Thesis ID: CBB001560545

Building a Natural Scientific Age: Science and Public Culture in Germany, 1770--1850 (2004)


Phillips, Allison Denise (Author)

Harvard University
Mendelsohn, Everett

Publication Date: 2004
Edition Details: Advisor: Mendelsohn, Everett
Physical Details: 518 pp.
Language: English

My dissertation traces the history of the modern German word Naturwissenschaft, examining its fate as both an epistemological category and a cultural cause between 1770 and 1850. The appearance of "Naturwissenschaft"; as a standard, default category within modern German intellectual life has often been seen as the result of developments narrowly tied to the internal content and practices of the natural sciences. Though my study does not ignore high intellectual history, it argues that the new social and epistemological power of the category Naturwissenschaft is best understood as the product of large-scale transformations within broader educated common sense, rather than simply as the creation of a few leading researchers. This new category coalesced in layered stages; it was the composite result of a series of social, political, and cultural developments, each of which shaped the boundaries and content of the term and secured its broad intellectual relevance and emotional resonance. "Natural science" emerged as a salient category of social organization only gradually over the course of the nineteenth century. Over the same period, private societies for the study of nature became a common feature in the German civic landscape, and I have taken these social institutions as my primary site of investigation. In order to explain why natural science became the focus of widespread social organizing, my thesis weaves together two levels of analysis, looking at the internal dynamics of civic societies and at natural science's place in public culture more broadly. Germany's expanding public sphere, I argue, created the tensions and pressures that caused significant changes in educated Germans' habits of classifying knowledge. As early-modern marks of "learned" status spread to an ever- greater number of middle-class Germans, the eighteenth- century rubric of the "Wissenschaften and Knste" which included both theory and practice within the domain of learned knowledge, gave way to the modern notion of natural science, understood as a pursuit that was separate and autonomous from the practical uses of nature, but which nonetheless pervaded and transformed productive life.


Description “Traces the history of the modern German word Naturwissenschaft.” (from the abstract) Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. A 65/10 (2005): 3953. UMI pub. no. 3149585.

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Authors & Contributors
Iorio, Elena
Munno, Cristina
Avery, Shane Patrick
Lasch-Quinn, Elisabeth D.
Michael Köhncke
Sfoini, Alexandra
Eighteenth-Century Studies
Llull: Revista de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas
History of Psychology
Cierre edizioni
Oxford University Press
Cuvillier Verlag
Syracuse University
Yale University Press
Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung
Science and society
Popular culture
Terminology and nomenclature
Science, general histories
Gilpin, William
Richardson, Albert
Morse, Jedidiah
Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Gauss, Carl Friedrich
Powell, John Wesley
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
17th century
21st century
United States

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