Dilligent Observers of Natural Things: Lay observations and the natural philosophy of earthquakes in the Royal Society of London, 1665-1755
Blanken, K.J.I. van
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Eighteenth-century seismology primarily relied on lay observers to provide empirical evidence. This methodological commitment did not come out of nowhere. Since the mid-seventeenth century, the testimonies of contemporary earthquake observers became increasingly prominent sources of knowledge for natural philosophers. Their observations, as well as the specific lay-expert relation that formed as the result of this interaction formed the building blocks of eighteenth- and nineteenth- century seismology. The aims of this thesis are twofold. First, to tell the untold stories of these observers and evaluate their contribution to early modern earthquake science, taking the early Royal Society as a focus point. This historical argument serves to explain how and why seismology emerged in the eighteenth century with the specific epistemological and theoretical commitments that it had. Secondly, to develop an analytical method informed by the ‘history of knowledge’ that integrates different epistemologies, social relations and scientific theories. This method is geared to explain how the interactions between specific actors and practices shaped new knowledge about earthquakes in ways that transcend modern disciplinary classifications.