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The Scottish Enlightenment

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I've recently become interested in the Scottish Enlightenmet. I am aware that it was a significant influence on America's founding fathers. Adam Smith was part of this movement, and Benjamin Franklin was said to frequently correspond with Scottish intellectuals of this period. But I would like to study it more in depth, as well as learning more about Scottish history in general.

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Ha, I forgot to ask my question: Does anyone have any recommended readings on this topic?

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Ha, I forgot to ask my question: Does anyone have any recommended readings on this topic?

Chapter 3, "The Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution," in The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein discusses these issues and provides many citations.

Also, The Scottish Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution is available.

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What would be of interest to me would be an analysis of the refractive index of Scottish environs compared to that of Queensland and Bengal (or any territory that was not first ruled by the Portugese or Dutch followed by armed combat then British rule after defeat, treaty or secession). References to published materials would be appreciated.

Also, any works which specifically cross-reference the principles and theoretical frameworks with specific concrete applications and events involving any or all of Dunlop, Watt (of Boulton & Watt), Forbes, Napier, Naysmyth/Naismyth/Nasmyth and of course, James Maxwell and Rob Fairlie, would be appreciated as well.

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Thanks for these suggestions!

Cometmaker: What is an environ? Something like a state or territory?

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I have never heard the term "refractive index of Scottish environs" before. Would you be able to explain it to me?

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What would be of interest to me would be an analysis of the refractive index of Scottish environs compared to that of Queensland and Bengal (or any territory that was not first ruled by the Portugese or Dutch followed by armed combat then British rule after defeat, treaty or secession). References to published materials would be appreciated.

Also, any works which specifically cross-reference the principles and theoretical frameworks with specific concrete applications and events involving any or all of Dunlop, Watt (of Boulton & Watt), Forbes, Napier, Naysmyth/Naismyth/Nasmyth and of course, James Maxwell and Rob Fairlie, would be appreciated as well.

I don't know what a "refractive index of environs" means, but what "principles and theoretical frameworks" are you referring to in relation to the engineers and scientists you listed -- the influence of the Enlightenment in technological progress through abstract reasoning?

With regard, in particular, to James Watt's development of the steam engine and the trend in applying theoretical science and systematic abstract reasoning to engineering, here is part of a letter (unpublished) to The Objective Standard two years ago. An article by David Harriman had credited application of theoretical science to Watt's "invention of the steam engine". He was wrong in saying that Watt invented the steam engine, but was correct in citing Watt's enormous engineering contributions as an illustration of his general theme that scientific knowledge and reasoning emphasized in the Enlightment made technological progress possible.

In "Enlightenment Science and its Fall" in Vol 1 No 1, David Harriman wrote of the late 18th century, "In addition, science was proving to be of great practical value. Knowledge of gases and heat made possible James Watt's invention of the steam engine, which was first put to practical use in the 1780's."

A popular misconception holds that Watt invented the steam engine, but the first practical commercial steam engine was invented and built by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. Newcomen type engines were in widespread use in several countries across Europe before 1750 when Watt (1736-1819) was only 14. Watt later made dramatic improvements in both the efficiency and power of steam engines beginning with his first patent in 1769, and in accordance with the role of the Enlightenment in the advancement of science and technology, his improvements resulted from a new emphasis on a consciously deliberate combination of scientific theory and practical engineering far beyond Newcomen's approach.

Watt used the beginnings of a new scientific understanding of heat and steam preceding the more fundamental developments in the theory of heat which began around 1820, careful calculations, one of the first scale models used for systematic engineering development, and clever engineering innovations persistently and systematically developed over many years to solve major engineering problems. The result was a very successful new company, Boulton and Watt, that -- while continuing major innovations -- built and installed about five hundred steam engines between 1775 and 1800 when Watt retired. Dramatic improvements in steam engines continued to power the industrial revolution as it became more common for engineers to directly exploit the expanding scientific theories.

Not long after the first major improvements in the reciprocating steam engine, the even more efficient steam turbine was also beginning to be developed, eventually replacing the steam engine and still used today (especially for electric power generation). Steam and the later gas turbines evolved in accordance with major advances in comprehensive theories of aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials science and the engineering science of turbomachinery developed throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, but it all began with the new mathematical formulations and physical theories made possible by the Enlightenment.

If this what you meant and the kind of things you are looking for, you can find details on Watts developments and how he accomplished them in Power from Steam, by Richard Hills, Cambridge University Press, 1989. Hills writes:

Watt was able to measure the amount of steam actually consumed, and so calculated its thermal capacity... Watt continued to experiment and found that steam at ordinary atmospheric pressure could heat about six times its own weight of water from room temperature to boiling point. He sought an explanation from his friend Joseph Black, who at that time was Professor of Anatomy and Chemistry at the University of Glasgow. Following Herman Boerhaave's precept, academically inclinded medical men studied chemistry and this included the study of heat... Watt was therefore unique among the early power engineers in having had direct and indirect contact with men who made scientific studies of heat.

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Check out: How

the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe's Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It - by Arthur Herman

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With regard, in particular, to James Watt's development of the steam engine and the trend in applying theoretical science and systematic abstract reasoning to engineering, here is part of a letter (unpublished) to The Objective Standard two years ago. An article by David Harriman had credited application of theoretical science to Watt's "invention of the steam engine". He was wrong in saying that Watt invented the steam engine, but was correct in citing Watt's enormous engineering contributions as an illustration of his general theme that scientific knowledge and reasoning emphasized in the Enlightment made technological progress possible.

Did they ever explain why a letter correcting an obviously factual error went unpublished? Did they ever, otherwise, make a note of that error in a later issue?

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With regard, in particular, to James Watt's development of the steam engine and the trend in applying theoretical science and systematic abstract reasoning to engineering, here is part of a letter (unpublished) to The Objective Standard two years ago. An article by David Harriman had credited application of theoretical science to Watt's "invention of the steam engine". He was wrong in saying that Watt invented the steam engine, but was correct in citing Watt's enormous engineering contributions as an illustration of his general theme that scientific knowledge and reasoning emphasized in the Enlightment made technological progress possible.

Did they ever explain why a letter correcting an obviously factual error went unpublished? Did they ever, otherwise, make a note of that error in a later issue?

No. The article was an excerpt from his forthcoming book. I hope he corrects it there. Of most interest to me was that there is known history of how Enlightenment science and a systematic rational approach to engineering influenced the development of the steam engine with astonishing results even though thermodynamic science was still very primitive then. That only adds to Harriiman's theme, though there is the usual tension over how science continued to progress exponentially despite the deterioration of professional philosophy.

You may be interested in the rest of my letter, which I omitted above because it isn't relevant to the Scottish Enlightenment or the question Cometmaker asked:

David also wrote, "Research in electricity also reached its climax in the 1780s" with Coulomb's inverse square law for the force between charges. I think he must have meant that Coulomb's scientific approach was a climax of the particular early development of the theory of the electric charge he had just discussed. That early path-breaking science was only the beginning of the amazingly successful theory of electricity and magnetism and its engineering applications that evolved over the next centuries thanks to the Enlightenment and despite the influence of its subsequent philosophical decline.

Congratulations for all of the very well done articles in your excellent first issue. I look forward to much more as well as David's new book.

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I don't know what a "refractive index of environs" means, but what "principles and theoretical frameworks" are you referring to in relation to the engineers and scientists you listed -- the influence of the Enlightenment in technological progress through abstract reasoning?

With regard, in particular, to James Watt's development of the steam engine and the trend in applying theoretical science and systematic abstract reasoning to engineering, here is part of a letter (unpublished) to The Objective Standard two years ago. [...]

A refractive index of a civilization refers to the speed at which theoretical sciences and philosophy travel through a society to a critical number of persons to create technology. Each civilization will have a different refractive index and a different number of critical people.

I've read Power from Steam as well, and in this thread I am interested in additional links researched and described to show the relationship between abstract reasoning about the humanities and technological improvements within the minds of single persons. What was the relationship between a focus on empiricism and the rapid improvements to narrow gauge rails; did Watt hold any beliefs about the morality of a laissez-faire economy in the manufacture of the type of steam engines he patented; was there a relationship between a realization of the human capacity to change nature and the development of logarithms; was there an explicit, specific method of investigation taught by William Cullen to Joseph Black. And so on.

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I've read Power from Steam as well, and in this thread I am interested in additional links researched and described to show the relationship between abstract reasoning about the humanities and technological improvements within the minds of single persons. What was the relationship between a focus on empiricism and the rapid improvements to narrow gauge rails; did Watt hold any beliefs about the morality of a laissez-faire economy in the manufacture of the type of steam engines he patented; was there a relationship between a realization of the human capacity to change nature and the development of logarithms; was there an explicit, specific method of investigation taught by William Cullen to Joseph Black. And so on.

I don't think you will find much directly linking philosophical ideas to specific technologies. Partly that is because no such explicit connection was required for such specific ideas, only a general approach of and confidence in abstract, rational thought to make progress in the world. Such an approach could be implicit, or recognized only in the most general way. And partly it is because most of the people who did the work in specific technologies were not philosophical intellectuals who wrote about it, either at all or in such philosophical terms.

Someone like Napier, for example, didn't need to ponder the details of the general concept of ideas changing nature -- once he had an intellectually ambitious approach his specific work came naturally and was as easy as falling off a log. It would be interesting to know what he thought about it, but it isn't required to understand the intellectual causes of the Industrial Revolution and you may be going out on a limb or barking up the wrong tree. You could always try his biography.

To see if someone like Watt made explicit comments about the morality of capitalism you might try his biography. Likewise for a biography of Maxwell (though he came later, in the 19th century), who was more academic and may have made some philosophical statements. These biographies look interesting but I haven't read them.

A more general book with a big chapter on the era (which the author calls "The Age of Rationalism") and which contains a lot of historical quotes -- so it's more than just a chronology of technical achievements -- is Friederich Klemm's very interesting A History of Western Technology, MIT Press, 1964/pb1970. It mentions, for example, the crucial role of knowledge of science in Watt's engineering developments, but I don't recall if it has exactly what you are looking for or knot.

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