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Regional Geographies of Scientific Knowledge: A case-study from nineteenth-century England

 

Seminar coordinated by Ximo Guillem-Llobat (IHMC López Piñero) and financed by SCHCT. 9/1/2014

In this seminar Dr Naylor analyses the complex interplay between regional space and the scientific study of nature in nineteenth-century England. He does so through the lenses of five emerging scientific disciplines: geology, zoology, botany, archaeology and meteorology. The seminar focuses on the English county and region of Cornwall, in the southwest of England. It examines the roles played by Cornish scientific practitioners in the production of scientific knowledge about their own locality as well as their contributions to wider scientific debates in Britain and the British Empire. The seminar pays particular attention to the way in which Cornwall as a region was invented, or imagined, through science. It also examines the knowledge traffic that passed between metropolitan centres like London and provincial settings like Cornwall.

Dr Naylor uses the region as an analytical category for examining the twinning of geography and science in the construction of knowledge, space and identity, but at a scale both more and less moderate than is typically attempted. A focus on the region is a useful addition to work on the geographies of science, when other studies either discuss macroscopic, national scales, or at the other extreme, more microscopic, experimental sites. Dr Naylor uses the example of Cornwall to demonstrate the inextricability of the local from the distant, the rural from the urban, and the intrinsic from the utilitarian in the making of knowledge. Dr Naylor will use the seminar to claim that regional scales and their making move us towards an understanding of how centre/periphery dichotomies are historically made, as opposed to historically assumed.

Dr Simon Naylor is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, UK. He gained his PhD in 1998 and has since held academic positions at the University of Oxford, the University of Bristol and the University of Exeter, before moving to Glasgow in 2013.

His research focuses on the historical geographies of science, technology and exploration. He has conducted work on the history of the field sciences in a range of geographical settings, including North and South America, Antarctica, Australia and Britain.

He has studied the history of a range of scientific pursuits, including physical geography, geology, antiquarianism and archaeology, geophysics and glaciology, and natural history. He is currently working on the historical geographies of meteorology in the early nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the relations between meteorology and the British military.

Dr Naylor has published widely in science, history and sociology of science, and human geography journals, including Nature Geoscience, the British Journal for the History of Science, and Social Studies of Science. He is the author of Regionalizing Science: Placing Knowledges in Victorian England (Pickering & Chatto, 2010) and the co-editor of New Spaces of Exploration: Geographies of Discovery in the Twentieth Century (IB Tauris, 2010), and Cultural Turns / Geographical Turns: Perspectives on Cultural Geography (Pearson, 2000). He is a Council Member and Trustee of the British Society for the History of Science, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and the editor of the Routledge Series in Historical Geography.

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