The place of the geophysical sciences in nineteenth century natural philosophy



The Historiography of the geophysical sciences is far from developed. This is due in part to the relatively small number of historians of science and to the growth rate of science itself. There are perhaps only several dozen persons today whose professional interests touch on the history of geophysics, or the earth sciences, expeditions and exploration, and the historical connections of these fields with other areas of scientific activity. These persons study a world scientific literature that has been growing since the late seventeenth century at a rate that has produced a doubling about every 10 to 15 years. Within the history of science, the literature of the geophysical sciences has simply not received the degree of attention given some other areas, such as the ‘Scientific Revolution’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the paucity of secondary materials concerning the history of geophysics reflects this. It may therefore come as no surprise to discover that at present there is no real consensus within the profession as to the major problems in the history of the geophysical sciences in their historical relationships to general physics and ther other physical sciences.