The Language of Mineralogy: John Walker, Chemistry and the Edinburgh Medical School, 1750-1800

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Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2008 - History - 309 pages
In order to show how the classification practices of a defined institutional setting enabled naturalists to create systems of natural history, this book focuses on developments at the Medical School of the University of Edinburgh and in particular the teaching of one of Scotland's most influential Enlightenment naturalists, Dr John Walker.

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‘The Language of Mineralogy offers carefully researched and well-considered insights into the practice of mineralogical classification, and its theoretical and institutional contexts, in eighteenth-century Scotland and beyond. Matthew Eddy makes a significant contribution to a more detailed and carefully contextual understanding of the natural history sciences of the Enlightenment.’ David P. Miller, Isis
‘… any historian interested in broadening his or her knowledge of Enlightenment-era classification and any historian of chemistry convinced that the period between Boyle and Lavoisier – when chemistry of fluids and principles dominated in practice – deserves more focused study will profit from Eddy's text and helpful appendices.’ Bulletin for the History of Chemistry
‘[A]n important study of the methods used to order the earth so that its products might be made intelligible, here in medicine, to enlightened audiences, initially students, who would take these ideas into different social and intellectual communities. It is thus—perhaps surprisingly, given the intrinsic nature of the subject matter—an engaging account of the ways in which earth knowledge was made useful, of the importance of collecting and observational practices, and of work in the field and in the classroom… it ought not to be overlooked by all those interested in the ways in which ideas were taught, discussed, and categorically placed before being, if ever they were at all, printed and patronized by enlightened others.’ Charles Withers, University of Edinburgh, in
Eighteenth-Century Scotland
‘Matthew D. Eddy succeeds in making a significant contribution to [the] recent and more nuanced approach to post-Kuhnian history of science… Students of eighteenth-century Scottish culture and medicine will find much of value here, as will students of eighteenth-century geology and chemistry.’ American Historical Review
‘… Eddy has done a magnificent job in further clarifying the puzzling and fascinating development of the history of chemistry from its alchemical beginnings. His portrayal of the rich interdisciplinarity of early modern natural history, chemistry, and natural philosophy is an important addition to the field…’ Anna Marie Roos, Journal of British Studies
‘It is thus with great pleasure... that I read Matthew Eddy’s polemically (semi-)biographical study of John Walker, professor of natural history at the University of Edinburgh’s medical school from 1779 to 1803. While most of Eddy’s book reads quite easily, his argument is complex in terms of both its historiographical import and the many facets of its composition and historical implications... I take it as a sign of a good book that at the end the reader wishes to pursue its inquiries further. In The Language of Mineralogy, Eddy – so generous here with creative ideas for future research – has given us just this kind of book.’ Lissa Roberts, British Journal for the History of Science
‘Eddy’s work is of value for anyone interested in the historiography of science, scientific pedagogy, the role of philosophy of science in historical narrative, or the Scottish Enlightenment … Eddy seems to have mastered the art of satisfying those readers who want their history of science to include as much of the detail of the science as possible, as well as those who prefer to reflect on the more sociological or


Who Was John Walker? The Life of a Notable Naturalist
Analysis and the Nomenclature of Matter
Travel Classification and Patronage
Arranging the Fabric of the Globe
The Chemical Foundations of Geology
The Classes of Walkers Mature Mineralogical System

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About the author (2008)

Matthew D. Eddy is a Lecturer at the University of Durham, UK.

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