Sounding in silence: men, machines and the changing environment of naval discipline, 1796-1815
British Journal for the History of Science
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Poskett, J. (2014). Sounding in silence: men, machines and the changing environment of naval discipline, 1796-1815. British Journal for the History of Science, 48 213-232. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087414000934
Logbooks and sea charts may appear as rather straightforward evidence to present at a naval court martial. However, their introduction into proceedings in the early nineteenth century reveals an important shift. Measuring the depth of water soon became a problem of both navigation and of discipline. Indeed, Captain Newcomb’s knowledge of the soundings taken at the Battle of the Basque Roads proved crucial at Lord Gambier’s court martial in June 1809. Through a case study of Edward Massey’s sounding machine, this paper reveals the close connection between disciplinary practices on land and at sea. The Board of Longitude acted as a key intermediary in this respect. By studying land and sea together, this paper better explains the changing make-up of the British scientific instrument trade in this period. Massey is just one example of a range of new entrants, many of whom had little previous experience of the maritime world. More broadly, this paper emphasises the role of both environmental history and material culture in the study of scientific instruments.
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087414000934
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/246193