This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.
"Global Science before Global Networks: the Background and Aftermath of Francis Bacon’s History of Winds" (NEH, 2014-2015)
My project is for research for a monograph that analyzes understandings of the wind from 1500 to 1700 by examining Francis Bacon’s History of Winds, its sixteenth-century background, and the influence of his ideas on later seventeenth-century conceptions of anemology. The book will give an account of one of the earliest emergences of natural knowledge on a global scale by showing how early modern scholars used observations, consulted ancient texts, and conducted experiments to resolve sixteenth-century debates over the nature and classification of the winds. At the end of the 1500s, there were broad disagreements over the taxonomies of winds, the cause of winds, and its matter. Voyages beyond Europe increased the discord by showing the inadequacy of traditional explanations. Bacon proposed systematic collecting observations, conducting experiments, and making artificial winds in order to resolve these debates and create knowledge of the winds that would aid mariners and improve human health. Later naturalists and navigators followed Bacon’s suggestions, taking empirical evidence from artisans, ancient texts, and travelers’ reports. Additionally, they performed experiments designed to replicate winds and their underlying matter. This study will offer a test case for examining the relation between learned and artisanal methods, showing how scholars and sailors combined observational, textual, philosophical, and experimental techniques to form new theories about nature. The study of early modern conceptions of the wind traces the creation of a global knowledge tied to political and economic power but still concerned with creating causal knowledge.