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By Albert E. Moyer

In overdue nineteenth-century the United States, Simon Newcomb was once the nation's such a lot celebrated scientist and--irascibly, doggedly, tirelessly--he made the main of it. formally a mathematical astronomer heading a central authority business enterprise, Newcomb spent as a lot of his lifestyles out of the observatory as in it, appearing as a spokesman for the nascent yet restive clinical group of his time.Newcomb observed the "scientific technique" as a possible consultant for all disciplines and a foundation for all functional motion, and argued passionately that it used to be of as a lot use within the halls of Congress as within the laboratory. In so doing, he not just sparked well known aid for American technology but additionally faced a large spectrum of social, cultural, and highbrow concerns. this primary full-length examine of Newcomb strains the improvement of his religion in technology and levels over themes of serious public debate within the Gilded Age, from the reform of monetary idea to the recasting of the talk among technological know-how and faith. Moyer's portrait of a stressed, keen brain additionally illuminates the bustle of past due nineteenth-century the US.

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The shift reflected in part a callousness developed through years of exposure to the severe and frightening doctrines. " In other words, he began to realize that he did not have to respond to biblical teachings with the same literal-mindedness that he responded to facts about, for example, geography. Books kindled Newcomb's adolescent awakening. Two in particular that triggered "qualms of conscience" regarding his coarse religious training were also favorites of John Newcomb. " The two books were phrenology texts: George Combe's The Constitution of Man Considered in Relation to External Objects and Orson Fowler's Phrenology.

This combined linguistic and empirical focus resulted in one central methodological rule: scientists, in probing nature, should use only those concepts that can be derived from or explicated in terms of sense experience. More specifically, this rule translated into what Newcomb called the "scientific use of language," meaning in its simplest form that scientists must be able to relate all their concepts ultimately to particular sensory objects. 9 Though Newcomb insisted that scientific concepts show empirical warrant, he avoided strict adherence to the empirical method commonly attributed to Francis Bacon; instead, he favored a hypothetico-deductive approach to scientific inquiry.

His main source of books, however, was his father, who in turn tapped his own father's modest library. These "ancestral volumes" included three books relevant to mathematics and science: an eighteenth-century popularization of algebra, an edition of Euclid's Elements, and a standard treatise on navigation. Using the first book, his father started teaching him algebra when he was about twelve; his led by the next year to study of the Euclid volume. " So delighted was Simon with his first exposure to Euclidean geometry that he immediately lectured his younger brother Thomas on the proof of the Pythagorean theorem.

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