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Benjamin Franklin's Science

by I. Bernard Cohen

Benjamin Franklin is well known to most of us, yet his fundamental and wide-ranging contributions to science are still not adequately understood. Until now he has usually been incorrectly regarded as a practical inventor and tinkerer rather than a scientific thinker. He was elected to membership in the elite Royal Society because his experiments and original theory of electricity had made a science of that new subject. His popular fame came from his two lightning experimentsâe"the sentry-box experiment and the later and more famous experiment of the kiteâe"which confirmed his theoretical speculations about the identity of electricity and provided a basis for the practical invention of the lightning rod. Franklin advanced the eighteenth-century understanding of all phenomena of electricity and provided a model for experimental science in general. I. Bernard Cohen, an eminent historian of science and the principal elucidator of Franklinâe(tm)s scientific work, examines his activities in fields ranging from heat to astronomy. He provides masterful accounts of the theoretical background of Franklinâe(tm)s science (especially his study of Newton), the experiments he performed, and their influence throughout Europe as well as the United States. Cohen emphasizes that Franklinâe(tm)s political and diplomatic career cannot be understood apart from his scientific activities, which established his reputation and brought him into contact with leaders of British and European society. A supplement by Samuel J. Edgerton considers Franklinâe(tm)s attempts to improve the design of heating stoves, another practical application that arose from theoretical interests. This volume will be valuable to all readers wanting to learn more about Franklin and to gain a deeper appreciation of the development of science in America.

The Cambridge Companion to Newton

by I. Bernard Cohen George E. Smith

Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was one of the greatest scientists of all time, a thinker of extraordinary range and creativity who has left enduring legacies in mathematics and the natural sciences. In this volume a team of distinguished contributors examine all the main aspects of Newton's thought, including not only his approach to space, time, mechanics, and universal gravity in his Principia, his research in optics, and his contributions to mathematics, but also his more clandestine investigations into alchemy, theology, and prophecy, which have sometimes been overshadowed by his mathematical and scientific interests.

Science and the Founding Fathers: Science in the Political Thought of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and James Madison

by I. Bernard Cohen

General readers, students of American history, and professional historians alike will profit from reading this engaging presentation of an aspect of American history conspicuously absent from the usual textbooks and popular presentations of the political thought of this crucial period. Thomas Jefferson was the only president who could read and understand Newton's Principia. Benjamin Franklin is credited with establishing the science of electricity. John Adams had the finest education in science that the new country could provide, including "Pnewmaticks, Hydrostaticks, Mechanicks, Staticks, Opticks." James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution, peppered his Federalist Papers with reference to physics, chemistry, and the life sciences. For these men science was an integral part of life--including political life. This is the story of their scientific education and of how they employed that knowledge in shaping the political issues of the day, incorporating scientific reasoning into the Constitution.

The Triumph of Numbers: How Counting Shaped Modern Life

by I. Bernard Cohen

From the pyramids to mortality tables, Galileo to Florence Nightingale, a vibrant history of numbers and the birth of statistics. The great historian of science I. B. Cohen explores how numbers have come to assume a leading role in science, in the operations and structure of government, in marketing, and in many other aspects of daily life. Consulting and collecting numbers has been a feature of human affairs since antiquity--taxes, head counts for military service--but not until the Scientific Revolution in the twelfth century did social numbers such as births, deaths, and marriages begin to be analyzed. Cohen shines a new light on familiar figures such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles Dickens; and he reveals Florence Nightingale to be a passionate statistician. Cohen has left us with an engaging and accessible history of numbers, an appreciation of the essential nature of statistics.

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