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Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science

In Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science, David N. Livingstone and Charles W. J. Withers gather essays that deftly navigate the spaces of science in this significant period and reveal how each is embedded in wider systems of meaning, authority, and identity. Chapters from a distinguished range of contributors explore the places of creation, the paths of knowledge transmission and reception, and the import of exchange networks at various scales. Studies range from the inspection of the places of London science, which show how different scientific sites operated different moral and epistemic economies, to the scrutiny of the ways in which the museum space of the Smithsonian Institution and the expansive space of the American West produced science and framed geographical understanding. This volume makes clear that the science of this era varied in its constitution and reputation in relation to place and personnel, in its nature by virtue of its different epistemic practices, in its audiences, and in the ways in which it was put to work.

536 pages | 41 halftones, 1 table | 6 x 9 | © 2011

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography, Social and Political Geography

History of Science


“This exciting interdisciplinary collection of essays in a competitively priced, elegant volume will appeal to academics, students, and general readers. It amply succeeds in exploring the multifarious spatial contexts and demonstrating the geographical mobility of scientific knowledge, strongly re-asserting that geographies of ‘place, space, translation, and circulation’ must be at the forefront of our understanding of nineteenth-century science and scientific culture.”

Paul Elliott, University of Derby | Journal of Historical Geography

“As a whole the volume represents an important contribution to a flourishing field in the history of science that the two editors of this collection over the last two decades have done much to develop and influence.”

Casper Andersen | British Journal for the History of Science

“Livingstone and Withers’s volume showcases the wide and fertile ground being ploughed by historical geographers, science studies scholars, and historians of science. In examining the diffuse spaces and the multiple forms of scientific knowledge, and in attending to the performative and situated character of its production and reception, Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science speaks to recent work on technologies of the self, urban studies, and the history of the book. It deserves to be read widely by scholars of the Victorian period.”

Tamson Pietsch, Brunel University | Victorian Studies

“Scientific practices are developed in particular places and diffused to others, which their interpretation reflects in the local context. This excellent volume of essays illustrates that argument with a fascinating range of nineteenth-century examples that more than sustain the argument that science is a form of ‘situated knowledge.’ These essays are essential reading for all interested in the when, what, and why of scientific practices; they will be left in no doubt that ‘where’ is just as important.”

Ron Johnston, author of Geography and Geographers

“Science with a capital S barged into the nineteenth century, elbowing aside competing knowledge-claims and laying siege to the heights of Western intellectual culture. Such a transformation had not been seen for 1,500 years, since the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, and Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science is its ground-breaking gazetteer. More encyclopedia than directory, this richly detailed work, brimful of the latest scholarship, is a cornucopia of fresh insights into where today’s mighty ‘Science’ came from in the age of its first ascendancy. Chapter by chapter, abstract ‘Science’ is disaggregated into local knowledges; spaces within places and places within spaces fall into focus like the fragments of a kaleidoscope: islands and continents, cities and farms, theaters and museums, laboratories and lecture halls, tourist guides, and textbooks, even maps. Nineteenth-century scientific knowledge came into existence to be mobilized at countless such loci, then to be amended and refined elsewhere and finally forged into ‘the view from nowhere,’ the objectivity of modern ‘Science.’ As a resource for studying this manifold process, Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science has no peer.”

James Moore, coauthor of Darwin’s Sacred Cause

“A rich collection of essays by some of the leading historians and historical geographers in the field, Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science explores the diverse spatial contexts and geographical mobility of scientific knowledge during the nineteenth century. This book confirms that questions of geography—of place, space, translation, and circulation—belong at the heart of the history of science in this period.”

Felix Driver, author of Geography Militant

“The first hesitant efforts to write the geography of science addressed a point of principle: could one intelligibly say that apparently universal knowledge bore the marks of the particular places in which it was made and justified? About a quarter of a century later, the field has matured, and this more confident collection largely sets aside matters of philosophical principle in favor of a series of rich and resonant empirical inquiries about how nineteenth-century scientific knowledge traveled and how, in traveling, it was made, made authoritative, maintained, and modified. In the geography of science, these essays are state-of-the-art.”

Steven Shapin, author of The Scientific Life

Table of Contents


1. Thinking Geographically About Nineteenth-Century Science

Part One: Sites and Scales

2. Refashioning the Spaces of London Science: Elite Epistemes in the Nineteenth Century

3.  The Status of Museums: Authority, Identity, and Material Culture

4. Cultivating Genetics in the Country: Whittingehame Lodge, Cambridge

5. Scale and the Geographies of Civic Science: Practice and Experience in the Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Britain and in Ireland, c. 1845–1900

6. Islanded: Natural History in the British Colonization of Ceylon

Part Two: Practices and Performances

7. Placing Science in an Age of Oratory: Spaces of Scientific Speech in Mid-Victorian Edinburgh

8. Politics, Culture, and Human Origins: Geographies of Reading and Reputation in Nineteenth-Century Science 

9. Electricity and the Sociable Circulation of Fear and Fearlessness

10. “The ‘Crinoline’ of Our Steam Engineers”: Reinventing the Marine Compound Engine, 1850–1885

11. Expeditionary Science: Conflicts of Method in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Geographical Discovery

Part Three: Guides and Audiences

12. Pressed into Service: Specimens, Space, and Seeing in Botanical Practice

13. Science, Print, and Crossing Borders: Importing French Science Books into Britain, 1789–1815

14. Geological Mapping and the Geographies of Proprietorship in Nineteenth-Century Cornwall 

15. Natural History and the Victorian Tourist: From Landscapes to Rock-Pools

16. Place and Museum Space: The Smithsonian Institution, National Identity, and the American West, 1846–1896

Afterword: Putting the Geography of Science in Its Place


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