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Space and the 'March of Mind'Literature and the Physical Sciences in Britain 1815-1850$
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Alice Jenkins

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199209927

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199209927.001.0001

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Space and the Languages of Science

Space and the Languages of Science

Chapter:
(p.113) 4 Space and the Languages of Science
Source:
Space and the 'March of Mind'
Author(s):

Alice Jenkins (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199209927.003.0005

This chapter develops the analysis of the rhetoric of nations in science by looking at how international competition in European science affected English scientists' rhetorical practice. During the 1820s and particularly the 1830s, the English scientific establishment was deeply troubled by its standing among its European allies and rivals. Scientists from all parts of the political spectrum tried to describe English science in terms of English history and culture, some to argue that a profound, ancient regime-style corruption and lassitude had set in and it was time for a revolution in the old scientific order. One widely voiced concern was about language: since Latin had more or less disappeared from use as a practical lingua franca, characteristic English ineptitude with modern languages was seriously holding back English science—or so Charles Babbage and others argued. But Latin had not vanished: it had simply gone under the surface of scientific language. It still played a powerful role in maintaining science's claim to be part of a more general culture, and it could be mobilized to bolster scientific claims to authority, prestige, and heritage. The chapter focuses on a ‘baptism’ in early 19th-century British science—that of Michael Faraday's names for the process of electrolysis. This baptism was a highly conscious and deliberate attempt to deploy rhetoric which would tie new scientific ideas into a much older matrix of cultural references and associations.

Keywords:   rhetoric, international competition, English scientists, Michael Faraday, electrolysis

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