From 'magnetic fever' to 'magnetical insanity': historical geographies of British terrestrial magnetic research, 1833-1857

Goodman, Matthew (2018) From 'magnetic fever' to 'magnetical insanity': historical geographies of British terrestrial magnetic research, 1833-1857. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis explores British-led efforts to observe and map the earth’s magnetic field between 1833 and 1857. In doing so, the thesis examines how magnetic instruments, magnetic observers and magnetic instructions were mobilised in and across multiple geographies, from the Canadian Arctic, to the island of St Helena, to Van Diemen’s Land in the southern hemisphere and at many sites in between. Interest in terrestrial magnetic research burgeoned and was crystallised during the early nineteenth century in Britain and abroad and resulted in the creation of systems of physical observatories and the organisation of magnetic surveys. This work addresses what it meant to coordinate such a network by scrutinising what is popularly known as “the magnetic crusade”, but which was more commonly referred to at the time as the British magnetic scheme. There were several individuals involved in the formation of this scheme but this thesis focuses on two in particular: Edward Sabine and Humphrey Lloyd. In the correspondence of these two figures, we can follow the process by which terrestrial magnetic research was disciplined, its participants educated, its observational data organised and its instruments developed, deployed and used at different stations across the globe. This work seeks to extend and at times complicate our understanding of what it meant to coordinate a big Victorian scientific pursuit and explores among other things the management of instruments in different geographic contexts; the experience of scientific servicemen in the observatory and during surveying efforts; the space in which magnetic data were handled and the processes employed in reducing these data. In all, this thesis aims to recover the several different practices of place that attended the organisation of what was considered in the first half of the nineteenth century to be the greatest scientific endeavour yet pursued.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: geomagnetism, Edward Sabine, Humphrey Lloyd, scientific instruments, historical data, survey science.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Funder's Name: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Supervisor's Name: Naylor, Dr. Simon
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Matthew J. Goodman
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30829
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 05 Oct 2018 12:29
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2018 12:23

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