July 17, 2021
10:00 am — 4:00 pm
While we all know the ramification of Enlightenment thinking on politics in the 18th Century, it also had a profound and seminal effect on science. Prior to the Enlightenment, scientific thought, when it could be separated from theology, was dominated by theories of absolute truth but over the course of the 16th and 17th Centuries this absolutism began to be replaced by modern empirical observation and experimentation. The world doesn’t work as it does because it should, or because of supernatural forces, but rather it follows series of natural laws. Rocks don’t fall to the earth because, as Plato argued, they belong to the earth; they fall because, as Newton observed, objects are attracted to each other in proportion to their mass and inverse proportion to their distance separation [squared]. God, if involved at all in the process at all, is the author of laws that govern the universe, not the prime mover who physically controls each particle. This subtle shift in focus and explosion of scientific inquiry and the creation of the “gentleman scientist.”
My impression is to be an exemplar of the “Gentleman Scientist.” One who corresponds widely with others who are exploiting this new “scientific method” to challenge to challenge the status quo on EVERYTHING from physics to politics, one who conducts a wide variety of scientific investigations, and one who focuses on shifting our understanding of how the world works from folklore and tradition to mathematical scientific “laws.”
- Two sealed fermenters (one inoculated) with airlocks ➔ an experiment challenging spontaneous generation
- Reproduction of Joseph Priestley’s experiments discovering the element Oxygen à challenging the conventional wisdom and Theories of Phlogiston.
- Demonstration of the use of a nautical sextant to measure angles and a discussion of how with just a sextant to measure latitude, Mr Thacker’s newly invented chronometer (1714) to measure longitude, one can accurately determine their exact location on the earth.
- Display computations and discussion of the 1769 observations of the Transit of Venus with an explanation of “big science” in the 18th Century and how these data allowed the Royal Academy to compute the distance of the Earth from the Sun.
- Display and demonstration of various computing devices used by scientists and surveyors in the 18th Century.
My impression will consist of a display table and stools on which I will place the display items and my writing box. I will be dressed as a gentleman from Philadelphia (not a 1st person impression), and I will focus on explaining how the “modern” man of 1771 uses science as part of his worldview in the Age of Reason.