By James A. Secord
This booklet goals at severe pursuits and achieves all of theirs. It execs ides x essentially new interpretation of the Cambrian-Silurian dispute in accordance with exacting learn and considerate interpretation. It additionally relates the dispute either to the final social history of British geology and to the unique own reports of Sedgswick and Murchison. Secord writes transparent, rigorous prose and gives lots of beneficial illustrations. One can't ask for extra" - William Montgomery, technological know-how "Secord supplies a dazzlingly unique account of this clinical trench battle and its social effects. One finally ends up with a marvellous feeling for the most important taxonomic corporations in Darwin's more youthful day: mapping, ordering, conquering 'taming the "chaos" of the strata. All of those after all had social and imperial ramifications; and Secord mentions geology's ethical allure (in helping a divinely-stratified construction) to a beleaguered elite purpose on subduing the reduce orders. We additionally get a superb perception into the bitty slay those taxonomic companies stepped forward. . . . What comes throughout is how? our supposedly 'inert' taxonomic constructs nonetheless mirror their contingent historical past" - Adrian Desmond, London evaluate of Books "James Secord offers a desirable background of 1 of the main celebrated altercations in 19th-century science-the controversy over the correct boundary among the Cambrian and Silurian divisions within the oldest fossil-bearing rocks. by means of integrating the social and technical features of the clash, the writer opens up a number of new techniques to the background of common technology within the Victorian period. the result's a brilliant tale of the human results of medical partisanship and a huge contribution to the examine of the particular perform of technology" - eu magazine of Engineering schooling" [Secord's] ebook needs to turn into crucial examining for any critical scholar of the background of the earth-sciences however it additionally
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Additional info for Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute
Within the history of geology, 1 have in mind works like Bowler 1976 and Rudwick 1976a. Along with Leonard Wilson's 1972 biography of Lyell, these contrast with earlier historical literature in their attention to technical argu ments; however, they typically do so with an eye on philosophical questions con cerning the history of life. 14 Desmond 1979, 1982; Winsor 1969, 1976; Rudwick 1979a, 1985. Also important in this context are Rudwick 1974 and J. Dean 1979. For surveys of some of the rele vant literature, see Secord 1985a and Allen 1983.
Of course, per ceptions of the natural world are always mediated by interpretive conventions, and in this sense all knowledge has a social dimen sion. But in a historical account of a developed science, the exist ence of these conventions must after a certain point be taken for granted. To do otherwise would severely hinder historical empathy and understanding. In the present dispute, for example, the criteria for making a competent observation in the field were never in doubt. Instead, controversy focused on the relative importance of observations and how they should be placed in broader arrays.
In a presiden tial address to the Geological Society of Dublin, J. Beete Jukes com plimented the sister society in London on the temperance of its discussions: Geologists have ever been remarkable, perhaps above every class of scientific men, for the cordial union, the hearty good fellow ship, which has knit them together into a band of brothers. "12 But for the most part, geologists lauded themselves for patching up their disagree ments as gentlemen and remaining friends. The Geological Society could encourage debate within its walls in part because it was so thoroughly dominated by a small group of leading researchers.