Early sole editorship of natural philosophical and scientific periodicals in the Holy Roman Empire and Britain, 1770s-1830s
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Today, editors of science journals exercise a significant power over academic careers and the production of scientific knowledge—their editorial influence is rooted in the period 1770-1830 and the advent of sole editorship (in contrast to group-based editorship at scientific societies and academies). This dissertation focuses on six sole editors from Britain and the Holy Roman Empire to investigate why individuals founded natural philosophical periodicals, how their editorship played out on a day-to-day basis, and what it meant for their professional and personal lives. The contrasting experiences of Johann Ernst Immanuel Walch, Lorenz Crell, Lorenz Oken and William Nicholson, Alexander Tilloch, William Thomas Brande demonstrate the importance of personal motivations and local contexts. In the German lands, monarchs and their administrative elites indirectly incentivised academics to assume natural philosophical editorship. On the British side, there were no such incentives and editorship challenged established natural philosophical infrastructures. This thesis discusses both national contexts and their influence on the editorship of the six editors. This thesis also reveals a crucial transnational parallel for the first generation of sole editors between 1770 and 1810: editorship of natural philosophical journals could be used by those on the philosophical periphery to design a philosophical identity for themselves, at a time before the development of formalised mechanisms for becoming a man-of-science. The experiences of editors after 1810 show that, even once sole editorship had become a familiar concept among men-of-science, it was not necessarily easier to be a successful editor than it had been for its pioneers: sole editorship could, in fact, be outright detrimental to scientific self-fashioning. This thesis also investigates what contributed to the ‘success’ of sole editorship. It turns out that neither a supportive publisher, nor a steady stream of contributions, was as important as one might expect. While acknowledging that economic concerns did matter, this thesis demonstrates that sole editorship was a highly adaptable socio-cultural instrument. And that the editorial activities of sole editors were not as far distant from learned society publishing as has often been assumed.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2024-10-16
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 16th October 2024
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