Geography Unbound: French Geographic Science from Cassini to by Anne Marie Claire Godlewska

By Anne Marie Claire Godlewska

On the finish of the eighteenth century, French geographers confronted a hindrance. notwithstanding that they had formerly been ranked one of the such a lot very popular scientists in Europe, they by surprise stumbled on themselves directionless and disrespected simply because they have been not able to conform their descriptive concentration simply to the hot emphasis on conception and rationalization sweeping via different disciplines.Anne Godlewska examines this drawback, the usually conservative reactions of geographers to it, and the paintings of researchers on the margins of the sector who helped chart its destiny direction. She tells her tale in part throughout the lives and careers of people, from the deposed cupboard geographer Cassini IV to Volney, von Humboldt, and Letronne (innovators in human, actual, and ancient geography), and in part in the course of the associations with which they have been linked corresponding to the Encyclop?die and the Jesuit and armed forces colleges.Geography Unbound offers an insightful portrait of a very important interval within the improvement of contemporary geography, whose volatile disciplinary prestige continues to be a great deal a topic this day.

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It pricks the curiosity more than procuring any real advantage. The structure of the globe is worthy of the attention of the physicist. The knowledge that he will have of it may even extend his understanding of principal phenomena. 4 Was Robert de Vaugondy worried about admitting the unseen below the surface of the earth to geographic inquiry precisely because it would necessitate theory-based study of the unknown and significant deviation from the descriptive mode of the map and the traditional geographic text?

Nevertheless, most geographers worked within a national frame which admitted foreign scholars but was structured by a national tradition and often by national needs. Consequently, France serves as a sort of microcosm of developments in both European geography and the sciences that formed its intellectual context. 17 Geography's Fall l/l 1(. 1,', ·/11 tJ,.. 1/ ". I..... • FIG. 1. " One of the more ingenious and suggestive ways of expressing uncertainty developed by eighteenth-century cartographers: d'Anville developed the trick of suddenly ending the graticule at the border of sure topological knowledge to make clear that while relief was little known in general, it was here that one stepped beyond the acceptable bounds of Western science (represented by the locational grid).

8 And how could anything below the surface of the earth be explored without theory and hypothesis? No, in Le Pere Jean Frans:ois's view it was geography's mission to limit itself to the surface of the earth, which serves as home to men, in order to show its diversity in both nature and art. 9 Still, geography was expected to provide insight into and understanding of God's creation. The words of Le Pere Pierre Coton (1564-1626) give a strong sense of the hope for the illumination that an informed sense of the meaning underlying clear description (meaning-filled letters) might provide: Do not allow, Architect of the world, that my eyes should become like those of small children who entertain themselves by looking at illuminated letters and who play with these instead of considering what they signify.

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