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Title: Science at sea : voyages of exploration and the making of marine knowledge, 1837-1843
Author: Millar, Sarah Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 0420
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis is about the historical geography of scientific knowledge production at sea. It focuses on three expeditions of exploration and discovery undertaken, respectively, by France, the United States of America, and Britain, that in the late 1830s sailed into the southern oceans. These voyages marked the last such expeditions to travel by sail alone and came before an acknowledged period of specialized interest in investigating the oceans and the marine environment, exemplified by the sailing of HMS Challenger in 1872. The expeditions share a commonality of period and of destination: their study together provides a hitherto overlooked opportunity to analyse practices of experimentation on, and investigation of, the natural history and physical properties of the marine environment that were integral to the construction of scientific knowledge about the oceans at that time. By attention to archival records, personal correspondence, diaries, published travel narratives and representations of marine phenomena in the form of illustrations, sketches, preserved specimens and displays of numerical material, this thesis examines quotidian shipboard practices to show how the production of scientific ‘facts’ was a matter of constant negotiation between people, weather, instruments and vessels – that occurred as a by-product of the running of the ship as well as of more defined programmes of study by civilian naturalists and naval staff. Informed by work in the history of science, Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Actor-Network Theory (ANT), this thesis highlights how attending to practice in the ambiguous, heterotopic space that was the expedition vessel can reveal the origins of a new, specialized, discipline: what I call here a proto-oceanography. This covers those scientific practices undertaken primarily at sea and from the ship: depth measurement, sea temperature and chemistry, the height of waves, collection of marine specimens and coastal topography, but not those primarily land-based activities such as astronomy, meteorology and terrestrial magnetism. By focusing on work carried out on board ship rather than on land, this thesis offers new insights into the practices of marine investigation and experimentation and the complexities of interrogating a space which was visualised primarily through instruments. This thesis examines how at-sea cultures of collection, measurement and representation can inform geographically nuanced analyses of the production of scientific knowledge.
Supervisor: Withers, Charles ; MacDonald, Fraser ; Hasty, William Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: expeditions of exploration ; expeditions of discovery ; HMS Challenger ; scientific knowledge ; production of scientific facts ; Science and Technology Studies ; actor-network theory ; expedition vessel ; proto-oceanography