Because Ether Doesn’t Propagate Itself

Or who knows, maybe it does.

At any rate, our History of Science blogging friends at Ether Wave Propaganda are on vacation. That provides us the perfect opportunity to point back to a terrific, recent post on the history of science in America that you might of missed.

Will Thomas offers a vivid and engaging reading of Paul Lucier’s 2009 Isis article, “The Professional and Scientist in Nineteenth Century America.” I recall my own astonishment at learning (as a fresh graduate student) the recent origin of the label “scientist”—who could imagine a world without scientists, as such, I wondered. As Thomas relates in his post, Lucier gives us plenty more material about the recent origins of apparently natural labels and distinctions that should similarly astonish our students in years to come.

Historians of Science in America have probably already taken note of Lucier’s 2008 book, Scientists and Swindlers. Forum steering committee member David Spanagel wrote a particularly useful review (but you need a subscription to see it) for the most recent Isis. I’m inspired by it to put on my syllabus for American environmental history either Lucier’s chapter on the “technological science of kerosene” or the “rock oil report.” Any other recommendations?


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