When Britain launched its campaigns of overseas expansion in the 19th century, it enlisted the help of scientists such as Charles Darwin and Aldous Huxley. Their job was to map and measure Earth, collect flora and fauna, and study native populations. These scientists helped build an empire, demonstrating that the line between science and exploration is not always clear.
This comprehensive volume explores the intricate, mutually dependent relationship between science and exploration—how each has repeatedly built on the discoveries of the other and, in the process, opened new frontiers.
A simple question: Which came first, advances in navigation or successful voyages of discovery? A complicated answer: Both and neither. For more than four centuries, scientists and explorers have worked together—sometimes intentionally and sometimes not—in an ongoing, symbiotic partnership. When early explorers brought back exotic flora and fauna from newly discovered lands, scientists were able to challenge ancient authorities for the first time. As a result, scientists not only invented new navigational tools to encourage exploration, but also created a new approach to studying nature, in which observations were more important than reason and authority.
The story of the relationship between science and exploration, analyzed here for the first time, is nothing less than the history of modern science and the expanding human universe.
© 2017 Erik M. Conway.