in The Romantic Machine

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226812205
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226812229 | DOI:

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In Paris before 1848, romantic aspirations shaped mechanical sciences and industry while new discoveries and devices intensified organic and artistic visions. Emotion and aesthetic experience were considered on a par with technical and rational mastery; new machines were seen as tools to remake society and the natural world. The varied, at times contradictory, tendencies of romanticism have often been labeled as organicism—defined as the opposite of mechanism. This book explores a shift in the image of the machine from an idea of balanced, inhuman clockwork to a “romantic machine” exemplified by technologies of conversion and transmutation, including the steam engine. It examines the impact of romantic philosophy on epistemology and shows how romanticism structured, inspired, and gave direction to France's mechanical science and industrialization. The book looks at scientists known for their contributions to physics, geophysics, and astronomy, and how the model of precision experiment and mathematics associated with Laplacean mechanism was enlarged and transformed by an encounter with romantic philosophy and aesthetics.

Keywords: romanticism; organicism; mechanism; France; industrialization; aesthetics; machines; physics; mathematics; steam engine

Chapter.  11188 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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