Volta: Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment

Portada
Princeton University Press, 2005 - 381 pàgines

Giuliano Pancaldi sets us within the cosmopolitan cultures of Enlightenment Europe to tell the story of Alessandro Volta--the brilliant man whose name is forever attached to electromotive force. Providing fascinating details, many previously unknown, Pancaldi depicts Volta as an inventor who used his international network of acquaintances to further his quest to harness the power of electricity. This is the story of a man who sought recognition as a natural philosopher and ended up with an invention that would make an everyday marvel of electric lighting.


Examining the social and scientific contexts in which Volta operated--as well as Europe's reception of his most famous invention--Volta also offers a sustained inquiry into long-term features of science and technology as they developed in the early age of electricity. Pancaldi considers the voltaic cell, or battery, as a case study of Enlightenment notions and their consequences, consequences that would include the emergence of the "scientist" at the expense of the "natural philosopher."


Throughout, Pancaldi highlights the complex intellectual, technological, and social ferment that ultimately led to our industrial societies. In so doing, he suggests that today's supporters and critics of Enlightenment values underestimate the diversity and contingency inherent in science and technology--and may be at odds needlessly.


Both an absorbing biography and a study of scientific and technological creativity, this book offers new insights into the legacies of the Enlightenment while telling the remarkable story of the now-ubiquitous battery.

 

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Continguts

Introduction
1
THE MAKING OF A NATURAL PHILIOSOPHER
7
The Town
9
The Family
12
Lifestyle
14
Education
15
A More Enlightened Age
19
Literary Interests
21
Overcoming Isolation
149
The Neighborhoods
153
Paris in 1782
156
Anglophilia
160
Continental Europe and the GermanSpeaking Countries
164
After 1789
168
Conclusion
172
THE BATTERY
178

Views on Religion and Secularization
22
From Amateur to Expert to Public Servant
27
Emotional Life
33
Investigative Style
39
Conclusion
41
ENLIGHTENMENT SCIENCE SOUTH OF THE ALPS
44
The Soil and the Institutions
48
Provenance and Fields of Interest
52
Prosopography
56
The Circulation of Enlightenment Literature
62
Views from the Outside
65
Conclusion
70
THE ELECTROPHORUS
73
Fire Magnetism Electricity
76
Vindicating Electricity
83
Attraction and the Atmospheres
86
Disenchanted Theorist
90
Scientific Instruments and Their Social Uses
91
The Path to the Electrophorus
95
Instrument Design
100
Publicizing Discovery
104
Conclusion
108
VOLTAS SCIENCE OF ELECTRICITY
110
Capacity Tension Actuation and the Condensatore
112
Natural Philosopher or Inventor of Amusements Electriques?
121
Explanatory Models and Presentation Strategies
125
Measuring Electricity
129
Volta on Coulomb
137
Conclusion
141
THE COSMOPOLITAN NETWORK
146
Galvanism Electrometer in Hand
179
The Hunt for Weak Electricity
186
The Electricity of Animals
190
Nicholsons Contribution to Voltas Discovery
196
Building the Battery
202
Invention Instrumentalism and Competitive Imitation
207
APPROPRIATIING INVENTION
211
Spreading the News
212
Replicating the Instrument
221
Appropriating the Battery
224
A Name for All Purposes
246
From Philosophic Instrument to Patented Device
248
Conclusion
250
THE SCIENTIST AS HERO
257
Admitted to Galileos Tribune
258
Secular Saint in the Positivist Calendar
259
The Triumph of Science
261
In the Nobel Laureates Era
263
Conclusion
270
CONCLUSION SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY AND CONTINGENCY
273
Useful Knowledge and Unintended Consequences
275
The Quantifying Spirit
278
Investment
279
Value Assessments
280
Contingency
283
Enlightenment Legacies
286
Notes
291
Bibliography
337
Index
367
Copyright

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Sobre l'autor (2005)

Giuliano Pancaldi is Professor of the History of Science at the University of Bologna. His books include Darwin in Italy: Science across Cultural Frontiers.

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