Discovering Water: James Watt, Henry Cavendish and the by David Philip Miller

By David Philip Miller

The 'water controversy' issues one of many relevant discoveries of recent technology, that water isn't a component yet really a compound. The allocation of precedence during this discovery used to be contentious within the 1780s and has occupied a few twentieth century historians. the problem is tied up with the bigger problems with the so-called chemical revolution of the past due eighteenth century. A case may be made for James Watt or Henry Cavendish or Antoine Lavoisier as having precedence within the discovery based upon accurately what the invention is taken to include, besides the fact that, neither the protagonists themselves within the 1780s nor glossy historians qualify as these so much fervently drawn to the affair. in reality, the debate attracted such a lot consciousness in early Victorian Britain a few fifty to seventy years after the particular paintings of Watt, Cavendish and Lavoisier. The relevant old query to which the publication addresses itself is why the concern claims of lengthy useless usual philosophers so preoccupied a variety of humans within the later interval. the reply to the query lies in figuring out the big symbolic significance of James Watt and Henry Cavendish in nineteenth-century technology and society. greater than credits for a selected discovery was once at stake the following. once we learn many of the time table of the individuals within the Victorian section of the water controversy we discover it pushed via filial loyalty and nationalism but additionally, most significantly, by way of ideological struggles concerning the nature of technological know-how and its relation to technological invention and innovation in British society. At a extra basic, theoretical, point, this examine additionally offers vital insights into conceptions of the character of discovery as they're debated through sleek historians, philosophers and sociologists of science.

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