Secret Science: Spanish Cosmography and the New World

Hardcover | June 15, 2009

byMaría M. Portuondo

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The discovery of the New World raised many questions for early modern scientists: What did these lands contain? Where did they lie in relation to Europe? Who lived there, and what were their inhabitants like? Imperial expansion necessitated changes in the way scientific knowledge was gathered, and Spanish cosmographers in particular were charged with turning their observations of the New World into a body of knowledge that could be used for governing the largest empire the world had ever known.

As María M. Portuondo here shows, this cosmographic knowledge had considerable strategic, defensive, and monetary value that royal scientists were charged with safeguarding from foreign and internal enemies. Cosmography was thus a secret science, but despite the limited dissemination of this body of knowledge, royal cosmographers applied alternative epistemologies and new methodologies that changed the discipline, and, in the process, how Europeans understood the natural world.

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The discovery of the New World raised many questions for early modern scientists: What did these lands contain? Where did they lie in relation to Europe? Who lived there, and what were their inhabitants like? Imperial expansion necessitated changes in the way scientific knowledge was gathered, and Spanish cosmographers in particular we...

María M. Portuondo is assistant professor of history of science at the Johns Hopkins University.

other books by María M. Portuondo

Format:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:June 15, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226675343

ISBN - 13:9780226675343

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
List of Abbreviations
A Note on Translations
 
Introduction: Spanish Science and the New World
Chapter 1   Renaissance Cosmography in the Era of Discovery
                        Humanists Adopt Ptolemy: European Practitioners Create a New Discipline
                        Ideal Practice: Cosmography at the University
                        Cosmography and the Sea: Mathematical Rationalism and Navigation Books
Chapter 2   Cosmographical Styles at the Casa, Consejo and Corte
                        “Like Scattered Pieces of a Puzzle”: Compiling Knowledge of the New World
                        The Tordesillas Question
                        Alonso de Santa Cruz and His Cosmographical Opus
                        The Islario general
                        Experts to Explain the World: Juan de Herrera and the Expert Explorers
                        Cosmography at the Casa: Pilots and Maps
Chapter 3   Cosmography Codified
                        Cosmography as State Secret
                        Santa Cruz’s Guidelines
                        A Law to Define Cosmographical Practice: The Ordinances of Indies
                        Legal Culture and Cosmographical Methodology
Chapter 4   The Cosmographer-Chronicler of the Council of Indies
                        The Empire, Patronage, and the Humanist: Juan López de Velasco, 1571–90
                        The Reluctant Historian
                        The Cosmographer as Censor
Chapter 5   The Cosmographer at Work
                        Writing the Geografía y descripción de las Indias
                        The Censor Censored: Juan Bautista Gesio
                        The Sumario
Chapter 6   Constructing a Cosmographical Epistemology
                        Questionnaires and the relaciones geográficas de Indias
                        Eclipses and Longitude
                        A Global Project
                        The Lunar Eclipse Observations
Chapter 7   Cosmography Dissolves
                        A New Patronage Equation
                        Mathematical Practitioners Take Over
                        Mathematics and Cosmographical Epistemology
                        Chroniclers and Historians
Conclusion
 
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This is an important book about an extremely important subject. . . . [Portuondo’s] elegant prose and meticulous apparatus deftly guide the reader through the wealth of archival, printed and secondary sources that underpin her careful analysis.”