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Journal Article

Science Becomes Electric: Dutch Interaction with the Electrical Machine during the Eighteenth Century

Lissa Roberts
Isis
Vol. 90, No. 4 (Dec., 1999), pp. 680-714
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/237656
Page Count: 35
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Science Becomes Electric: Dutch Interaction with the Electrical Machine during the Eighteenth Century
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Abstract

This essay explores the range of Dutch interaction with the electrical machine in terms of its identities and uses and in terms of the Dutch culture in which it sparked so much interest. Thanks largely to the relatively open borders of the Netherlands, Dutch eighteenth-century electrical science seems similar to its counterparts elsewhere, especially in Great Britain. But two characteristics of Dutch culture led to important differences. First, the long-standing existence of a market economy habituated the Dutch to the commodification of their culture, leaving them largely undisturbed by a blurred distinction between "serious" scientific demonstration and entertainment. Second, the Dutch perceived themselves to be suffering from economic and moral decline in the eighteenth century. To combat this double-faceted fall from grace, they recruited scientific demonstration as a vehicle for civic cooperation and amelioration. Even after revolution broke out in 1787, the Dutch maintained their moderate Enlightenment vision of the virtues of scientific drama and display.

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