The conclusion's a bit wishy-washy, but other than that, it's quite worth purchasing, rather than checking out from a library, for the relevant class. When leviathan breached in New York in 1818, this strange beast churned both the natural and social orders--and not everyone would survive. Most importantly, I think, it shatters the idea that 19th century science and classification can be read in any way as a simple reflection of class interests or intellectual hegemony - it is very clear that classification is highly contested, with a lot of different voices and interests contributing to the debates in this period between Linneaus and Darwin. The issues raised in Maurice v. Poor Mitchill, who was deeply interested in advancing science and making New York a center for scientific thought, became a laughingstock, a target of satires in poetry reprinted by one newspaper after another long after the trial was over. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens.
We might take this as a cautionary tale, because in the New York City of the 21st century though not the little old New York of Knickerbocker days but way up in the west 80s, bucolic and rather far from downtown then we again have eminent scientists who think their knowledge to be more complete than it really is trying to assert their ascendancy over the mere folk opinion of the voters. This is entertaining and odd, but there is a larger point at issue: there has been a lot of scholarly work in the last twenty years on the place of natural history in the formation of American national identity. The book is well-written and entirely intelligible to a lay audience. Judd proclaimed that the oil was not subject to inspection under the law because it was from a whale, not a fish. Whales were extraordinary creatures, to be sure, but for most people, even whalemen, they remained fish.
It is a very important contribution to the relationship between science and society in the early years of American nation-building and nationalism. I think it is hard to read Moby-Dick in quite the same way after Trying Leviathan. This wobbled the old certainties of natural order and implied new and troubling kinships. He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book. In the fascinating Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature, D. However, other participants had other fish to fry, and the focus of this book if it can be said to have one was the attempt to establish the reputation and authority of formal science as against the autonomy of popular opinion in the democracy of the early Republic.
But this is a history of science, right? Falling in the middle of the century between Linnaeus and Darwin, the trial dramatized a revolutionary period that saw radical transformations in the understanding of the natural world. Who had the authority to make such a classification? Graham Burnett recovers the striking story of Maurice v. In the end, though, science had the last laugh, as almost no one would insist a whale is a fish today. What results is a splendid examination of questions about taxonomic systems, epistemology of natural historical knowledge, semantics, literary references, authority of various classes of New York citizens, and the relationship between science and society. For Judd, Samuel Mitchill, the city's most eminent exponent of the new, French taxonomy of Cuvier, took the stand to explain that the interior of the whale established him as a mammal, however much his exterior made him look like a fish.
See Burnett ; and about the writing of the book. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular -- and biblically sanctioned -- view that the whale was a fish. This is a great piece of historical writing, with much to think about for anyone interested in law and society, science and technology studies, ethnoecology, or anyone who's a fan of Moby Dick as the reviewer in the Melville Studies journal Leviathan pointed out, it's a book that puts Moby Dick in several entirely new contexts. In fact, Melville's antihero here takes sides in one of the great controversies of the early nineteenth century--one that ultimately had to be resolved in the courts of New York City. An extensive bibliography and a generously organized index complete this book.
Nonetheless, the trial at the time was a sensation which interested New Yorkers not just over financial issues. He has also worked on Charles Darwin, the history of exploration, and early modern optics. An important and thoroughly engaging book. Whether you thought a whale was a fish or a mammal in New York City in 1818 was effectively like declaring yourself a Guelph or a Ghibelline! The founder of what would become the New York Academy of Sciences, and a published ichthyologist fish-scientist , Mitchill walked out the back door of the New York Institution and crossed the green to the courtroom in City Hall where the trial was held in order to teach everybody that whales were not fish. This book tracks and analyzes a legal case on this topic, and is very well-written, as I said, for a history text. It also took a while for our legal system to do so.
Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. I said to my friend who was with me that the shape of it looked like a whale, and she replied that it could also look like a fish. He studied history and philosophy of science at Cambridge University on a Marshall Scholarship and was a member of Trinity College. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Shapiro, Reports of the National Center for Science Education In Trying Leviathan, D. Trying Leviathan is explicated so clearly that no reader will come away empty-handed.
What kinds of knowledge did they bring to bear on the case? In fact, Melville's antihero here takes sides in one of the great controversies of the early nineteenth century -- one that ultimately had to be resolved in the courts of New York City. My story swims upstream against much of this analysis, because I show that the language of natural history was a deeply unstable language with which to try to articulate nationhood, precisely because it was readily deployed divisively. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature—and how we know it—was at stake. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature--and how we know it--was at stake. Burnett describes the trial with the keen eye of an informed courtroom observer.