By Albert E. Moyer
In past due nineteenth-century the USA, Simon Newcomb used to be the nation's so much celebrated scientist and--irascibly, doggedly, tirelessly--he made the main of it. formally a mathematical astronomer heading a central authority employer, Newcomb spent as a lot of his lifestyles out of the observatory as in it, performing as a spokesman for the nascent yet restive medical neighborhood of his time.Newcomb observed the "scientific technique" as a possible consultant for all disciplines and a foundation for all sensible motion, and argued passionately that it used to be of as a lot use within the halls of Congress as within the laboratory. In so doing, he not just sparked well known aid for American technological know-how but additionally faced a large spectrum of social, cultural, and highbrow concerns. this primary full-length examine of Newcomb lines the advance of his religion in technological know-how and levels over themes of serious public debate within the Gilded Age, from the reform of monetary thought to the recasting of the controversy among technological know-how and faith. Moyer's portrait of a stressed, keen brain additionally illuminates the bustle of overdue nineteenth-century the USA.
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Extra info for A scientist's voice in American culture: Simon Newcomb and the rhetoric of scientific method
The biographical account ends with a brief look at his later years (chap. 11). When Newcomb died in 1909, Robert S. Woodward, president of the Carnegie Institution in Washington, singled out his former colleague for not only his "unrivaled productivity" but also the "unusual clearness" of his prose. " 2 To date, scholars have tapped only a small portion of Newcomb's vast, lifetime output of unpublished and published writings. The Simon Newcomb Papers at the Library of Congress number approximately 46,200 items and occupy sixty-two linear feet of shelf space.
Even after rising to a station that permitted him to move with ease through the "World of Sweetness and Light," he still carried a burden: the self-doubt of his Page 20 younger years. He constantly needed to prove himself. Whether making another exhaustive analysis of a planetary orbit or assuming another exhausting presidency of a learned society, he seemed compelled to achieve. Growing Up in the Maritime Provinces Newcomb was born in Wallace, Nova Scotia, in 1835, a year notable for the return of Halley's Comet.
In other words, a study of the origins and rhetorical uses of Newcomb's methodological views pro- Page 10 vides a vehicle for examining not only scientific method but also pragmatism, late nineteenth-century American culture, and ultimately Newcomb's life and thoughtthe latter being the initial stimulus and main focus of the entire study. About the origins of his view, I conclude that Newcomb did not arrive at his view by simply tapping into a universal body of methodological rules that somehow existed independently of outside influences.
A scientist's voice in American culture: Simon Newcomb and the rhetoric of scientific method by Albert E. Moyer