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Agricultural EnlightenmentKnowledge, Technology, and Nature, 1750-1840$
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Peter M. Jones

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198716075

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716075.001.0001

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The Science of Agriculture

The Science of Agriculture

Chapter:
(p.161) 7 The Science of Agriculture
Source:
Agricultural Enlightenment
Author(s):

Peter M. Jones

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198716075.003.0008

This chapter explores the slow and uncertain development before the 1840s of a ‘science’ of agriculture. This development waited upon the elaboration of discrete bodies of agronomic data which would take the place of the catch-all ‘encyclopaedic’ knowledge of the high Enlightenment decades and upon the construction of an experimental method which could determine which knowledge inputs and which field and folding practices were more likely to produce beneficial results. The focus is laid on the potential for a chemistry of agriculture, on experiment and observation in a farming context, and on the Europe-wide effort to discover how plants extracted nourishment from the soil and the atmosphere. The chapter charts the achievements in these areas, illustrated with an account of the first field crop to be identified and grown in a scientific manner: sugar beet. It concludes with Liebig’s researches in agriculture and summarizes the debate concerning the laboratory vocation of agricultural science.

Keywords:   science, chemistry, experimental method, plant nutrition, laboratory agriculture, Justus Liebig, agricultural experiment stations

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