Naturalistes sans frontières
in Conquering nature in Spain and its empire, 1750–1850
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This chapter focuses in more detail on the figure of the naturalist in Spanish and Spanish American society. The possession and use of specialist equipment enhanced the accuracy and credibility of the naturalist's observations, forming an integral part of his professional identity. In the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, naturalists founded their professional identity not only on their possession of precision instruments, but also on their heroism and dedication. They portrayed themselves as martyrs to science who risked their lives in pursuit of knowledge. The chapter explores how practitioners of natural history conducted, presented and defined themselves in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and what stereotypes surrounded men of science in this period. It considers how far Spanish scholars subscribed to prevailing European conceptions of the heroic, self-sacrificing scientific explorer and where both creole savants and indigenous informants fitted within this rhetorical framework.

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