The Experimental Self: Humphry Davy And The Making Of A Man Of Science

Hardcover | May 11, 2016

byJan Golinski

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What did it mean to be a scientist before the profession itself existed? Jan Golinski finds an answer in the remarkable career of Humphry Davy, the foremost chemist of his day and one of the most distinguished British men of science of the nineteenth century. Originally a country boy from a modest background, Davy was propelled by his scientific accomplishments to a knighthood and the presidency of the Royal Society. An enigmatic figure to his contemporaries, Davy has continued to elude the efforts of biographers to classify him: poet, friend to Coleridge and Wordsworth, author of travel narratives and a book on fishing, chemist and inventor of the miners’ safety lamp. What are we to make of such a man?
           
In The Experimental Self, Golinski argues that Davy’s life is best understood as a prolonged process of self-experimentation. He follows Davy from his youthful enthusiasm for physiological experiment through his self-fashioning as a man of science in a period when the path to a scientific career was not as well-trodden as it is today. What emerges is a portrait of Davy as a creative fashioner of his own identity through a lifelong series of experiments in selfhood.

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What did it mean to be a scientist before the profession itself existed? Jan Golinski finds an answer in the remarkable career of Humphry Davy, the foremost chemist of his day and one of the most distinguished British men of science of the nineteenth century. Originally a country boy from a modest background, Davy was propelled by his ...

Jan Golinski is professor of history and humanities at the University of New Hampshire. He is the author of Making Natural Knowledge and British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

other books by Jan Golinski

Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the History of Science, with a new Preface
Making Natural Knowledge: Constructivism and the Histor...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:May 11, 2016Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022635136X

ISBN - 13:9780226351360

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“Engagingly written and insightful, Golinski’s The Experimental Self explores the ways in which the iconic Romantic figure and man of science Humphry Davy consciously wove together the identities of a chemist, philosopher, dandy, traveler, poet, genius, and discoverer. Golinski brilliantly reveals a world in which such experimentation and self-invention were necessary, before the establishment of modern science with its institutions and career paths. While Davy has often been treated as an enigmatic figure, Golinski makes sense of his life and sheds light on his many modes of being by eschewing traditional narrative biography and its demands for continuity of selfhood, instead treating separately the many selves of a single individual. It is, therefore, a book that belongs alongside recent histories of science that explore the figure of the scientist and the emergence of science as a professional enterprise, but it is also one that should be read by anyone with an interest in Romanticism, biography, or the nature of selfhood.”