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Platsens blick: Vetenskapsakademien och den naturalhistoriska resan 1790-1840
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts.
1999 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The place's glance : The Royal Academy of Science and Scientific Travel, 1790-1840 (English)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the present dissertation is to study the relationship between travel as a form of knowledge and the natural history pursued at the Royal Academy of Science during the period 1790-1840. Primarily, this dissertation deals with the perception of travel as a form of knowledge which existed at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, though a number of selected journeys are used to illustrate the era's shifting perceptions on travel.

Chapter One compares two variants of scientific travel, Linnean and Humboldtian. While the Linnean saw single objects, the Humboldtian saw "the whole" in the form of places. Places became the new study objects and the conditions reigning there were assumed to explain the special characteristics of the objects. This is what is implied by the "place's glance".

Chapter Two provides an historical background to the subsequent debate about the theory and practice of scientific travel by scrutinizing works from the apodemic handbook genre. The purpose of apodemics was to make travel a method for the disciplined, systematic gathering of knowledge, which was achieved by organizing all aspects into categories..

In Chapter Three, the natural history of the day is understood as a multiplicity of research traditions with a common object of study - the specimens found in the three kingdoms of nature. A number of models of scientific collection which were applied by the Academy around 1800 are analyzed. The correspondent model using local amateur collectors is contrasted with the model of the travelling professional scientist. The greatest problem of the travel model was the "route problematic", engendering a haphazardness in the collection of facts and specimens.

In Chapter Four, the relationship between travel and the theories of natural history of the age is investigated through a case study of Göran Wahlenberg's travels in 1800-1810. As a result of the insights Wahlenberg achieved during his travels in the mountain regions of the land, the new botanical sub- discipline of plant geography was established. This demanded travel, since it was based on observations of the plants' spatial relationships to one another and measurements of other specific spatial phenomena, such as climate. Wahlenberg saw complex, multifacetted aggregates of plants and vegetation, where the Linnean only discerned separate species. Herein lies the meaning of the "place's glance".

Chapter Five analyzes the botanical journeys undertaken by the Academy between 1820 (when a travel grant was instituted) and 1840. Patriotic and utilitarian arguments for domestic travel combined with their results lent scientific travel a new status at the Academy.

Chapter Six deals with zoological travel during the same period. The main figures are the curators of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, J. W. Dalman and B. F. Fries, who formulated the zoological travel policy of the Academy. The needs of the museum dictated that the travellers focus on Sweden and Scandinavia, primarily the "Western seaboard", which included Bohuslän and the Norwegian Atlantic coast, and Norrland. The specific needs of marine biology forced Fries to develop new travel practices. Fries' establishment of a provisional research station for year-round zoological research was an important historical breakthrough. His idea of outfitting sea-going vessels as mobile research stations also prefigures the future development of polar travel later in the century.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 1999. , 285 p.
Idéhistoriska skrifter, ISSN 0282-7646 ; 29
Keyword [en]
travel, apodemics, natural history, Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Swedish Museum of Natural History, plant geography, zoology, Linnaeus, Göran Wahlenberg
National Category
History of Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-61313ISBN: 91-7191-565-6OAI: diva2:566690
Public defence
1999-01-15, Humanisthuset hörsal E, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2012-11-09 Created: 2012-11-09 Last updated: 2013-05-13Bibliographically approved

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