Everyday Nature: Knowledge of the Natural World in Colonial New York

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9780813546735: Everyday Nature: Knowledge of the Natural World in Colonial New York
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In the modern world, the public looks to scientists and scholars for their expertise on issues ranging from the effectiveness of vaccines to the causes of natural disasters. But for early Americans, whose relationship to nature was more intimate and perilous than our own, personal experience, political allegiances, and faith in God took precedence over the experiments of the learned.

In Everyday Nature, Sara Gronim shows how scientific advances were received in the early modern world, from the time Europeans settled in America until just before the American Revolution. Settlers approached a wide range of innovations, such as smallpox inoculation, maps and surveys, Copernican cosmology, and Ben Franklin’s experiments with electricity, with great skepticism.  New Yorkers in particular were distrustful because of the chronic political and religious factionalism in the colony. Those discoveries that could be easily reconciled with existing beliefs about healing the sick, agricultural practices, and the revolution of the planets were more readily embraced.

A fascinating portrait of colonial life, this book traces a series of innovations that were disseminated throughout the Atlantic world during the Enlightenment, and shows how colonial New Yorkers integrated new knowledge into their lives.

         

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About the Author:

Sara S. Gronim is an associate professor in the department of history at Long Island University and the 2008 recipient of the History of Science Society's Margaret W. Rossiter History of Women in Science Prize.

Review:

This volume is the first close study of American colonials' beliefs and practices that spans the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While deeply empirical, it also situates colonials within the larger Atlantic context. (Philip J. Pauly author of Fruits and Plains: Horticulture and the Transformation of North Ame)

"...an admirable study of one colony's reception of and resistance to the wider Alantic scientific revolution." (William and Mary Quarterly 2008-07-01)

"Gronim's greatest contribution is to the body of literature . . . which insists that the scientific revolution was not so much a product of 'a few brilliant men' but rather the work of 'many more ordinary people.'" (Long Island Historical Journal 2008-05-01)

"Everyday Nature carefully distinguishes between the in-depth scientific knowledge of scholars back in Oxford or Cambridge or Paris, the popular knowledge found in almanacs, newspaper articles, and self-help books in New York, and the knowledge used by Native Americans and African-American slaves in their daily lives. Gronim's well-written volume introduces us to knowledge of the natural world in a different segment of colonial society than historians of science usually study." (ISIS 2009-01-01)

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