Creating Space for the “Scientist”

in Tides of History

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2008 | ISBN: 9780226709321
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226709338 | DOI:
Creating Space for the “Scientist”

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This chapter extends William Whewell's spatial and disciplinary shaping of the field of tidology to his equally ambitious shaping of the “scientist,” or full-time devotee. Science for Whewell was a hierarchical affair; the elite theorists deserved recognition above the calculators and tide table makers who were paid for their work. He purposefully delineated the study of the tides as “the last great bastion of physical astronomy,” the peculiar province of theorists, accessible only to those with advanced mathematical training. Thus he contributed to a definition of the scientist that effectively excluded associate laborers. Whewell's practice of tidology and his larger historical vision of how scientists made discoveries contributed to his definition. Whewell's approach to the study of the tides as a spatial science began on the coasts of Britain but quickly extended outward to include nine countries and upward of 700 tide stations worldwide. He then campaigned for the next two decades to have the British Admiralty fund an expedition to search out the tides in the deep ocean.

Keywords: William Whewell; tides; tidology; scientists; science; physical astronomy; Britain; British Admiralty; expedition; deep ocean

Chapter.  14140 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental History

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