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Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery, Vol. 5: 1800-1899

,
Año:
2000
Editorial:
Gale Group
Idioma:
english
Páginas:
631
ISBN 10:
0-7876-3937-0
File:
PDF, 17.88 MB
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VOLUME

5

1800-1899

Science
and
Its
Times
Understanding the
Social Significance of
Scientific Discovery

VOLUME

5

1800-1899

Science
and
Its
Times
Understanding the
Social Significance of
Scientific Discovery

Neil Schlager, Editor
J o s h L a u e r, A s s o c i a t e E d i t o r
Produced by Schlager Information Group

Science
and Its
Times
VOLUME

5

1800-1899
NEIL SCHLAGER, Editor
JOSH LAUER, Associate Editor

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10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents


Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Advisory Board . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
Contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xiii
Introduction: 1800-1899 . . . . . . . . xvii
Chronology: 1800-1899 . . . . . . . . . xxi

Exploration and Discovery
Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Topical Essays
Humboldt and Bonpland’s Landmark
Expedition to the Spanish Colonies of
South America (1799-1804) . . . . . . . . . . 4
The Discovery of Australia and Tasmania
Greatly Expands the British Empire . . . . . . 7
American Far West: The Lewis and Clark
Expedition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Zebulon Pike and the Conquest of the
Southwestern United States . . . . . . . . . . 12
The Temples at Abu Simbel . . . . . . . . . . . 14
The Rosetta Stone: The Key to Ancient
Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
James Clark Ross and the Discovery of the
Magnetic North Pole . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
The Voyage of the HMS Beagle . . . . . . . . . . 22
Robert H. Schomburgk Explores the Interior
of British Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela
and Is the First European to Visit Mount
Roraima . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Edward Eyre Explores the South and Western
Territories of the Australian Interior and
Helps Open the Territories to the Transport
of Goods and Animals . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
The Wilkes Expedition and the Discovery of
Antarctica . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
The Buried Cities of Assyria . . . . . . . . . . . 33

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

John C. Fremont and Exploration of the
American West . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Robert McClure Discovers the Elusive
Northwest Passage . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
David Livingstone Traverses the African
Continent . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Robert O’Hara Burke Traverses the Australian
Continent from North to South . . . . . .
Exploration of the Nile River: A Journey of
Discovery and Imperialism . . . . . . . . .
The Nain Singh Expeditions Describe Tibet .
The Discovery of Troy . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Deep-Sea Exploration: The HMS Challenger
Expedition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Henry Morton Stanley Circumnavigates
Africa’s Lake Victoria and Explores the
Entire Length of the Congo River . . . . .
Nikolay Przhevalsky and Russian Expansion:
The Exploration of Central and East
Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Luigi Maria D’Albertis Explores Unknown
Interior Regions of New Guinea . . . . . .
Nils A. E. Nordenskiöld Discovers the
Northeast Passage . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A Race Around the World . . . . . . . . . . .

. 35
. 38
. 40
. 42
. 44
. 47
. 49
. 51

. 53

. 56
. 58
. 61
. 64

Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 100

Life Sciences
Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
Topical Essays
Johann Blumenbach and the Classification of
Human Races. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
Population Theory: Malthus’s Influence on the
Scope of Evolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
Invertebrate Zoology, Lamarckism, and Their
Influences on the Sciences and on Society . 110

T I M E S



V O L U M E

5

v

Contents
1800-1899

Advances in Plant Classification and
Morphology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112
Georges Cuvier Revolutionizes
Paleontology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
Watching as Life Begins: The Discovery of the
Mammalian Ovum and the Process of
Fertilization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 117
John James Audubon Publishes His Illustrated
Birds of America (1827-1838). . . . . . . . . 119
Energy Metabolism in Animals and Plants . . . 122
Advances in Cell Theory. . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
The Agricultural Sciences Flourish and
Contribute to the Growing Size, Health,
and Wealth of Western Nations . . . . . . . 126
Cell Division and Mitosis . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
Evolution, Natural and Sexual Selection, and
Their Influences on the Sciences . . . . . . 131
Social Darwinism Emerges and Is Used to
Justify Imperialism, Racism, and Conservative
Economic and Social Policies . . . . . . . . 134
Louis Pasteur’s Battle with Microbes and the
Founding of Microbiology . . . . . . . . . . 136
Gregor Mendel Discovers the Basic Laws
of Heredity while Breeding Pea Plants
(1866) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Ferdinand Cohn and the Development of
Modern Bacteriology. . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
The Discovery of Viruses . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
Middle-Class Victorian Men and Women
Collect, Identify, and Preserve Plant and
Animal Species, Broadening Human
Knowledge of the Natural World and
Transforming Biology into a Mature
Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
Scientists in Europe and the United States Lay
the Foundation for the Modern Science
of Ecology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Neanderthals and the Search for Human
Ancestors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 189

Mathematics
Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 192
Topical Essays
Fourier Analysis and Its Impact . . . . . . . .
The Development of Number Theory during
the Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . .
Projective Geometry Leads to the Unification
of All Geometries . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Shape of Space: The Beginning of
Non-Euclidean Geometry . . . . . . . . .

vi

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

. 193
. 196
. 198
. 201

Topology: The Mathematics of Form . . . . . .
The Rise of Probabilistic and Statistical
Thinking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Solving Quintic Equations . . . . . . . . . . .
Advances in Logic during the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Set Theory and the Sizes of Infinity . . . . . .
Development of Higher-Dimensional
Algebraic Concepts . . . . . . . . . . . . .
George Green Makes the First Attempt to
Formulate a Mathematical Theory of
Electricity and Magnetism (1828) . . . . . .
Advances in Understanding Celestial
Mechanics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A New Realm of Numbers . . . . . . . . . . .
George Boole and the Algebra of Logic . . . .
The Promotion of Mathematical Research . . .
Nineteenth-Century Efforts to Promote
Mathematics Education from Grade School
to the University Level . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Return of Rigor to Mathematics . . . . . .
The Specialization of Mathematics and the
Rise of Formalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Codification and Employment of the Principle
of Mathematical Induction . . . . . . . . .
Elliptic Functions Lay the Foundations for
Modern Physics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

203
205
208
210
213
214

217
219
221
224
226

229
231
233
236
238

Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 277

Medicine
Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 280
Topical Essays
René Laënnec Revolutionizes the Diagnosis of
Chest Diseases with His Invention of the
Stethoscope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Human Digestion Studied by William
Beaumont, Theodor Schwann, Claude
Bernard, and William Prout . . . . . . . . .
The Establishment of Schools for the
Disabled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Medical Education for Women during the
Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Cholera Epidemics: Five Pandemics in the
Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Modern Anesthesia Is Developed . . . . . . . .
Antiseptic and Aseptic Techniques Are
Developed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Birth of the Nursing Profession . . . . . . . . .
Koch’s Postulates: Robert Koch Demonstrates
That a Particular Organism Causes a
Particular Disease . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

T I M E S



V O L U M E

282

285
288
291
294
296
299
302

305

5

The Battle against Tuberculosis: Robert Koch,
the Development of TB Sanitariums, and the
Enactment of Public Health Measures . . . 308
Deviancy to Mental Illness: NineteenthCentury Developments in the Care of the
Mentally Ill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311
The Development of New Systems of
Alternative Medicine: Homeopathy,
Osteopathy, Chiropractic Medicine, and
Hydrotherapy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 314
Tropical Disease in the Nineteenth Century . . 317
Nineteenth-Century Biological Theories on
Race . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 319
Western Missionaries Spread Western
Medicine Around the World . . . . . . . . 322
Nineteenth-Century Views of the Female Body
and Their Impact on Women in Society . . 324
Phrenology in Nineteenth-Century Britain and
America . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327
The Birth of a Profession: Dentistry in the
Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . 330
Medicine in Warfare in the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
Modern Surgery Developed . . . . . . . . . . . 335
Nineteenth-Century Developments Related to
Sight and the Eye . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337
The Study of Human Heredity and Eugenics
during the Nineteenth Century, Focusing
on the Work of Francis Galton . . . . . . . 340
The Field of Public Health Emerges in
Response to Epidemic Diseases . . . . . . . 342
Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 376
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 388

Physical Sciences
Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 391
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 392
Topical Essays
Revival of the Wave Theory of Light in the
Early Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . .
Nineteenth-Century Development of the
Concept of Energy . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Michelson-Morley Experiment, the
Luminiferous Ether, and Precision
Measurement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Heinrich Hertz Produces and Detects Radio
Waves in 1888 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Discovery of Radioactivity: Gateway to
Twentieth-Century Physics . . . . . . . .
J. J. Thomson, the Discovery of the Electron,
and the Study of Atomic Structure . . . .
Unification: Nineteenth-Century Advances in
Electromagnetism . . . . . . . . . . . . .

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

The Replacement of Caloric Theory by a
Mechanical Theory of Heat . . . . . . . . . 413
Nineteenth-Century Advances in the
Mathematical Theory and Understanding
of Sound . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415

1800-1899

Leverrier, Adams, and the Mathematical
Discovery of Neptune . . . . . . . . . . . . 417
Heavenly Rocks: Asteroids Discovered and
Meteorites Explained . . . . . . . . . . . . 420
Nineteenth-Century Developments in
Measuring the Locations and Distances of
Celestial Bodies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422
A New View of the Universe: Photography and
Spectroscopy in Nineteenth-Century
Astronomy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425
Nineteenth-Century Efforts to Catalog Stars . 428
John Dalton Proposes His Atomic Theory
and Lays the Foundation of Modern
Chemistry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430
Development of Physical Chemistry during the
Nineteenth Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . 433
Finding Order among the Elements . . . . . . 436
Nineteenth-Century Advances in
Understanding Gases, Culminating in
William Ramsey’s Discovery of Inert Gases
in the 1890s. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439
Elaboration of the Elements: NineteenthCentury Advances in Chemistry,
Electrochemistry, and Spectroscopy . . . . . 441
French Mineralogist René Just Haüy Founds
the Science of Crystallography with the
Publication of Treatise of Mineralogy . . . . 444
William Smith Uses Fossils to Determine the
Order of the Strata in England and Helps
Develop the Science of Stratigraphy. . . . . 446
Charles Lyell Publishes The Principles of
Geology (1830-33), in Which He Proposes
the Actual Age of Earth to be Several
Hundred Million Years. . . . . . . . . . . . 449
The Discovery of Global Ice Ages by Louis
Agassiz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 452

. 394

Women Scientists in the Nineteenth-Century
Physical Sciences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453

. 397

The Transformation of the Physical Sciences
into Professions During the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 456

. 400

Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 459
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 491
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 503

. 402

Contents

. 405

Technology and Invention
. 408
. 410

Chronology of Key Events . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505
Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 506
Topical Essays

T I M E S



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Contents
1800-1899

French Inventor Jacquard Produces a Weaving
Loom Controlled by Punch Cards (1801),
Facilitating the Mechanized Mass Production
of Textiles; the Punch Card System Also
Influences Early Computers in the 1940s
and 1950s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 508
Steam-Powered Railroad Systems Make
Possible the Industrial Revolution and
Fundamentally Alter the Transportation
of Goods and People . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511
Advances in Food Preservation Lead to New
Products, New Markets, and New Sources
of Food Production . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513
The Steamboat: First Instrument of
Imperialism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516
The Communication Revolution: Developments
in Mass Publishing during the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518
Advances in Photography during the Nineteenth
Century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520
Cyrus McCormick Invents the Reaping
Machine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523
Samuel Morse and the Telegraph . . . . . . . . 525
Charles Goodyear Discovers the Process for
Creating Vulcanized Rubber . . . . . . . . . 527
Invention of the Sewing Machine . . . . . . . . 530
Elisha Graves Otis Produces the First Passenger
Elevator with Safety Locks, Facilitating the
Growth of High-Rise Buildings . . . . . . . 532
English Inventor Henry Bessemer Develops
Process to Produce Inexpensive Steel . . . . 535
The Advent of Mechanical Refrigeration
Alters Daily Life and National Economies
throughout the World . . . . . . . . . . . . 537

viii

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

American Edwin L. Drake Drills the First Oil
Well (1859) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Internal Combustion Engine . . . . . . . .
The Mass Production of Death: Richard Jordan
Gatling Invents the Gatling Gun and Sir
Hiram Maxim Invents the Maxim Machine
Gun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Development of the Automatic Writing
Machine: The Typewriter . . . . . . . . . .
Alexander Graham Bell Patents the First
Telephone (1876) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Artificial Gas and Electrical Lighting Systems
Are Developed That Change Living and
Work Patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Use of Electric Power Becomes Widespread . .
Elegant Spans: Suspension Bridges . . . . . . .
The Invention of Automobiles . . . . . . . . .
Quest for Sound: Thomas Edison’s
Phonograph . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Herman Hollerith’s Punched Card
Tabulating Machine Automates the 1890
U.S. Census . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Capturing Life Onscreen: The Invention of
Motion Pictures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The First Subways . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Safe Enough to Kill: Advances in the
Chemistry of Explosives . . . . . . . . . . .

540
542

544
547
550

553
556
558
560
562

565
567
570
572

Biographical Sketches . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 575
Biographical Mentions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 600
Bibliography of Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . 611

General Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . 613
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 617

T I M E S



V O L U M E

5

Preface


T

he interaction of science and society is
increasingly a focal point of high school
studies, and with good reason: by exploring the achievements of science within their historical context, students can better understand a
given event, era, or culture. This cross-disciplinary approach to science is at the heart of Science and Its Times.

Readers of Science and Its Times will find a
comprehensive treatment of the history of science, including specific events, issues, and trends
through history as well as the scientists who set
in motion—or who were influenced by—those
events. From the ancient world’s invention of the
plowshare and development of seafaring vessels;
to the Renaissance-era conflict between the
Catholic Church and scientists advocating a suncentered solar system; to the development of
modern surgery in the nineteenth century; and
to the mass migration of European scientists to
the United States as a result of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi
regime in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s,
science’s involvement in human progress—and
sometimes brutality—is indisputable.
While science has had an enormous impact
on society, that impact has often worked in the
opposite direction, with social norms greatly
influencing the course of scientific achievement
through the ages. In the same way, just as history
can not be viewed as an unbroken line of everexpanding progress, neither can science be seen
as a string of ever-more amazing triumphs. Science
and Its Times aims to present the history of science
within its historical context—a context marked
not only by genius and stunning invention but
also by war, disease, bigotry, and persecution.

Format of the Series
Science and Its Times is divided into seven
volumes, each covering a distinct time period:
S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

Volume 1: 2000 B.C.-699 A.D.
Volume 2: 700-1449
Volume 3: 1450-1699
Volume 4: 1700-1799
Volume 5: 1800-1899
Volume 6: 1900-1949
Volume 7: 1950-present
Dividing the history of science according to
such strict chronological subsets has its own
drawbacks. Many scientific events—and scientists themselves—overlap two different time
periods. Also, throughout history it has been
common for the impact of a certain scientific
advancement to fall much later than the
advancement itself. Readers looking for information about a topic should begin their search by
checking the index at the back of each volume.
Readers perusing more than one volume may
find the same scientist featured in two different
volumes.
Readers should also be aware that many scientists worked in more than one discipline during their lives. In such cases, scientists may be
featured in two different chapters in the same
volume. To facilitate searches for a specific person or subject, main entries on a given person or
subject are indicated by bold-faced page numbers in the index.
Within each volume, material is divided
into chapters according to subject area. For volumes 5, 6, and 7, these areas are: Exploration
and Discovery, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Medicine, Physical Sciences, and Technology and
Invention. For volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4, readers
will find that the Life Sciences and Medicine
chapters have been combined into a single section, reflecting the historical union of these disciplines before 1800.

T I M E S



V O L U M E

5

ix

Preface
1800-1899

Arrangement of Volume 5: 1800-1899
Volume 5 begins with two notable sections
in the frontmatter: a general introduction to
nineteenth-century science and society, and a
general chronology that presents key scientific
events during the period alongside key world
historical events.
The volume is then organized into six chapters, corresponding to the six subject areas listed
above in “Format of the Series.” Within each
chapter, readers will find the following entry
types:
Chronology of Key Events: Notable
events in the subject area during the
nineteenth century are featured in this
section.
Overview: This essay provides an
overview of important trends, issues,
and scientists in the subject area during
the nineteenth century.
Topical Essays: Ranging between
1,500 and 2,000 words, these essays
discuss notable events, issues, and
trends in a given subject area. Each
essay includes a Further Reading section that points users to additional
sources of information on the topic,
including books, articles, and web sites.
Biographical Sketches: Key scientists
during the era are featured in entries
ranging between 500 and 1,000 words
in length.
Biographical Mentions: Additional
brief biographical entries on notable
scientists during the era.

x

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

Bibliography of Primary Source Documents: These annotated bibliographic listings feature key books and articles
pertaining to the subject area.
Following the final chapter are two additional
sections: a general bibliography of sources related
to nineteenth-century science, and a general subject index. Readers are urged to make heavy use of
the index, because many scientists and topics are
discussed in several different entries.
A note should be made about the arrangement of individual entries within each chapter:
while the long and short biographical sketches
are arranged alphabetically according to the scientist’s surname, the topical essays lend themselves to no such easy arrangement. Again, readers looking for a specific topic should consult
the index. Readers wanting to browse the list of
essays in a given subject area can refer to the
table of contents in the book’s frontmatter.

Additional Features
Throughout each volume readers will find
sidebars whose purpose is to feature interesting
events or issues that otherwise might be overlooked. These sidebars add an engaging element to
the more straightforward presentation of science
and its times in the rest of the entries. In addition,
the volume contains photographs, illustrations,
and maps scattered throughout the chapters.

Comments and Suggestions
Your comments on this series and suggestions for future editions are welcome. Please
write: The Editor, Science and Its Times, Gale
Group, 27500 Drake Road, Farmington Hills,
MI 48331.

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Advisory Board


Amir Alexander
Research Fellow
Center for 17th and 18th Century Studies
UCLA
Amy Sue Bix
Associate Professor of History
Iowa State University
Elizabeth Fee
Chief, History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
Sander Gliboff
Ph.D. Candidate
Johns Hopkins University
Lois N. Magner
Professor Emerita
Purdue University
Henry Petroski
A.S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and
Professor of History
Duke University
F. Jamil Ragep
Associate Professor of the History of Science
University of Oklahoma
David L. Roberts
Post-Doctoral Fellow, National Academy of
Education
Morton L. Schagrin
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and History of
Science
SUNY College at Fredonia
Hilda K. Weisburg
Library Media Specialist
Morristown High School, Morristown, NJ
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Contributors


Amy Ackerberg-Hastings
Iowa State University

Guillaume de Syon
Assistant Professor of History,
Albright College

Lloyd T. Ackert, Jr.
Graduate Student in the History of Science,
Johns Hopkins University

Thomas Drucker
Graduate Student, Department of Philosophy,
University of Wisconsin

James A. Altena
The University of Chicago
Peter J. Andrews
Freelance Writer

H. J. Eisenman
Professor of History,
University of Missouri-Rolla

Janet Bale
Freelance Writer and Editor

Lindsay Evans
Freelance Writer

Kenneth E. Barber
Professor of Biology,
Western Oklahoma State College

Loren Butler Feffer
Independent Scholar
Keith Ferrell
Freelance Writer

Bob Batchelor
Writer,
Arter & Hadden LLP

Randolph Fillmore
Freelance Science Writer

Charles Boewe
Freelance Biographer
Scott Bohanon
Freelance Writer and Historian

Mark R. Finlay
Associate Professor of History,
Armstrong Atlantic State University

Kristy Wilson Bowers
Lecturer in History,
Kapiolani Community College, University of Hawaii

Richard Fitzgerald
Freelance Writer

Sherri Chasin Calvo
Freelance Writer

Maura C. Flannery
Professor of Biology,
St. John’s University, New York

Geri Clark
Science Writer

Donald R. Franceschetti
Distinguished Service Professor of Physics and
Chemistry,
The University of Memphis

Catherine M. Crisera
Freelance Writer
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Contributors
1800-1899

Jean-François Gauvin
Historian of Science,
Musée Stewart au Fort de l’Ile Sainte-Hélène,
Montréal
Jim Giles
Freelance Writer

Josh Lauer
Freelance Editor,
Lauer InfoText Inc.

Phillip H. Gochenour
Freelance Editor and Writer

Lynn M. L. Lauerman
Freelance Writer

Brook Ellen Hall
Professor of Biology,
California State University at Sacramento

Garret Lemoi
Freelance Writer
Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner
Division of History, Politics, and International
Studies,
Oglethorpe University

Gerald F. Hall
Writer and Editor
Robert Hendrick
Professor of History,
St. John’s University, New York

Brenda Wilmoth Lerner
Science Correspondent

Jessica Bryn Henig
History of Science Student,
Smith College

K. Lee Lerner
Prof. Fellow (r), Science Research & Policy Institute,
Advanced Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics,
Shaw School

Mary Hrovat
Freelance Writer

Stephen A. Leslie
Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences,
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Philip Johansson
Senior Editor,
Earthwatch Institute

Carolyn Crane Love
Freelance Writer

Matt Kadane
Ph.D. Candidate,
Brown University
P. Andrew Karam
Environmental Medicine Department,
University of Rochester
Evelyn B. Kelly
Professor of Education,
Saint Leo University, Florida

Elaine McClarnand MacKinnon
Assistant Professor of History,
State University of West Georgia

Marjorie C. Malley
Historian of Science

Israel Kleiner
Professor of Mathematics,
York University
A N D

Eric v. d. Luft
Curator of Historical Collections,
SUNY Upstate Medical University

Lois N. Magner
Professor Emerita,
Purdue University

Rebecca Brookfield Kinraide
Freelance Writer

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Lyndall Landauer
Professor of History,
Lake Tahoe Community College
Mark Largent
University of Minnesota

Sander Gliboff
Ph.D. Candidate,
Johns Hopkins University

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Judson Knight
Freelance Writer

Jim Marion
Freelance Writer
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Ann T. Marsden
Writer

Michelle Rose
Freelance Science Writer

Megan McDaniel

Steve Ruskin
Freelance Writer

William McPeak
Independent Scholar,
Institute for Historical Study (San Francisco)

Contributors
1800-1899

Martin Saltzman
Professor of Natural Science,
Providence College

Lolly Merrell
Freelance Writer

Elizabeth D. Schafer
Independent Scholar

Leslie Mertz
Biologist and Freelance Science Writer

Morton L. Schagrin
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy and History of
Science,
SUNY College at Fredonia

Kelli Miller
Freelance Writer

Neil Schlager
Freelance Editor,
Schlager Information Group

J. William Moncrief
Professor of Chemistry,
Lyon College

John B. Seals
Freelance Writer

Heather Moncrief-Mullane
Masters of Education,
Wake Forest University

Brian C. Shipley
Department of History,
Dalhousie University

Stacey R. Murray
Freelance Writer

Tabitha Sparks
Graduate Student, English,
University of Washington

Ashok Muthukrishnan
Freelance Writer
Brid C. Nicholson
Drew University

Keir B. Sterling
Historian, U.S. Army Combined Arms Support
Command,
Fort Lee, Virginia

Lisa Nocks
Historian of Technology and Culture
Stephen D. Norton
Committee on the History & Philosophy of Science,
University of Maryland, College Park

Gary S. Stoudt
Professor of Mathematics,
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Zeno G. Swijtink
Professor of Philosophy,
Sonoma State University

Shawn M. Phillips
Burial Sites Archaeologist,
State Historical Society of Wisconsin

G. Ann Tarleton
Brian Regal
Historian
Mary Baker Eddy Library

Todd Timmons
Mathematics Department,
Westark College

Sue Rabbitt Roff
Cookson Senior Research Fellow,
Centre for Medical Education,
Dundee University Medical School
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David Tulloch
Graduate Student,
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
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Contributors
1800-1899

Julianne Tuttle
Indiana University

Giselle Weiss
Freelance Writer

Stephanie Watson
Freelance Writer

A.J. Wright
Librarian,
Department of Anesthesiology,
School of Medicine,
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Karol Kovalovich Weaver
Instructor, Department of History,
Bloomsburg University
Richard Weikart
Associate Professor of History,
California State University, Stanislaus

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Michael T. Yancey
Freelance Writer

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Introduction: 1800–1899


Overview
The nineteenth century brought the world telephones, telegraphs, steamboats, electric lights,
movies, sewing machines, cars, electric motors,
the railroad, Ferris wheels, and aspirin. It was
the age of invention, ending with the famous
pronouncement in 1899 that “Everything that
can be invented has been invented” (Charles H.
Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents).
There are many candidates for the century’s
greatest invention, but the winner may be the
future itself. While history has seen individuals,
such as Francis Bacon, who imagined a world
different from that of their parents, most people
throughout history did not. They have expected
their professions, tools, and entertainments to be
essentially the same as those of their parents and
grandparents. In the nineteenth century this
changed, as inventors and their inventions captured the public imagination.
It is no coincidence that two important literary genres were born in the 1800s: the mystery
story and science fiction. Edgar Allan Poe’s
Auguste Dupin was arguably the first detective in
fiction, the precursor of Sherlock Holmes. Both
characters used reason and deduction to understand the world. The popular audiences for their
stories accepted this; they were confident that a
deliberate and systematic approach would reveal
the truth. Meanwhile, the heroes of Jules Verne
and H. G. Wells used inventions to fly to the
moon, explore the depths of the ocean, and travel
through time. The public welcomed these stories,
and many saw them as more than diversions.
They experienced so many changes in their lives
that, often, these fictions looked like predictions.

Looking Back to the Eighteenth Century
Of course, many changes came in the eighteenth
century, but these were chiefly political. When
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Americans rebelled and created a new political
philosophy, Thomas Jefferson could imagine
freedom and equality. But even though he was
an inventor, he believed America would remain
a simple agrarian society. The French Revolution
executed a king and founded a republic, but it
also beheaded Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794),
known as “the Newton of chemistry.” Isaac Newton (1642-1727) may have stood on the shoulders of giants to achieve a revolution in physics,
but in 1800 most of his successors were still
standing in his shadow. In fact, physics and
mathematics stagnated, particularly in England,
as Newton’s accomplishments came to be seen as
the final word.
In the new century, however, perhaps
because revolutions had loosened conventions
and shaken the social order, it became acceptable to challenge established dogmas. The
emerging sciences of biology, chemistry, and
archeology extended Newton’s methods into
new realms. Engineers and physicians carried
the resulting technologies into everyday life.
And, in Newton’s own disciplines—physics and
mathematics—people of courage broke free of
his mechanical, clockwork universe to discover
radiation, probability, imaginary numbers, and
other original concepts that would shape the
next century. The eighteenth century transformed our view of humans. It put the power of
change into our hands, then built, and eventually shattered, a confidence in certainty and truth.

The Nineteenth Century: Building Blocks
Nineteenth-century scientists strove to rationalize the universe. Physics and astronomy led the
way, but much of chemistry was still inured in
alchemy. “Vitalism” and other mystical points of
view dominated biology, and archeology had little standing in the Western world, where most

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Introduction
1800-1899

educated people believed that the world was
only 6,000 years old and humans were a separate creation from animals.

While it liberated science, it also spawned social
darwinism, which was used to justify colonialism, racism, and the abuse of workers.

Chemistry provided many of the early triumphs of the rationalization process. In 1803
John Dalton (1766-1844) postulated the existence of atoms and began working on the proof.
This added force to discovery of the elements,
and by 1869 63 elements were known. Later in
the century Dmitri Mendeleyev (1834-1907)
saw a pattern to the elements when he looked at
their masses and chemical characteristics. He
organized them in an original way that made
sense of chemicals and their reactions. This
organization, the periodic table of the elements,
allowed Mendeleyev and later scientists to predict the existence of such elements as gallium,
neon, krypton, and radon—all of which were
discovered later. By the end of the century
chemistry, particularly synthetic chemistry, had
become an essential and profitable part of society. Dyes made the world more colorful; patent
medicines and synthetic fertilizers provided for
human health; explosives moved mountains,
made great engineering projects possible, and
caused mass annihilation in war. Chemistry had
created a vital role and a new identity for itself,
with the periodic table as its icon.

Archeology and paleontology took advantage
of the doors opened by Darwin. Dinosaurs captured the fancy of the public, and digging fossils
became a popular endeavor. Pierre Broca (18241880) determined that Neanderthal man was part
of a prehuman species, setting off the search for
the “missing link” connecting human and apes.
What might have been a basis for understanding
the common nature of humans and their shared
relationship with animals was sometimes turned
to demonstrate “scientifically” the inferiority of
certain races. Phrenology and other pseudosciences made claims about white superiority, and
the idea of eugenics was popularized.

Biology took a different path, perhaps
because it touched more directly on humanity’s
view of itself. Classification and cell descriptions
were at the leading edge of activity at the beginning of the century. These helped to provide a
sense of order without making a strong challenge to accepted beliefs that viewed the world
in a static way. Since the core of biology is
process—e.g., growth, differentiation, competition, synergy, reproduction—its progress had to
await a new insight.
In 1831 22-year-old Charles Darwin (18091882) undertook a voyage as a naturalist on the
HMS Beagle. His findings shattered ideas about
the age of the universe, the origin of humans,
and the nature of biology. The heart of his thesis,
evolution, was so disturbing that he did not publish his findings for 27 years. Variation and natural selection, or “survival of the fittest,” were
explained in Darwin’s landmark 1859 work On
the Origin of Species. Evolution required a much
older world. Species were no longer fixed, in fact
they were related. Darwin’s next book went further. The Descent of Man (1871) joined humans
to the rest of the biological world and challenged
their special place. This upset many deeply held
religious beliefs and demystified all of nature.

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A deeper understanding of genetics, the
work of a humble Austrian monk, was unrecognized in its own time. Gregor Mendel (18221884) methodically investigated genetic inheritance by growing peas. His work provided a
foundation for the twentieth century’s icon for
biology, DNA.

Inventing the Future
At the same time that people were coming to
appreciate change in the natural world, they
found themselves with unprecedented power to
create change. The railroad may have been the
first popular example. For the first time in history, people could travel faster than a galloping
horse could carry them. The railroad extended
cities, connected communities, fueled the Industrial Revolution, and changed concepts of time
and space.
The sewing machine brought another kind
of change. It freed time, since prior to its invention people spent fully one-third of their working
hours creating and mending clothes (not to mention sails, curtains, and shoes). Sewing machines
also increased productivity. Since tailors, who
were generally men, resisted their introduction,
manufacturers marketed them to women, allowing them to participate in the economy, and giving them independence that helped them secure
their political and legal rights.
The most famous inventions of the nineteenth century are associated with equally
famous inventors. Alexander Graham Bell
(1847-1922) invented the telephone. Robert
Fulton (1765-1815) invented the steamship.
Thomas Edison (1847-1931) invented the electric light, the phonograph, and the motion pic-

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ture. All of these inventions, thanks to the
emerging methods of mass production and distribution, had a profound effect upon the daily
lives of ordinary people. But this only partially
explains their inventors’ fame. When beset by
patent battles and competing technologies,
inventors found that they could brand their
inventions, secure their wealth, and become
celebrities with self-promotion. There was an
economic value to Edison providing quotable
quotes like “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and
99 percent perspiration.” Edison used public
demonstrations of technology to his advantage,
and even ran a negative campaign against Nikola
Tesla’s (1856-1943) alternating current (AC) that
included the electrocution of animals. (The
advantages of AC for transmitting electricity
over long distances were significant enough,
however, that Edison’s direct current technology
lost out.) Thus, myth and reality were interwoven to create an age of invention.

Unexpected Truths and Consequences
Electricity was the darling of nineteenth-century
physicists. It made them close collaborators with
the inventors of the era and pushed the bounds
of experimental science. Understanding electrical
theory was essential to James Maxwell’s (18311879) work, which helped unify concepts of
electricity and magnetism. Such syntheses were
aimed not just at explaining and taming nature,
but at revealing its absolute truth. Mathematicians were engaged in the same pursuit, developing new tools and methods, and finding underlying consistencies that made their discipline more
rigorous. From the early days of the century,
however, there were indications that the precise
truth they sought was unattainable. Even as public confidence in science reached its height, its
limits were becoming apparent. People used scientific discourse to deceive themselves and each
other and to confirm prejudices. One such

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“proof,” for example, showed that education was
unhealthy for women. Just as importantly, probability emerged as a discipline in the 1800s. First
used for error checking, it developed later into
an expression of the statistical, intrinsically
uncertain nature of the universe.

Introduction
1800-1899

The Legacy of Nineteenth-Century Science
Society has come to rely on chemistry for plastics, fuels, fertilizers, and medicines. The houses
we live in, the clothes we wear, and the food we
eat are often, if not usually, the product of a deep
understanding of chemistry that began with the
periodic table. By the beginning of the twentieth
century the understanding of bacteria and, by
extension, sanitation, that came from nineteenthcentury advances in biology, helped fuel tremendous population growth. Biology also increased
understanding of fertility and led to artificial
means of birth control. This essentially stopped
the rise in population for developed countries by
the end of the twentieth century.
In the twentieth century the flow of new
inventions continued, reinforcing popular
expectations of change. Many nineteenth-century inventions evolved into improved, but stillrecognizable, forms. The car and the electric
light, two of the most notable nineteenth-century inventions, created essential change in human
cultures.
Pathological use of science, both to facilitate
and to excuse brutality, left an indelible mark on
the twentieth century and reduced confidence in
science as a source of truth and progress. Kurt
Gödel (1906-1987) and Werner Heisenberg
(1901-1976) demonstrated how incomplete and
uncertain scientific truths are. Even so, science
remains the touchstone for rational discussion.

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Chronology: 1800–1899


1804 Napoleon Bonaparte crowned
emperor of France; launches a decade of
conquests in which he subdues virtually
all of Europe except Britain and Russia.
1807 French mathematician Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Fourier announces his famous
theorem concerning periodic oscillation,
which will prove invaluable to the study of
wave phenomena.
1814-1815 Congress of Vienna sets the
boundaries of European states, boundaries
that will remain virtually intact for 99
years following Napoleon’s defeat at
Waterloo in 1815.
1822 Jean François Champollion deciphers the Rosetta Stone, thus making possible the first translations of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
1823-1824 United States declares the
Monroe Doctrine, ordering an end to European colonization of the Western Hemisphere; a year later Spain vacates the New
World after its defeat by forces under
Simon de Bolívar and others at the Battle of
Ayacucho.
1829 Russian mathematician Nicolai
Ivanovich Lobachevski discovers nonEuclidean geometry, paving the way for
the mathematics of curved surfaces.
1837 French artist Louis Jacques Mandé
Daguerre makes the first photograph, or
daguerreotype, a still life taken in his
studio.
1844 Having earlier patented his telegraph
machine, Samuel Morse successfully transmits the first Morse code message over a

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telegraph circuit between Baltimore and
Washington: “What hath God wrought?”
1848 Revolution breaks out in numerous
European cities; Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels publish the Communist Manifesto.
1854-1856 Britain, France, Turkey, and
Sardinia fight Russia in the Crimean War,
a conflict noted for the nursing reforms of
Florence Nightingale and for the fact that
it was the first war covered by photojournalists.
1859 English naturalist Charles Darwin
publishes On the Origin of Species, setting
forth natural selection as the mechanism
governing evolution.
1861-1865 Civil War and emancipation
of slaves in the United States.
1864 French chemist Louis Pasteur
invents pasteurization, a process of slow
heating to kill bacteria and other microorganisms.
1865 Laying the groundwork for antiseptic surgery, English surgeon Joseph Lister
uses phenol to prevent infection during an
operation on a compound fracture.
1865-1876 Nain Singh, an Indian “pundit” employed by the British, leads several
expeditions into the Himalayas and Tibet,
including Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet,
forbidden to Westerners.
1866 Austrian botanist Gregor Johann
Mendel discovers the laws of heredity, presenting data that would not gain wide
recognition until 1900.

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1800-1899

1869 First periodic table, which arranges
the elements in order of atomic weight
and predicts the existence of undiscovered
elements, created by Russian chemist
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev.
1870-1871 Franco-Prussian War results
in defeat of France; establishment of
world’s first communist state, the shortlived Paris Commune; and unification of
Germany.
1873 James Clerk Maxwell publishes
Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, a
landmark work that brings together the
three principal fields of physics: electricity,
magnetism, and light.
1875 Alexander Graham Bell first transmits sound over electric cable; in the following year he demonstrates his new telephone.
1879 Thomas Edison produces the first
practical incandescent lightbulb.

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1884-1885 Conference of Berlin effectively divides Africa into various European
colonial spheres of influence.
1894-1895 Defeat of China in SinoJapanese War marks rise of Japan as a
world power.
1894-1906 Dreyfus Affair in France,
involving false charges against Jewish
army officer Alfred Dreyfus, exposes
undercurrents of European anti-Semitism,
creates sharp and lasting divisions
between political left and right.
1898 Victory in Spanish-American War
establishes United States as a colonial
power, with possessions including Cuba,
the Philippines, and Guam.
1899-1902 Second Anglo-Boer War; first
systematic use of concentration camps.

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Exploration and Discovery


Chronology



1804-1806 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the American West on
their way to the Pacific Ocean.
1822 Jean François Champollion deciphers the Rosetta Stone, thus making possible the first translations of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
1831-1836 The HMS Beagle, a British
vessel, explores both coasts of South America; on board is Charles Darwin, who
begins forming his theory of evolution
while in the Galapagos Islands.
1840 American explorer Charles Wilkes
and French explorer Jules-Sébastien-César
Dumont d’Urville simultaneously discover
the continent of Antarctica.

1850 British naval officer Robert McClure,
on board the HMS Investigator, discovers
the Northwest Passage between the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
1853-1856 British missionary David Livingstone becomes the first European to
cross the entire African continent, from
south to north; along the way, he discovers
Victoria Falls (1855).
1862 British explorer John Hanning
Speke discovers the source of the Nile
River at Lake Victoria.
1873 German amateur archaeologist
Heinrich Schliemann discovers the ruins
of Troy, long thought to be a purely legendary city.

1845-1851 British archaeologist Austen
Henry Layard excavates the ruins of
ancient Assyrian cities Calah and Nineveh.

1872-1876 An expedition aboard the
HMS Challenger systematically explores
the ocean depths, temperature, and
underwater life of the Atlantic and Pacific
Oceans.

1848 Gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill in
California, beginning the California Gold
Rush.

1874-1877 British explorer Henry Morton Stanley conducts extensive exploration
of the African continent.

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Overview:
Exploration and Discovery
1800-1899

Exploration
1800-1899



Overview

Exploration for Scientific Purposes

One of the greatest thrills man can experience is
the discovery of something that no one has ever
seen. The exhilaration of traveling a wild unexplored locale, facing hazards natural and native
while discovering the hitherto unknown, has
attracted explorers of the world for thousands of
years. By the eighteenth century man’s quest for
the unknown led explorers such as Captain
James Cook (1728-1779) on scientific voyages
around the globe. Some attempted, unsuccessfully, to reach the farthest corners of the globe—
such as a 1773 British Admiralty expedition to
the North Pole. Others, such as surveyor and
explorer Alexander Mackenzie (1763-1820),
who traveled across land to the Pacific Ocean,
explored a single continent—North America.
Organizations developed such as the African
Association founded in June 1788, whose main
objective was the exploration of Africa. By the
end of the eighteenth century, man’s hunger for
knowledge of the world had become insatiable,
leading to the most active period of Earth exploration: the 1800s.

The first class of nineteenth-century exploration,
for scientific purposes, could accurately describe
nearly every expedition undertaken in the period.
The information brought back by explorers stimulated a new perspective on man and his environment. New, more accurate maps and geographical
reports resulted from the journeys and voyages of
topographical engineers and surveyors. New discoveries were made in the fields of botany, zoology, ornithology, marine biology, geology, and cultural anthropology. Especially significant were
expeditions to South America. From 1799-1802
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Aimé
Bonpland (1773-1858) explored the Orinoco
River and most of the Amazon River system in
northwest South America, identifying plant and
animal life and studying climatology, meteorology,
and volcanoes. Humboldt used his discoveries to
create an encyclopedic work entitled Kosmos,
which cataloged his own extensive scientific
knowledge and much of the accumulated knowledge of geography and geology of his time. In
northeast South America Robert Schomburgk
(1804-1865) explored the interior of Guyana
from 1835 to 1839 as one of the first funded
expeditions of Britain’s Royal Geographical Society, which was founded in 1830. In addition to
extensive mapping of rivers and geographical features, Schomburgk collected hundreds of botanical, zoological, and geological specimens for
study. Along the coast of South America, the voyage of the British ship HMS Beagle (1831-6), with
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) aboard, made scientific discoveries that inspired Darwin’s theory of
evolution, one of the titanic achievements in
modern science.

The expeditions of the 1700s were limited
in scope and significance when compared to the
amazing accomplishments of explorers in the
1800s. Never before or since has so much of
Earth been discovered in such a brief period of
its history. In all, man’s compulsion to discover,
describe, and catalog his world—as well as conquer it—resulted in a flood of exploration in the
1800s. There were expeditions to solve unanswered geographical questions, such as the existence of a Northwest Passage and the source of
the Nile. There were expeditions to expand scientific knowledge, such as the first deep-sea
exploration of the HMS Challenger (1872-6) and
voyages to South America that led to new discoveries in the fields of zoology, botany, and
geology. Meanwhile, other explorations, especially those sponsored for political purposes,
were expanding national boundaries—in America and Australia, for example—as well as imperial domains, as was the case in Africa. Adventure
in the nineteenth century was not only for
explorers, however, as archaeological discoveries
in the Middle East and Mediterranean were also
significant.

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While explorations were penetrating the hot
jungles and rivers of South America, other scientific expeditions were braving the frosty regions
of the North Pole, Antarctica, and Tibet and discovering, at last, both the Northwest and Northeast Passages. In 1831 James Clark Ross (18001862) was the first to discover the Magnetic
North Pole. The first major voyage of exploration undertaken by the young United States
was the U.S. Exploring Expedition led by
Charles Wilkes (1798-1877), which sighted the
Antarctic mainland early in 1840. Several Amer-

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ican scientists accompanied Wilkes on the voyage and returned with thousands of scientific
specimens from the lands visited, as well as
important information on weather, sea conditions, and safe sea passages, bringing distinction
to the expedition. Two more firsts were accomplished by the discoverers of the Northwest and
Northeast Passages, sought by 300 years of
explorers. In 1854 Irishman Robert McClure
(1807-1873) completed a four-year journey of
the Northwest Passage to Asia—by ship, by foot,
then by ship again. Likewise, in 1879 Nils Nordenskiöld (1832-1901), a Finnish scientist,
completed the first transit of the Northeast Passage, a sea route from Europe across the northern coast of Asia to the Pacific.

Pacific Ocean. One of the most significant feats
of American exploration was that of Lewis and
Clark’s Corps of Discovery. From 1804-6 Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark
(1770-1838) explored the uncharted American
Far West on their way to the Pacific Ocean,
helping cement the United States’ claim to parts
of the Pacific Northwest. Another American
expedition that spurred interest in western
expansion was that of Zebulon Pike (17791813), whose discoveries led to the conquest
and settlement of lands in the Southwest. American expansion was further aided by the expeditions of John Frémont (1813-1890), whose dramatic account of western adventures excited the
American public to a greater level of enthusiasm
for the West.

Exploration to Expand National
Boundaries and Imperial Terrain

National boundaries weren’t the only lines
expanding due to nineteenth-century exploration. Explorers were both the forerunners and
forefathers of European imperialism, especially
on the African continent. The “Dark Continent”
was traversed in 1855-6 by David Livingstone
(1813-1873), the first known European to do
so, covering much uncharted African territory.
Another important African discovery, made in
1858, was the source of the Nile found at Lake
Victoria by John Speke (1827-1864). From
1874-7 Henry Stanley (1841-1904) explored the
entire length of the Congo. The southern and
central African expeditions of Livingstone,
Speke, and Stanley resulted in a frenetic race
between European nations to colonize Africa
and introduce so-called “civilized” European
ways into the continent’s peoples. This included
an infusion of Christian missionaries and enterprise-oriented merchants and traders, many of
whom exploited the African natives.

The second class of nineteenth century exploration, for political purposes, includes expeditions sent out for the express political goal of
expanding national boundaries as well as those
intended to expand imperial terrain. Continental/national boundaries were addressed by expeditions in Australia, Siberia, and North America.
In 1802 Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) was the
first to circumnavigate Australia and to chart its
southern coast. The Australian interior was
explored by numerous teams of scientists, surveyors, and discoverers. These included Edward Eyre
(1815-1901), the first to explore central Australia
and the first to traverse the continent, and the illfated transcontinental explorers Robert O’Hara
Burke (1820-1861) and surveyor William John
Wills (1834-1861), who, after traversing the continent from Melbourne to present-day Normanton near the Gulf of Carpenteria, both died of
starvation on their return journey.
While Australia was eagerly exploring its
continental boundaries, Russia was rapidly
expanding its borders, annexing Siberia and
other central Asian provinces. Thanks to the
extensive explorations of men such as Nikolay
Przhevalsky (1839-1888), who traveled
throughout central and eastern Asia, mapping,
collecting biological specimens, and surveying
future travel routes, Russia was able to lay claim
to considerable natural resources and valuable
winter ports and to consolidate its territories in
the Far East.
Like their counterparts in Australia and
Russia, nineteenth-century American explorers
played no small part in the rise of its Manifest
Destiny—the expansion of its boundaries to the
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Archaeological Exploration
The final class of nineteenth-century exploration, while not technically of that classification, hinges closely on the spirit of romanticism
tied to the exploration of the time. Nineteenthcentury romanticism stressed not only an interest in the remote and an appreciation of external
nature; it also emphasized an exhaltation of the
primitive and an idealization of the past. The
subsequent rising interest in antiquities produced several significant archaeological discoveries such as the uncovering of the Egyptian
temple of King Ramses II in 1813 by Jean-Louis
Burckhardt (1784-1817), the deciphering of the
Rosetta Stone in 1822 by Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), and the locating of the

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Exploration
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ancient Greek city of Troy in 1873 by Heinrich
Schliemann (1822-1900).

Conclusion
Fundamental developments in technology
changed the character of exploration after the
1800s. Most significant were the evolution of the
aviation and aeronautics industries and the revolution of photography and film. Computers,

telephones, and global positioning satellites have
also “technified” the business of exploring. With
the assistance of such technology, twentieth-century explorers have been able to make more
detailed surveys of Earth’s surface, explore the
depths of the ocean and Earth’s interior, and
voyage to the moon and stars, as the quest for
the unknown has extended beyond Earth.
ANN T. MARSDEN

Humboldt and Bonpland’s Landmark
Expedition to the Spanish Colonies of South
America (1799-1804)



Overview
Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), a German geologist and naturalist, and Aimé Bonpland (1773-1858), a French botanist, engaged
in a new sort of scientific travel involving systematic measurement and observation of a
remarkable range of organic and physical phenomena with dozens of sophisticated scientific
instruments. Humboldt’s ultimate goal for these
researches was to understand nature as an interconnected whole. Humboldt and Bonpland
inspired a generation of scientific explorers and
established new methodologies and new instrumentation standards.

Background
The eighteenth-century expeditions of Charles
Marie de La Condamine (1701-1774), Louis
Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), and Captain James Cook (1728-1779) provided the
model of scientific exploration followed by Humboldt and Bonpland. In all of these earlier
instances scientific travelers bravely explored
mysterious lands and oceans while continuously
collecting specimens and measuring astronomical and geological phenomena. Upon returning
home these explorers published popular and scientific accounts describing heroic adventures and
exotic sights and, especially in the case of Cook,
presenting a wide range of botanical, geological,
oceanographical, and anthropological findings.
While mostly adhering to this model, Humboldt’s efforts in particular were inspired by a
range of scientific interests and a commitment to
comprehensive empirical observation surpassing

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those of any scientific explorer before or after.
Natural objects, Humboldt insisted, can be
understood only within the full range of their
environment: rainfall, humidity, temperature,
barometric pressure, electrical charge of the air,
chemical composition of the atmosphere and
soil, geomagnetism, longitude, latitude, elevation, surrounding geological formations, surrounding plants and animals, and nearby human
activity and culture must all be measured or
observed. Humboldt called his scientific enterprise a physique du monde, or terrestrial physics.
Inspired by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804), Humboldt was seeking to discover
amid the geographical distribution and variation
of phenomena nature’s constant and most simple
laws and forces.
Towards this end Humboldt and Bonpland
carried with them an unprecedented array of
instruments, all financed by Humboldt himself.
Telescopes, sextants, theodolites, compasses, a
magnetometer, chronometers, a pendulum,
barometers, thermometers, hygrometers, a
cyanometer, eudometers, a rain gauge, leyden
jars, galvanic batteries, and chemical reagents
were carried and used across the continent. Scientific instruments had been greatly improved in
recent years both in accuracy and in portability.
Humboldt had gained expertise in using these
instruments through years of scientific study and
travel in Europe. The expedition of Humboldt
and Bonpland to the Spanish colonies, then, was
truly at the frontiers of science.
For almost five years, from July 1799 to April
1804, as the Napoleonic Wars raged in Europe,
Humboldt and Bonpland traveled throughout

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what is now Venezuela, Cuba, Colombia, Peru,
Ecuador, and Mexico mapping, collecting, measuring, sketching, describing, and observing all
the way. It was a tremendously arduous journey
accomplished on foot, canoe, and horse with
equipment carried by a caravan of as many as 20
mules or by numerous canoes assisted by Indian
guides. Not surprisingly, glass jars and instruments broke. Despite the hardships Humboldt, in
particular, thrived in the tropical climate, displaying tremendous energy and strength and, unlike
Bonpland, rarely falling ill.

ico Humboldt and Bonpland sailed to Cuba and
then to Philadelphia. They met with President
Thomas Jefferson, an ardent scientist himself, in
Washington and Monticello. In June 1804 Humboldt and Bonpland departed Philadelphia for
home carrying 30 large crates of collected materials. For all their tremendous successes they
were disappointed in one thing. Originally they
had planned to travel to the Philippines and
other Spanish possessions throughout the globe.
War and bad luck had frustrated those plans.

In Venezuela their primary goal was to
explore the Orinoco River and discover its connection to the Amazon watershed. After trekking
through Venezuelan mountains and plains they
canoed the Orinico’s vast system for 75 days.
Humboldt performed calculations upon observations of Jupiter’s moons and other celestial
objects in order to map the Orinico’s course.
Humboldt and Bonpland also systematically collected plants while carefully measuring every
possible environmental factor. Through global
studies in “plant geography” Humboldt hoped to
eventually be able to infer the diversity and density of vegetation at any point on Earth. Vegetation for Humboldt represented an organic force
as measurable as heat or magnetism.

Impact

Upon reaching the southern border of the
Spanish colonies, the explorers traveled back
through Venezuela. After visiting Cuba they
explored Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru for 21
months. Humboldt, an expert in geology and
minerals, was particularly interested in studying
volcanoes of the Andes and sites of major seismic activity for clues as to Earth’s formation.
Crossing the Andes four times (and setting a
mountaineering record of 19,289 feet) Humboldt and Bonpland carefully measured the
magnetic axes of mountains and the inclination
of strata in order to understand the forces that
had generated the volcanic range. By carefully
attending to all the data, especially data deviating from the general north-south orientation,
Humboldt hoped to develop a comprehensive
dynamical theory of mountain ranges to replace
what he considered simplistic explanations of
his predecessors.
In January 1803 the explorers sailed to
Mexico. During the voyage Humboldt charted
the course of the cold coastal current that now
bears his name. Humboldt and Bonpland paid
special attention to Mexico’s mining districts in
relationship to the geology, economy, and
anthropology of the country. After a year in MexS C I E N C E

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Upon return to Europe Humboldt and Bonpland
were celebrated as heroes. Humboldt went on to
write numerous books recounting the rigors of
the trip and the beauty and strangeness of the
mysterious continent. These books, which were
widely translated and widely read, portrayed the
scientist as a fearless, virile adventurer who was
willing to endure any hardship for the pursuit of
knowledge.
Through his voluminous popular and scientific writings on the South American expedition,
Humboldt became the most famous naturalist of
his day and inspired a generation of scientific
explorers. He and Bonpland had proven the possibility of a sophisticated inland scientific expedition employing a vast range of the best instruments. Humboldt’s quantitative, technical
methodology was quickly taken up by many
American explorers of the western United States
and by British, German, French, and Scandinavian explorers. His model of plant geography
greatly inspired, for one, Charles Darwin (18091882) in his studies of the geographical distribution of species. Humboldt’s style of scientific
travelogue, in which he vividly recounted sights,
sensations, and scientific observations from a
personal viewpoint, was adopted by Darwin,
Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913), Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), and other scientific explorers.
The extent of Humboldt’s influence on later
explorers is indicated by the number of towns,
counties, rivers, and mountains bearing his
name in the western United States.
Humboldt’s influence extended well beyond
scientific exploration. His work on plant geography became a basis of the field of plant ecology
at the end of the century. His “political geography” of Mexico, which incorporated social, economic, and manifold environmental factors, was
quickly emulated by other geographers. His
technique of “iso-maps,” which connected with
lines geographical points of equal mean temper-

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ature, magnetic intensity, rainfall, and so on, was
adopted by researchers in many sciences and,
notably, is retained in the isobars and isotherms
of our weather maps. Even painters such as the
American F. E. Church responded to Humboldt’s
writings by journeying to the tropics to faithfully
portray exotic plants amid their sublime, tangled
environment.
More generally, Humboldt’s scientific writings contributed to a new vision of science and
nature. Under Humboldt’s influence, any science
centered around the isolated specimen in the laboratory had come to be branded as out-moded or
even false. Nature was complex and science must
attend to the myriad of interconnected factors
contributing to this complexity. Humboldt was
not the first to conceive of nature or science this
way. Nor did all natural scientists embrace Humboldt’s goal of discovering nature’s unity through
measurement. But through his and Bonpland’s
exploits in a difficult terrain with dozens of
sophisticated instruments and through his extensive writings presenting data and explaining their
significance, Humboldt demonstrated how such
a science could be pursued.
Inspired by Humboldt’s vision, many scientists turned their attention to complex phenomena such as the tides, the weather, and geomagnetism, which required heterogeneous empirical
investigations across the globe. In order to study
these phenomena researchers invented better,
more accurate instruments and carried their
instruments to diverse locations. They also
adopted Humboldtian tables, graphs, and isomaps as tools for organizing and understanding
data. Perhaps the most successful developments
in Humboldtian science came in the field of geomagnetism. Humboldt himself had urged governments to establish global stations for observing magnetic and other phenomena. This idea
gained impetus after famed German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) successfully analyzed Humboldt’s measurements in
terms of spherical harmonics in 1833. Observational stations were established around the globe
in the 1830s and 40s by several European
nations. Especially in Britain this enterprise was
motivated as much by colonial and navigational
concerns as by a commitment to knowledge or
international cooperation in science. In 1852
British astronomer Edward Sabine (1788-1883),
comparing data tabulated at the stations in

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Toronto and Tasmania, determined that statistical variations in geomagnetic disturbances corresponded to the recently discovered sunspot
cycle. With this discovery the science of solarterrestrial physics was born. The success of the
magnetic stations encouraged the establishment
of similar observational networks, most notably
in meteorology. That network is, of course, still
with us today on a much larger scale.
By the middle of the nineteenth century
Humboldt’s mode of universal science, in which
an individual single-handedly seeks to integrate
understanding of a vast range of organic and
physical phenomena, had become untenable. In
an era of scientific specialization Humboldt was
indeed the last scientific polymath. In the meantime Humboldt and Bonpland’s scientific accomplishments in South America, which had so
astonished their contemporaries, had been overshadowed by the work of new generations of
investigators using better instruments and pursuing geographically broader investigations.
JULIANNE TUTTLE

Further Reading
Books
Botting, Douglas. Humboldt and the Cosmos. London:
Joseph, 1973.
Cannon, Susan Faye. “Humboldtian Science.” In Science
and Culture: The Early Victorian Period. New York:
Dawson, 1978.
Dettelbach, Michael. “Global Physics and Aesthetic
Empire: Humboldt’s Physical Portrait of the Tropics.”
In Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representations of Nature, edited by David Philip Miller and
Peter Hanns Reill. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1996.
Humboldt, Alexander von. Personal Narrative of a Journey
to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent.
Abridged and translated by Jason Wilson. London:
Penguin Books, 1995.
Nicolson, Malcolm. “Alexander von Humboldt and the
Geography of Vegetation.” In Romanticism and the Sciences, edited by A. Cunningham and N. Jardine.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Periodicals
Cawood, John. “Terrestrial Magnetism and the Development of International Scientific Cooperation in the
Early 19th Century.” Annals of Science 34 (1977): 55187.
Nicolson, Malcolm. “Humboldtian Plant Geography after
Humboldt: The Link to Ecology.” British Journal for
the History of Science 29 (1996): 289-310.

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The Discovery of Australia and Tasmania
Greatly Expands the British Empire

Exploration



Overview
Long after the northern regions of the world
were known and occupied, the Southern Hemisphere was still unexplored and obscure. When
the Europeans finally were able to build ships
that could safely make long voyages, men were
sent on arduous and difficult expeditions to
explore the area and gain a foothold there. In the
East Indies and Southeast Asia, riches, resources,
and raw materials abounded that European
nations not only needed but wanted. As nations
expanded their power and extent, they found a
new continent, new islands, and opened new
trade routes. The new continent, settled by the
British and named for an ancient, non-existent
land called Terra australis, became a far flung
extension of the British Empire called Australia.

Background
When Europeans began to realize the extent of
their own continent, they presumed that a land
mass of similar size and weight must lie in the
Southern Hemisphere to balance the globe. It
was called Terra australis incognita, or the
unknown southern land. The idea lay dormant
for centuries, for Europeans had no means to
reach it. When ship building improved, they
ventured out into the seas.
The Chinese, Arabs, or other Asians may
have seen Australia, but references are unclear.
The Portuguese may have discovered the West
Coast in the sixteenth century. The Spanish
found land in the same area but did not follow
up on it. In 1615 a Dutch explorer reached Cape
York, the northernmost point on the Australian
continent, but didn’t connect it with Spanish or
Portuguese discoveries. Another Dutch explorer
landed on a barren coast in the West and called
it New Holland, but he found no gold, rich civilizations, spices, or other resources. Another
Dutch captain discovered another wild and barren place he called Van Diemen’s Land; today it
is Tasmania.
Explorers were sent to find the elusive
southern continent with the hope of riches and
civilizations worth the time and effort. Hopes
were fading when nothing concrete was found.
In the 1770s Captain James Cook (1728-1779)
sailed past 40 degrees south latitude and found
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only ocean and the tip of a frozen land called
Antarctica. There was no Terra australis. This
achievement answered a centuries-old question
and put the idea of a large continent to rest.
Ships and sailors could now travel these latitudes without the fear of encountering a large
land mass. By the end of the eighteenth century,
New Holland was still unsettled, uninviting, and
unexplored. The maps of some explorers
showed New Zealand, Tasmania, and New
Guinea as part of this unknown land. The Europeans knew something was there but were not
exactly sure what or where it was.
Several motives led European governments
to underwrite the expense of these expeditions.
They needed new lands and resources to keep
their governments strong. Overseas colonies
brought prestige and power, as well as resources.
More and more raw materials like cotton, wheat,
wool, gold, spices, and new foods were needed
to satisfy the growing population in Europe.
By 1800 Europeans, especially the British,
were at war with French dictator Napoleon
Bonaparte and were alarmed at renewed French
interest in the southern continent. Hoping for
another land of infinite resources like North
America, the British mounted an expedition to
claim the whole southern land, however large it
was. Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), in the ship
Investigator, was chosen to survey the coast. He
began in the Southwest, sailed eastward past the
Great Australian Bight and Spencer Gulf to Port
Philip (Melbourne). Every few miles, he landed,
noted the people and animals, recorded the
topography of the land, made maps, and charted
the bays, rivers, and reefs. After resting in Sydney, he resumed his exploration sailing along the
coast of Queensland. He noted the presence of
the Great Barrier Reef, the Coral Sea, and various
features of the tropical peninsula of Cape York.
He sailed west to Arnhem Land until his ship
was in such bad shape that he could not go on.
In his papers Flinders championed the
name Australia for this new continent soon to be
claimed and occupied by the British. The British
Empire had not reached its full extent, though it
controlled Canada and was making inroads in
South Africa and India. Australia would be the
first British colony in the Pacific Ocean.

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Impact
In the early 1800s, European nations were competing all over the world for trade, markets, and
resources. The European population was growing, people were living longer and better lives,
and they were expanding their industrial development and beginning to need more space and
resources. Europeans had used up their raw
materials and had to find new ones in the far
corners of the world. They roamed the seas
searching for resources and new markets for
their products. A strong sailing fleet was the
most vital part of this business. A country had to
build seaworthy ships and have the skill to sail
them anywhere in the world. The British were
masters of these activities.
The basis of this enterprise was called “mercantilism,” a philosophy born in France in the seventeenth century. The national government controlled all economic activity in its own nation. It
made sure more goods were sold than bought to
keep a favorable balance of trade—that is, more
money should come in than go out. It owned
colonies in far corners of the world, each of which
existed to produce goods for the mother country.
The system ensured the nation power, security,
and self-sufficiency. Most European nations followed this philosophy in one form or another.
Spain and Portugal had colonies in South America
and Asia, the British were in Canada, and the
Dutch were in Southeast Asia. The Dutch and
French had landed in eastern Australia, but neither had settled there. It was so barren they doubted crops would grow, and the natives did not
seem willing to work. The British and Dutch
engaged in several armed conflicts over trade as
the Dutch had a monopoly on the commodities in
the East Indies or spice islands (Indonesia). A
shooting war erupted between Britain and the
Dutch in the Indies in 1780. The Dutch were
strong in trade but militarily weak, and the British
had little difficulty subduing them.
William Pitt the younger was Prime Minister of England from 1783-1800. With the
French Revolution and the subsequent war
against Napoleon, Pitt had to make sure France
would not gain access to Britain’s eastern trade
routes. Because the U.S. was no longer available
as a place to send undesirable people from England, he championed the idea of using Australia
as a penal colony. He had considered Africa and
discarded it. Joseph Banks had reported the area
around Sydney to have rich soil and lots of vegetation. Native inhabitants posed no problem, as
they did not challenge the newcomers but hid in

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the vast deserts of the interior. So in 1788 the
English government sent 1,000 convicts to
Botany Bay, south of Sydney. These men and
women were convicted criminals, many transported for minor crimes like stealing a loaf of
bread, plus some Irish political prisoners. They
ranged in age from children of twelve or thirteen
to men and women of seventy years or more. In
Australia they served a seven-year sentence.
After that they could become free settlers, and
many did. This export of prisoners lasted from
1788 to 1840 in New South Wales and continued elsewhere until 1868. Free immigration,
passage, and settlement was encouraged after
the Napoleonic Wars were over in 1815.
Australia was a strategic outpost. Having a
base here helped the British keep the seas open
around India, New Guinea, the East Indies, and
the Pacific Ocean for their ships and commerce.
A governor was appointed to administer each
area in Australia, and he was the employer of the
convicts. Many governors were autocratic and
harsh, but they generally maintained strict British
codes of ethics and law. Later, civil liberties were
gradually introduced to Australian settlers. By
1800 the population of New South Wales and
Norfolk Island numbered 5,000 people, 3,000
sheep, and 500 cattle and other animals.
The settlement of Australia effectively
expanded the national boundaries of England and
set it on a path to the creation of a huge empire.
Great Britain took over India beginning in 1757,
Australia in 1788, South Africa in 1814, and New
Zealand in 1840. Australia was a colony with no
pretensions to independence, peopled by citizens
whose origins were in the lower classes of England. Many early settlers had been convicted of
minor crimes and taken to the continent without
their consent. They were ruled by the aristocratic
elite and the British government in the first years.
In the twentieth century Australia became an
independent nation and part of the British Commonwealth. The culture that developed in this
remote frontier was as far from European tradition or class distinctions as the United States had
been. The circumstances of its beginning have
colored its national character ever since.
The settlement of Australia gave the British
a base in the Pacific Ocean, relief from overcrowding at home, and a place from which to
gather resources like gold, wool, and food staples and to sell manufactured goods. While the
continent did not contain the resources that
North America had, Australia was strategically
more important, and it became a part of the

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largest empire in the world. In the nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, the English people
and the crown boasted that the sun never set on
the British Empire. Australia was one of the reasons that boast could be made.
LYNDALL B. LANDAUER

Hughes. Robert. The Fatal Shore. New York: Vintage
Books, 1988.
Ingleton, Geoffrey C. Matthew Flinders, Navigator and
Chartmaker. Victoria, Australia: Genesis Publications,
1986.

Exploration
1800-1899

Martin, Ged., ed. The Founding of Australia. Sydney: Hale
and Iremonger, 1978.
Terrill, Ross. The Australians. New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1987.

Further Reading
Flinders, Matthew. A Voyage to Terra Australis. Adelaide:
Libraries Board of South Australia, 1966.

American Far West:
The Lewis and Clark Expedition



Overview
One of the greatest feats of exploration in North
America was that undertaken by Lewis and
Clark’s Corps of Discovery from 1804-1806.
During their travels, the Corps of Discovery
explored the Mississippi and Missouri river
basins, made scientific discoveries about many
plant and animal species new to science, contacted Native American tribes, and helped
cement the United States’ claim to parts of the
Pacific Northwest, formerly claimed by Great
Britain and Russia.

Background
In a move of questionable legality and constitutionality, President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French
in 1803. The territory, stretching from New
Orleans to Canada and encompassing the majority
of the drainage basins of the Missouri River and
west of the Mississippi River, increased the size of
the United States dramatically. Although the
Louisiana Territory proved a boon economically
and provided a windfall of scientific knowledge,
the primary reasons for the purchase were political
and commercial. Jefferson found it intolerable that
a foreign power (first Spain, then France) should
control New Orleans, through which the commerce of the western boundary states passed. Jefferson was also interested in learning more about
the Native American tribes that he planned to add
to the United States, hoped to find an easy, mostly
water route to the Pacific Ocean, and wanted to
take much of the lucrative fur trade from the
British of Canada and the Pacific Northwest.
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In 1802, shortly after the Spanish transferred the Louisiana Territory to the French, Jefferson sent an ambassador to Paris to meet with
Napoleon. Conveying the message that the United States was interested in purchasing Louisiana
from the French and would take it by force otherwise, Napoleon agreed to sell the territory for
nearly $10 million, earning much needed funds
for his government. The deal was approved by
Congress amid a great deal of controversy, closely followed by approval of $2500 to fund a
Corps of Exploration. Jefferson had already been
in discussion with his friend and personal secretary Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) about leading an expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory; with the approval of Congress, Jefferson
gave Lewis permission to make preparations for
a journey of exploration, mapping, and diplomacy with Native American tribes. Lewis
recruited former military officer and friend
William Clark (1770-1838) to serve as the expedition’s co-leader.
At the time the Corps of Discovery left there
was a tremendous amount of erroneous information about the lands west of the Mississippi.
About all that was known with any degree of
certainty was the latitude and longitude of the
mouth of the Columbia River and other landmarks on the west coast, based on measurements taken by Captain James Cook (17281779) and other oceanic explorers. Jefferson,
one of the leading intellectuals of the day, firmly
believed that in the American interior would be
found wooly mammoths, giant ground sloths,
active volcanoes in the Badlands of the upper
Missouri, and other misconceptions. Most

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Fort Clatsop
Or e g

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BRITISH
POSSESSION

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OCEAN

l u m b ia ) R.

OREGON
COUNTRY

w
ll o
Ye

The returning expedition splits into
two groups, with Lewis returning
north and the rest returning south
along the Yellowstone River.

Lewis and Clark build a fort near a small group
of Mandan villages. Sacagawea joins their
expedition when her husband, a FrenchCanadian fur trader, is hired as an interpreter.

sto

e
Lak

ne

Hidatsa
and Mandan
Villages

Superior

Fort Mandan

Mi
ss

Sacagawea’s skills as a guide and
interpreter are invaluable as she
arranges horse trades and leads them
through the land of her childhood.

ip p

iR

.

sou
Mis
r i R iv e
r

N
M T

LOUISIANA
PURCHASE

is s

Lake Michigan

1800-1899

Lewis and Clark build Fort Clatsop.
On March 23, 1806 the expedition
begins the journey home.

R.

Exploration

S
.

St. Louis

Lewis and Clark set out from
St. Louis on May 14, 1804.

Mississippi

R.

SPANISH
POSSESSION

N

0

150

300 mi

0

241

482 km

Expedition route, out and return
Expedition route, westward only
Lewis’ return route
Sacagawea’s return route
Modern-day political border

Gulf of Mexico

Map of the Lewis and Clark expedition that crossed the American West.

importantly, Jefferson was convinced that the
highest mountains in North America were the
Blue Ridge Mountains and that an easy route to
the Pacific would be found with, at most, a low
and short portage. This last was among the most
important of Jefferson’s mistaken ideas; easy
access to the Pacific figured importantly into Jefferson’s commercial plans for the United States.
Finally, Jefferson was concerned about the
possibility of an imperialist, expansionist France
with territories in North America. If France
sought to settle the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson
anticipated the need to seek an alliance with the
British, a politically unpalatable prospect given
the recently ended Revolutionary War. Jefferson
wanted North America for the United States, not
for European powers.

10

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

The typical American at this time had little
interest in Louisiana, except for those few who
trapped for a living. The existing United States
was sparsely settled at that time, so there was little population pressure to move westward, and
the economy was largely agrarian, so the need
for raw materials was similarly low. At that time,
too, the typical American was concerned about
survival; farming, avoiding attacks by Native
Americans, and staying healthy. They had little
time to ponder the political implications or the
scientific curiosities of Louisiana.

Impact
The Lewis and Clark expedition had both immediate and long-term impacts on most Americans.
These can be summarized as follows:

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V O L U M E

5

1. This expedition was the first major organized survey of the interior of a major continent.
The Spanish had similarly explored much of
South America, but with an eye towards
exploitation of resources and little regard for scientific or geographic knowledge. The interiors of
Africa, Asia, and Australia were still largely
unknown to Western civilization.
2. The findings of this expedition encouraged the rapid settlement of the Louisiana Territory by farmers and trappers. This, in turn, was
a step on the path towards the American concept of a “Manifest Destiny” to fill and rule most
of the North American continent.
3. Lewis and Clark’s positive and negative
contacts with Native American tribes helped set
the stage for conflicts to come. They alienated
some powerful tribes, befriended others, made
arbitrary decisions regarding official dealings
with others, and encouraged settlers to move
into tribal lands.
4. They ruled out the possibility of rapid
and easy travel to the Pacific, confirming that
cross-continental travel would be, for some
time, long and risky. This, in turn, meant that
communication and trade across the expanding
United States would become increasingly cumbersome until improved travel and communications (unforeseen in Lewis and Clark’s day) were
invented.
The Lewis and Clark expedition was
launched for political, strategic, scientific, and
commercial aims. This made it unlike most
other major exploration efforts. The Spanish in
South America sought riches and converts to
Christianity. The British around the world
sought commerce, raw materials, and strategic
advantage, as did the Dutch. Some voyages had
been previously launched for scientific gain, but
these tended to ignore nonscientific aims. The
Corps of Discovery was virtually unique in
attempting so much and succeeding so well in
virtually all areas. This success also helped to
vindicate Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana
Territory as well as his insistence on launching
the expedition. In addition, the knowledge
returned by the expedition helped to bring the
continental interior into better focus, replacing
many myths with hard-earned fact.
Upon their return, the members of the
Corps of Discovery lost little time in publishing
memoirs, giving public lectures, and talking
about the rich lands and plentiful herds they
had seen. Lewis presented his specimens, jourS C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

nals, and scientific discoveries to the government and to the leading intellectuals of the day,
winning great acclaim. All of this encouraged
settlers to continue pushing westward, even
though lands in the existing states could support
far greater populations than they then had. Less
than 20 years after their return, sailing ships
were making regular voyages around South
America to trade with the West Coast. Forty
years after their return, gold was discovered in
California, launching the California Gold Rush.
These events would have occurred with or without Lewis and Clark, but their reports likely
accelerated the settling of the American West
with all of the good and bad that accompanied
the process.

Exploration
1800-1899

Another long lasting impact made by the
Corps of Discovery was in the area of relations
with the Native American tribes west of the Mississippi. Jefferson was deeply interested in establishing political and trade relations with these
tribes for strategic advantage over the French
and British, as well as for economic gain for the
United States. Unfortunately, Lewis (who took
the lead in most of the interactions with Native
Americans) was condescending, treating many
of the people with whom he dealt as children.
This engendered resentment and animosity
among some tribes, a few of which attacked the
expedition at various times. At other times, the
behavior of the men towards the natives they
encountered was less than exemplary, causing
further problems. Finally, Lewis was instructed
to encourage tribal leaders to visit Jefferson in
Washington and succeeded in persuading several to do so. Unfortunately, some of these men
died during their travels and others were treated
poorly when they arrived. These negative experiences, along with the American government’s
tendency to make and break treaties, caused
many problems over the next century.
The final major impact made by the Corps
of Discovery was to lay to rest the hope of an
easy passage between oceans. Jefferson was certain that an easy path existed for travel across
the North American continent. He had no idea
that the Rocky Mountains were as high or as
rugged as they turned out to be, just as he was
sure that a short and easy canoe portage would
suffice to take one from the headwaters of the
Missouri River across the Continental Divide to
the headwaters of the Columbia River. In this,
he was mistaken, as were many of the day’s top
thinkers. Lewis and Clark showed that any travel across North America was going to be long,

T I M E S



V O L U M E

5

11

Exploration
1800-1899

difficult, and risky for many years to come. In
effect, their explorations helped to make North
America a larger place.
Although the expedition was ostensibly sent
to explore the Louisiana Purchase and to try to
find an easy route to the Pacific, Lewis and Clark
were also instructed to explore as far north as
possible while remaining within the Missouri
River drainage basin. The Louisiana Territory
extended throughout this drainage basin and
Jefferson, as well as many in Congress, hoped
that a major tributary would be found that ran
primarily to the north, giving the United States a
valid claim to much of Canada. Needless to say,
such a river was not found and the national
boundary was eventually fixed at its current
location. However, the Corps’ explorations
beyond the Missouri River basin and into the

Columbia River basin were clearly beyond the
boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase and, therefore, outside the borders of the United States.
Although they could not justify a northward
extension of U.S. territory, they did help to
extend the country’s borders west to the Pacific.
P. ANDREW KARAM

Further Reading
Ambrose, Stephen E. Lewis & Clark: Voyage of Discovery.
Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1998.
Ambrose, Stephen E. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether
Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.
Moulton, Gary, ed. The Journals of the Lewis and Clark
Expedition. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press,
1988.

Zebulon Pike and the Conquest of the
Southwestern United States



Overview
In late October 1806, Zebulon Montgomery
Pike (1779-1813) led an expedition that professed its main goal as mapping the Arkansas
and Red Rivers. In reality Pike’s explorations
may have been designed to gauge the military
strength of a potential enemy, Spain, and possibly even provoke an international incident
which would lead to war. Nonetheless his journey, although fraught with error and controversy, proved to be influential on the development
and conquest of the region and had an impact
on settlement patterns throughout the western
United States in the eighteenth century.

12

wasted little time in selling the land to the United States to raise money to finance his campaigns in Europe.

Background

The rest of what is now the southwestern
United States remained in Spanish hands. This
includes present-day Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, and California.
The Spanish prohibited American traders from
operating in the areas under their control, as
they were extremely wary of the United States
Government’s designs on the region. Even after
the large acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase
territories, many in the United States government coveted the rest of the Spanish lands. Not
the least of these was the United States Army’s
ranking officer at the time, and Governor of
Upper Louisiana, General James Wilkinson.

The United States in 1806 was a growing country. Just three years previous in 1803 the country
had secured the Louisiana Purchase, one of the
largest land deals in western history, from
France. That same year President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and
William Clark (1770-1838) to make a survey of
the newly acquired land. Before this time, most
of what is currently the western United States
belonged to Spain. After Spain ceded large parts
of the territory to Napoleon, the French leader

Pike may have been the commander of the
1806-1807 expedition, but General Wilkinson
was the mastermind. Wilkinson was a complex
character at best and a traitor at worst. Wilkinson had been in the pay of the Spanish government for years, referred to as Number 13 in
Spanish diplomatic correspondence, not for
political or ideological reasons, but simply as a
means to supplement his lifestyle. At one time
he received $12,000 by supplying fake invasion
plans of the southwest to the Spanish. Pike’s

S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

T I M E S



V O L U M E

5

expedition probably was a key element in one of
Wilkinson’s biggest plots.
One of Wilkinson’s partners in this scheme
was then Vice President of the United States
Aaron Burr. Burr and Wilkinson hoped, using
Pike as a willing or unwilling dupe, to instigate a
war with Spain. Then he and Burr would lead an
army of their own against the Spanish with the
goal of securing a piece of the area for a private
empire.
It is not conclusively known if Pike was
aware of Wilkinson and Burr’s scheme before he
began his expedition. Pike was an ambitious
man and he felt that a peacetime army left him
little room for advancement and fame. Upon
seeing the accolades given to Lewis and Clark
upon their return from their great explorations,
Pike was able to secure a position as the leader
of an expedition to locate the source of the Mississippi River. He failed, in that he missed the
true headwaters by 25 miles (40 km), but
returned to St. Louis in the spring of 1806 and
by the fall had left on his trip to map the
Arkansas and Red Rivers.
Yet Pike admitted to Wilkinson that he had
a plan for reconnoitering Spanish territory and
reaching Sante Fe. He would move into Spanishcontrolled lands and when confronted by Spanish authorities claim to be lost and then offer to
visit the government in Sante Fe to offer explanations and apologize.
Pike could not have been considered the
most experienced or the best man for the job at
hand. The journal of his expedition was confiscated by the Spanish, and the notes he was able
to hide from them are described as “patchy.”
Many of the facts he reported were reviewed as
“for the greater part very inaccurate,” and he is
reputed to have stolen and copied the map he
made of the area from a German mapmaker
named Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859).
In addition, Pike and his men suffered
through an ill-advised and poorly planned winter crossing of the Rocky Mountains. Besides this
they really did get lost several times. At one
point Pike realized that they had been traveling
in a circle for over a month. After venturing into
Spanish territory, he and his party were arrested
just as he had “planned” at the trip’s outset. The
Spanish confiscated nearly all of Pike’s journals
and notes written until that time, and what
reports Pike was able to bring out after that had
to be smuggled. Taken to see Spanish officials in
Sante Fe, and eventually deep into present-day
S C I E N C E

A N D

I T S

Mexico, Pike returned nine months after he left,
on what he had foreseen as a four-month’s travel,
to a nationwide scandal.
Burr and Wilkinson’s scandal broke and the
results of this severely tainted Pike’s expedition.
It turned out that Wilkinson had no authority to
even order such a mission and Burr was brought
to trial over the plot. Burr was eventually acquitted. Pike, for his part, refused to say anything
bad about Wilkinson and even wrote passionate
pleas in the General’s defense. Wilkinson was
able to save his own career by trying to pin
everything on Burr and in the end it is Pike, and
what positive work his expedition accomplished, that suffered the most as the result of
Wilkinson’s machinations.

Exploration
1800-1899

Pike died, in the Battle of York, (now Toronto) Canada, during the war of 1812.

Impact
Pike’s expedition directly led to the conquest
and settlement of the Spanish, and later Mexican, lands of the Southwest by the United States.
By 1846 war did finally come to the area but it
was not between the United States and Spain, as
Mexico had won independence from the Spanish in 1821. This was the war Wilkinson, Burr,
and possibly Pike had wished to start in 1806.
The end result was a treaty in which the United
States was “sold” New Mexico, Arizona, Utah,
Nevada, Colorado, and California. In addition
Texas seceded from Mexico and joined the United States.
This annexation of the lands, of which Pike
was the first American to explore, served to ultimately drive any European influence from what
is now the continental United States. If Spain
and/or Mexico had kept possession of this
region, the balance of power in the western
hemisphere would have evolved down a much
different path.
While it is highly likely that this “purchase”
of the Southwest would have occurred even if
Pike had never set foot on his travels through
the area, his journey also served to publicize this
part of the country and brought it to the forefront of the national scene. Later expeditions,
notably those of S