and former curator;
Dugald Jellie, travel writer, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald;
Sophie Jensen, Senior Curator, National Museum of Australia;
Prof. lain McCalman, University of Sydney;
Richard Neville, Mitchell Librarian, State Library of NSW;
Prof. Frank Nicholas, Animal Genetics, University of Sydney;
Dr Jude Philp, Senior Curator, Macleay Museum;
Paul White, Dept. of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge;
Dr Kate Wilson, Director, Wealth from Oceans National Research Flagship, CSlRO
2-Day registration $50, ANMM Members or students $30
1-day registration $25, ANMM Members or students $15
Download the registration form In the wake of the Beagle – Science in the southern oceans from the age of Darwin (609 kb)
For further information contact the members office on (02) 9298 3644 email@example.com
I received this book from the publisher last year, so I am now finally able to put up my review. But I also had to read it for my current graduate class on historical writing, taught by Michael Reidy (my advisor and the author of the book!). And the review:
Tides of History: Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy. By Michael S. Reidy. Chicago, London: Chicago University Press, 2008. xiv + 389 pp. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $40.00 (cloth).
In an essay in William K. Story’s edited volume Scientific Aspects of European Expansion (Varorium, 1996), historian Alan Frost shows how science conducted in the Pacific during European exploration of the late eighteenth century was essentially political in nature. Scientists acted with their respective nations in mind. Michael S. Reidy extends the notion of science for political purposes into the nineteenth century with Tides of History. But while the book’s subtitle, Ocean Science and Her Majesty’s Navy, underscores the connection between advancements in science and the imperial reach of maritime nations (predominantly Britain), Reidy aims for much more than just showing how the British used science to rule the waves. He has other interests in mind, and it is unfortunate that the title of his book misleads the reader of its primary content. Although Reidy does discuss the Admiralty and how tidal science was crucial to military matters, he is more interested in the scientist himself and his role – in particular one giant of science (William Whewell) and plenty of rather unknowns. Even larger still is Reidy’s contribution to a growing field of ocean history, a fresh understanding of history understood through looking at the spaces in between the land that most histories are focused with.
Much of Tides of History details the history of tidal science – of the data collection itself, and the theoretical understanding of the tides (whether or not it was based on data). The narrative of Reidy’s story, told through scientific publications, letters, and the use images (tables and graphs), almost mirrors the flux and reflux of the tides themselves, the ebb and flow of the seas across the globe. Tidal science, and the reasons for studying it, have shifted in importance to various parties through the centuries. Reidy outlines what has gone before, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before focusing on the nineteenth century, the highest period of Britain’s imperial expansion, and the regional and global tide experiments in the mid-1830s.
Reidy is fond of metaphors, and they abound in Tides of History. For example, Whewell “helped transform the spatial scope of science while simultaneously expanding the terrain of the scientist” (p. 240). This spatiality is important to Reidy in showing how Whewell transformed the study of tides into a Humboldtian research program, rather than the temporal nature of previous studies. In contrast to earlier and recent works on Whewell, Reidy shows how this evaluator of science in Britain was much more than just a man interested in the work of scientists, but a premier scientist himself. The study of tides, which held Whewell’s interest for more than two decades, also influenced Whewell’s philosophical contributions to science – how science should be done and who should do it. Despite Whewell’s insistence that only certain persons could be scientists – those who strived for theoretical understanding of phenomena – he recognized the efforts and contributions of the often overlooked figures in history. Data collectors, calculators, and computers, doing monotonous and tedious work with ink, provided crucial information for “scientists” to devise their theories with. By looking closely at the role of these “subordinate labourers,” as Whewell referred to them, Reidy gives us a much needed contribution to the history of science, a bottom-up history in a field which too often stresses the importance of the man of science. There were many men (and women) of science, whether or not they were considered “scientists.”
While Reidy succeeds in relating the study of the tides to those with economic interests in using that knowledge – merchants, traders, etc. – what is missing from Tides of History, despite its secondary role to an understanding of the emerging scientist in the early Victorian period, is how the military aspect of the study of the tides was actually used. Examples of how the Admiralty benefited from tidal knowledge, grounded in particular events (if records exist), would surely benefit an understanding of the importance of the study of the tides, and of the relationship of scientists with the larger society. Another mistake in Tides of History, in my opinion, is in the introduction of self-registering tide gauges in Reidy’s narrative. Through reading the text, we know that data collectors observed and marked down numbers concerning the tides. We do not know, however, if and how they utilized technological instruments in carrying out their tasks. So, the invention of the self-registering tide gauge, which made it possible to record data without the hand of a person, becomes not as exciting a turn in the narrative as if the reader truly understood how earlier “subordinated labourers” collected information about the rise and fall of tides.
Despite these few problems, Tides of History is a valuable contribution to understanding the culture of science in the early Victorian period, a time when the role of scientists was becoming more connected with commerce and government, in helping to ensure Britain’s imperialistic success and reaping rewards from it. Taken with Richard Drayton’s Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain and the ‘Improvement’ of the World (Yale University Press, 2000), Tides of History offers a more complete picture of the relationship between science and society – of the political and economic importance of science and the increasingly important role of the scientist – in the nineteenth century. This is a valuable book for those interested in nineteenth-century science, the history of physical sciences, imperialism, environmental history, and maritime history to have on their shelves.
From Today in Science History:
Adolf Engler (Died 10 Oct 1930; born 25 Mar 1844). (Gustav Heinrich) Adolf Engler was a German botanist famous for his system of plant classification and for his expertise as a plant geographer. He emphasized the importance of geological history in the study of plant geography, and worked out an influential system of plant classification. He wrote several works on plant geography and taxonomy, and collaborated with Karl Prantl on the early volumes of Die natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien (32 vol. in 17, 1887–1909) and edited the early volumes of Das Pflanzenreich. The Engler and Prantl system of flowering plant classification was the principal one in use until the 1970s.
Sir Ferdinand von Mueller (Died 10 Oct 1896; born 30 Jun 1825). German-born Australian botanist and explorer. He migrated to Australia in 1848 for health reasons, and there became the country’s greatest 19th-century scientist. Mueller gained an international reputation as a great botanical collector and writer. His contributions covered a wide field of sciences such as geography, pharmacy, horticulture, agriculture, forestry, paleontology, and zoology. His activity as a botanist is shown by hundreds of Australian plant names which are followed by ‘F. Muell’. From 1853, he held the post as the first Government Botanist of Victoria until his death, 43 years later. He travelled widely throughout the colonies on botanical exploration, including as naturalist to the Gregory expedition to northern Australia (1855-57).
Thomas Say (Died 10 Oct 1834; born 27 Jun 1787). American self-taught naturalist often considered to be the founder of descriptive entomology in the United States. His taxonomic work was quickly recognized by European zoologists. Say was a founding member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He was chief zoologist of Major Stephen Long’s exploring expedition to the tributaries of the Missouri River in 1819 and in 1823 for the expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi. During the 1819 expedition, Say first described the coyote, swift fox, western kingbird, band-tailed pigeon, Say’s phoebe, rock wren, lesser goldfinch, lark sparrow, lazuli bunting, and orange-crowned warbler. His important work, American Entomology, remains a classic. He also wrote on paleontology and conchology.
Pierre Lyonnet (Died 10 Oct 1789; born 22 Jul 1708). Dutch naturalist and engraver who skillfully dissected insects and made detailed illustrations of their anatomy. He also had a career as an official codebreaker. In 1738 he entered the service of the States General as an administrator of secret expenses and as a code-clerk. In his leisure he turned to natural history. He believed that nature was a cipher that could be interpreted by tracing every detail of its perfect design. He designed a simple microscope which had each lens suspended at the end of a series of ball and socket joints over a small mahogony dissecting table mounted on a post above a wooden base with small drawers containing his instruments. After preparing engravings for several books written by others, he produced his own treatises.
BibliOdyssey’s has a post sharing images from Joseph Dalton Hooker’s The botany of the Antarctic voyage (1847).