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VOLTA: Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment

VOLTA: Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Giuliano Pancaldi sets us within the cosmopolitan cultures of Enlightenment Europe to tell the story of Alessandro Volta?the brilliant man whose name is forever attached to electromotive force. Providing fascinating details, many previously unknown, Pancaldi depicts Volta as an inventor who used his international network of acquaintances to further his quest to harness the power of electricity. This is the story of a man who sought recognition as a natural philosopher and ended up with an invention that would make an everyday marvel of electric lighting.

Examining the social and scientific contexts in which Volta operated?as well as Europe's reception of his most famous invention?Volta also offers a sustained inquiry into long-term features of science and technology as they developed in the early age of electricity. Pancaldi considers the voltaic cell, or battery, as a case study of Enlightenment notions and their consequences, consequences that would include the emergence of the "scientist" at the expense of the "natural philosopher."

Throughout, Pancaldi highlights the complex intellectual, technological, and social ferment that ultimately led to our industrial societies. In so doing, he suggests that today's supporters and critics of Enlightenment values underestimate the diversity and contingency inherent in science and technology?and may be at odds needlessly.

Both an absorbing biography and a study of scientific and technological creativity, this book offers new insights into the legacies of the Enlightenment while telling the remarkable story of the now-ubiquitous battery.

Review:

"Pancaldi's book is the best thing on Volta that has ever been written. The author's command of the scientific issues is impeccable, and his presentation of the contributions and reactions of Volta's contemporaries is equally successful." Charles C. Gillispie, Princeton University

Review:

"This work is a splendid contribution to knowledge that will have wide appeal. It deals with a seminal figure in the development of science?an intellectual giant who was to some real extent a self-made scientist. Presenting the story in clear and dramatic terms, the book is a milestone in our understanding of Enlightenment science and of the ways that science is related to its social and cultural matrix." I. Bernard Cohen, Harvard University

Synopsis:

Includes bibliographical references (p. [291]-365) and index.

About the Author

Giuliano Pancaldi is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Bologna. His books include Darwin in Italy: Science across Cultural Frontiers.

Table of Contents

Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations xvii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1

THE MAKING OF A NATURAL PHILOSOPHER

From Amateur, to Expert, to Public Servant 7

The Town 9

The Family 12

Lifestyle 14

Education 15

"A More Enlightened Age" 19

Literary Interests 21

Views on Religion and Secularization 22

From Amateur, to Expert, to Public Servant 27

Emotional Life 33

Investigative Style 39

Conclusion 41

Chapter 2

ENLIGHTENMENT SCIENCE SOUTH OF THE ALPS

The Italian Scientific Community in the Age of Volta 44

The Soil and the Institutions 48

The Scholars: Provenance and Fields of Interest 52

Prosopography 56

The Circulation of Enlightenment Literature 62

Views from the Outside 65

Conclusion 70

Chapter 3

THE ELECTROPHORUS

Theory, Instrument Design, and the Social Uses of Scientific Apparatus 73

Fire, Magnetism, Electricity 76

"Vindicating Electricity" 83

Attraction and the Atmospheres 86

Disenchanted Theorist 90

Scientific Instruments and Their Social Uses 91

The Path to the Electrophorus 95

Instrument Design 100

Publicizing Discovery 104

Conclusion 108

Chapter 4

VOLTA'S SCIENCE OF ELECTRICITY

Conception, Laboratory Work, and Public Recognition 110

Reluctant Theorist 110

Midrange Conceptualization and a New Machine: Capacity, Tension, "Actuation," and the Condensatore 112

Natural Philosopher or Inventor of Amusements Électriques? 121

Explanatory Models and Presentation Strategies: True Causes vs. Instrumentalism 125

Volta's Laboratory: Measuring Electricity 129

Volta on Coulomb 137

Conclusion 141

Chapter 5

THE COSMOPOLITAN NETWORK

Volta and Communication among Experts in Late Enlightenment Europe 146

Overcoming Isolation 149

Exploring the Republic of Letters: The Neighborhoods 153

Facing the Peers: Paris in 1782 156

Anglophilia 160

Continental Europe and the German-Speaking Countries 164

After 1789 168

Conclusion 172

Chapter 6

THE BATTERY

Invention, Instrumentalism, and Competitive Imitation 178

Galvanism, Electrometer in Hand 179

The Hunt for Weak Electricity 186

The Electricity of Animals 190

Nicholson's Contribution to Volta's Discovery 196

Building the Battery 202

Conclusion: Invention, Instrumentalism, and Competitive Imitation 207

Chapter 7

APPROPRIATING INVENTION

The Reception of the Voltaic Battery in Europe 211

Spreading the News 212

Replicating the Instrument 221

Appropriating the Battery 224

A Name for All Purposes 246

From Philosophic Instrument to Patented Device 248

Conclusion 250

Chapter 8

THE SCIENTIST AS HERO

Volta and the Uses of Past Science in the Industrial Era 257

Admitted to "Galileo's Tribune" 258

Secular Saint in the Positivist Calendar 259

"The Triumph of Science" 261

In the Nobel Laureates' Era 263

Conclusion 270

Chapter 9

CONCLUSION: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND CONTINGENCY

Enlightenment Legacies 273

Invention 273

"Useful Knowledge" and Unintended Consequences 275

"The Quantifying Spirit" 278

Investment 279

Value Assessments 280

Contingency 283

Enlightenment Legacies 286

Notes 291

Bibliography 337

Index 367

Product Details

ISBN:
9780691096858
Subtitle:
Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Author:
Pancaldi, Giuliano
Location:
Princeton, N.J.
Subject:
History
Subject:
Electricity
Subject:
Physicists
Subject:
Scientists - General
Subject:
History of Science and Medicine, Philosophy of Science
Subject:
European History
Subject:
Physics
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
no. 915.002
Publication Date:
20030526
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
College/higher education:
Language:
English
Illustrations:
36 halftones. 10 line illus.
Pages:
400
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in 20 oz

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » History of Science » Technology

VOLTA: Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 400 pages Princeton University Press - English 9780691096858 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Pancaldi's book is the best thing on Volta that has ever been written. The author's command of the scientific issues is impeccable, and his presentation of the contributions and reactions of Volta's contemporaries is equally successful."
"Review" by , "This work is a splendid contribution to knowledge that will have wide appeal. It deals with a seminal figure in the development of science?an intellectual giant who was to some real extent a self-made scientist. Presenting the story in clear and dramatic terms, the book is a milestone in our understanding of Enlightenment science and of the ways that science is related to its social and cultural matrix."
"Synopsis" by , Includes bibliographical references (p. [291]-365) and index.
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