DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York

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9781421411040: DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York

David I. Spanagel explores the origins of American geology and the culture that promoted it in nineteenth-century New York. Focusing on Amos Eaton, the educator and amateur scientist who founded the Rensselaer School, and DeWitt Clinton, the masterful politician who led the movement for the Erie Canal, Spanagel shows how a cluster of assumptions about the peculiar landscape and entrepreneurial spirit of New York came to define the Empire State. In so doing, he sheds light on a particularly innovative and fruitful period of interplay among science, politics, art, and literature in American history.

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Book Description:

Examines how geology and politics—along with the rapid development of the Erie Canal—informed scientific ideas and contributed to New York's prominence in the early nineteenth century.

From the Author:

I grew up in the Finger Lakes region of western New York.  That region's mostly gently rolling hills, impossibly deep lakes, spectacular gorges along streams flowing toward almost every available compass point, and patches of extraordinarily fertile topsoil (where it was deposited by retreating glaciers) provided a beautiful and variegated landscape for hiking and watery adventures throughout my youth.  I never studied geology as a university student, but when I began to research the history ideas about the Earth's history, I was inexorably drawn to the experiences of the people who tried to decode the mysterious and magnificent clues left behind by the complicated processes that shaped the topography of New York State.  This book is the fruit of the lifetime I have spent loving that place, and of the years of research and contemplation that I have devoted to answering my questions about how that the geological history of that place was initially written.  New York's geology captivated people from all walks of life in the early years of the republic, and it provided a major arena for early efforts to establish an independent set of ideas and professional practices in the American earth sciences.  Much of what I now understand about geology as an especially challenging field for scientific data gathering and theorizing, I learned by seeing natural phenomena through the eyes of those ingenious early investigators, who had so many obstacles to overcome and so few ready-made tools to support their work.

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