Perception and analogy explores ways of seeing scientifically in the eighteenth century. It discusses literary, theological, and didactic texts alongside popular works on astronomy, optics, ophthalmology, and the body to demonstrate how readers are prompted to take on a range of perspectives in their acquisition of scientific knowledge. With reference to topics from colour perception to cataract surgery, the book examines how sensory experience was conceptualised during the eighteenth century. It argues that by paying attention to the period’s documentation of perception as an embodied phenomenon we can better understand the creative methods employed by disseminators of diverse natural philosophical ideas. This book argues for the central role of analogy in conceptualising and explaining new scientific ideas. It centres on religious and topographical poetry by writers including James Thomson, Richard Blackmore, Mark Akenside, Henry Brooke, David Mallet, Elizabeth Carter, and Christopher Smart. Together with its readings of popular educational dialogues on scientific topics, the book also addresses how this analogical approach is reflected in material culture through objects – such as orreries, camera obscuras, and Aeolian harps – that facilitate acts of perception and tactile engagement within polite spaces. The book shows how scientific concepts become intertwined with Christian discourse through reinterpretations of origins and signs, the scope of the created universe, and the limits of embodied knowledge.
Contingency of the Laws of Nature, trans. Fred Rothwell (Chicago: Open Court, 1916 ). 18 Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis, trans. William John Greenstreet (New York: Dover, 1952 ); Henri Poincaré, The Value of Science, trans. G. B. Halsted (New York: Dover, 1958). 19 Otto Neurath, “Prinzipielles zur Geschichte der Optik,” Archiv für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik 5 (1915): 371–89, translated and reprinted as “On the foundations of the history of optics,” in Empiricism and Sociology, trans. Paul Foulkes and Marie Neurath
Isaac Newton, ‘An Hypothesis Explaining the Properties of Light, Discoursed of in my Several Papers’, in A History of the Royal Society of London , ed. Thomas Birch, 4 vols (London: Millar, 1756–57), III, 248–305 (p. 262). A detailed account of Newton’s analogies is provided in Olivier Darrigol, ‘The analogy between light and sound in the history of optics from the Ancient Greeks to Isaac Newton: part 2’, Centaurus 52:3 (2010), 206–57 (pp. 230ff.). See also David Topper, ‘Newton on the number of colours in
all Nature by his wisdom, as he created it by his will, the Creature so subjected can’t possibly withstand the creating Power, and nothing to him is impossible’ (line 38n). 6 The analogy between the nervous system and the ‘sympathetic strings’ of the harp produces an image of correspondence that is akin to the Hartleian associationism. See Chapter 5 , pp. 233–42. 7 See Olivier Darrigol, A History of Optics from Greek Antiquity to the Nineteenth