6013 Global Science and Public Good in the 19th Century: Meteorology, Tidalogy, and Magnetism

Friday, February 17, 2012: 10:00 AM
Room 116-117 (VCC West Building)
Laura J. Snyder , St. John's University, Queens, NY
In the nineteenth century, global scientific cooperation was spearheaded by the British scientists John Herschel and William Whewell.  They were influenced by the seventeenth-century philosopher and politician Francis Bacon, who believed that science should be for the public good, to bring about “the relief of man’s estate.”  Herschel and Whewell saw global cooperation as necessary not only to uncover new knowledge but also to bring about a global public good.  Their efforts led to international cooperation in studying meteorology, the tides, and geomagnetism.  Whewell’s world-wide study of tidal patterns made it much safer for ships to sail the seas; Herschel’s work in promoting global meteorological research spurred research on the relation between weather and solar activity and the relation between atmospheric conditions and the intensity of terrestrial magnetism.  Whewell and Herschel joined forces in promoting a network of global magnetic observatories to gather geomagnetic data.  This information would, they believed, not only help uncover the nature of the universe’s fundamental forces, but also be valuable for navigation, in explaining and predicting the variation of the mariner’s compass.  Their example can help us today in creating global knowledge societies that work for the public good.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>