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dc.contributor.authorFalconer, Isobel Jessie
dc.identifier.citationFalconer , I J 2018 , ' Phases of physics in J.D. Forbes’ Dissertation Sixth for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1856) ' , History of Science , vol. OnlineFirst .
dc.identifier.otherPURE: 256188128
dc.identifier.otherPURE UUID: 9f7201fe-4479-4233-8164-87c14dfe74e2
dc.identifier.otherScopus: 85058821712
dc.identifier.otherORCID: /0000-0002-7076-9136/work/51470233
dc.identifier.otherWOS: 000625756900003
dc.description.abstractThis paper takes James David Forbes’ Encyclopaedia Britannica entry, Dissertation Sixth, as a lens to examine physics as a cognitive, practical, and social, enterprise. Forbes wrote this survey of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century mathematical and physical sciences, in 1852-6, when British “physics” was at a pivotal point in its history, situated between a discipline identified by its mathematical methods – originating in France - and one identified by its university laboratory institutions. Contemporary encyclopaedias provided a nexus for publishers, the book trade, readers, and men of science, in the formation of physics as a field. Forbes was both a witness, whose account of the progress of physics or natural philosophy can be explored at face value, and an agent, who exploited the opportunity offered by the Encyclopaedia Britannica in the mid nineteenth century to enrol the broadly educated public, and scientific collective, illuminating the connection between the definition of physics and its forms of social practice. Forbes used the terms “physics” and “natural philosophy” interchangeably. He portrayed the field as progressed by the natural genius of great men, who curated the discipline within an associational culture that engendered true intellectual spirit. Although this societal mechanism was becoming ineffective, Forbes did not see university institutions as the way forward. Instead, running counter to his friend William Whewell, he advocated inclusion of the mechanical arts (engineering), and a strictly limited role for mathematics. He revealed tensions when the widely accepted discovery-based historiography conflicted with intellectual and moral worth, reflecting a nineteenth-century concern with spirit that cuts across twentieth-century questions about discipline and field.
dc.relation.ispartofHistory of Scienceen
dc.rights© 2018, the Author(s). This work has been made available online in accordance with the publisher's policies. This is the author created accepted version manuscript following peer review and as such may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at
dc.subjectJ.D. Forbesen
dc.subjectJames David Forbesen
dc.subjectEncyclopaedia Britannicaen
dc.subjectNineteenth-century scienceen
dc.subjectNatural philosophyen
dc.subjectDiscipline formationen
dc.subjectAssociational cultureen
dc.subjectScientific discoveryen
dc.subjectScientific geniusen
dc.subjectIntellectual spiriten
dc.subjectQC Physicsen
dc.subjectQH Natural historyen
dc.subjectHistory and Philosophy of Scienceen
dc.subjectMathematics (miscellaneous)en
dc.subjectPhysics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)en
dc.titlePhases of physics in J.D. Forbes’ Dissertation Sixth for the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1856)en
dc.typeJournal articleen
dc.contributor.institutionUniversity of St Andrews.Pure Mathematicsen
dc.description.statusPeer revieweden

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