When the Scientific Community Turned Pro

THE LAUNCHING OF MODERN AMERICAN SCIENCE 1846-1876. Robert V. Bruce. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987. 446 pp. $30. In this long-awaited book, Robert Bruce discusses the major scientific events of mid-l9th century America, including Joseph Henry’s discovery of electromagnetic induction, the debate over Darwinism led by Ass Gray and Louis Agassiz, and J. Willard Gibbs’ development of statistical thermodynamics, among others. Like most who have written on the topic, Bruce focuses on

Michael Sokal
Aug 9, 1987

THE LAUNCHING OF MODERN AMERICAN SCIENCE

1846-1876. Robert V. Bruce. Alfred A.
Knopf, New York, 1987. 446 pp. $30.

In this long-awaited book, Robert Bruce discusses the major scientific events of mid-l9th century America, including Joseph Henry’s discovery of electromagnetic induction, the debate over Darwinism led by Ass Gray and Louis Agassiz, and J. Willard Gibbs’ development of statistical thermodynamics, among others. Like most who have written on the topic, Bruce focuses on the emergence of an active community of self-conscious professional scientists that founded journals, established formal institutions such as the Smithsonian and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and sought (and often obtained) state and federal support for their work.

Bruce uses the previous literature on the topic quite well, and builds on it with own extensive research—including work in over 130 manuscript collections. While much of his book rests firmly on the scholarship of others,...