Acolytes of Nature
Defining Natural Science in Germany, 1770-1850
University of Chicago Press 2012
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books Network September 19, 2012 Carla Nappi
Denise Phillip’s meticulously researched and carefully argued new book deeply excavates a period in which many of the basic components that we take for granted as characterizing modern science were coming into being: the scientific method, the concept of a unified science, the increasing divergence of what we might translate as theoretical and practical scientific pursuits. Though these concepts will seem familiar to readers, Phillips’ careful study pays special attention to how science emerged and transformed in German-speaking Europe in very locally-specific ways. Following the transformation of Naturwissenschaft from an eighteenth century invention to a “rallying-cry” by the middle of the nineteenth century, Acolytes of Nature: Defining Natural Science in Germany, 1770-1850 maps the relationships between the collective use of words, the development of concepts, and the creation and ramification of collective social sites. Phillips reveals a world of many distinct but overlapping publics, spanning private learned societies, technical academies, gardens, agricultural societies, and universities, among others. Phillips urges to move beyond simple binaries in our understanding of history, demonstrating that the conceptual and material foundations of modern science in German-speaking Europe, and the figures that populated its spaces, emerged out of border zones and juxtapositions. Enjoy!