Thrifty Science: Making the Most of Materials in the History of Experiment (Hardback)
  • Thrifty Science: Making the Most of Materials in the History of Experiment (Hardback)
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Thrifty Science: Making the Most of Materials in the History of Experiment (Hardback)

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£34.00
Hardback 304 Pages / Published: 11/02/2019
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If the twentieth century saw the rise of "Big Science," then the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were surely an age of thrift. As Simon Werrett's new history shows, frugal early modern experimenters transformed their homes into laboratories as they recycled, repurposed, repaired, and reused their material possessions to learn about the natural world. Thrifty Science explores this distinctive culture of experiment and demonstrates how the values of the household helped to shape an array of experimental inquiries, ranging from esoteric investigations of glowworms and sour beer to famous experiments such as Benjamin Franklin's use of a kite to show lightning was electrical and Isaac Newton's investigations of color using prisms. Tracing the diverse ways that men and women put their material possessions into the service of experiment, Werrett offers a history of practices of recycling and repurposing that are often assumed to be more recent in origin. This thriving domestic culture of inquiry was eclipsed by new forms of experimental culture in the nineteenth century, however, culminating in the resource-hungry science of the twentieth. Could thrifty science be making a comeback today, as scientists grapple with the need to make their research more environmentally sustainable?

Publisher: The University of Chicago Press
ISBN: 9780226610252
Number of pages: 304
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
"Many students of science spend a fair bit of time learning about the theorists and experimentalists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yet it can be hard to picture these figures through the layers of historical scholarship and popular accounts. . . . Simon Werrett's Thrifty Science is, among other things, a lively attempt to show another side of these figures and their era."--Nature
"Complex and significant . . . . Overall, Werrett's book is well researched and well executed, using a wide range of primary sources and secondary literature. Thrifty Science is a valuable contribution to the literature in the history of early modern science, and provides an important approach to the materials, places, and values that were so central in the experimental sciences, which prioritized a blend of theory and practice. It is critical to remember that early modern experimenters could, and did, make use of almost anything."--H-Net Reviews
"Thrifty Science takes the reader on a fascinating and novel tour of early modern science, wending its way through homes and gardens, auction houses, and instrument shops. . . . The book is foremost a contribution to the growing literature on the material culture and practice of science, with an analysis rooted in notions of circulation. At the same time, it speaks eloquently to recent work on the early modern home, convincingly locating many of the thrifty practices of science in ideas of economy and the management of the household. Canonical figures like Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, and Isaac Newton thus naturally appear, but the focus on the home also opens up a more diverse cast of men and women, including family members and domestic servants, as participants in early modern science. . . . The variety and depth of sources on display is prodigious, and the book is richly illustrated with judiciously chosen images. . . . This is an excellent and thought-provoking book that will appeal especially to scholars of early modern science, historians of technology, and those with interests in economy and the household. Thrifty Science nevertheless speaks lucidly to much broader questions around sustainability and the nature of our relationship with material things. Written in a lively and engaging manner, it thus can and should be read much more widely."--Technology and Culture

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