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British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment$
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Jan Golinski

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226302058

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226302065.001.0001

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Barometers of Enlightenment

Barometers of Enlightenment

(p.108) 4 Barometers of Enlightenment
British Weather and the Climate of Enlightenment
University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents a description on barometers of Enlightenment. Thermometers and barometers became the most widely circulated accessories of “polite science.” Among weather instruments, the barometer exerted a special fascination, because it appeared to be able to predict changes before they happened. It was generally seen as only dubiously trustworthy; it was regarded as liable to impose upon the gullible. The barometer became an instrument for studying the weather in the early 1660s. The barometer's unique appeal for consumers was as a luxury household object that was also a philosophical curiosity. The aura of feminine folly surrounding the barometer was directly connected with its use as a means of prediction. The barometer came to represent the limits of human knowledge as much as its triumphs, the less than universal reach of enlightened reason, and the troubling survival of beliefs and attitudes supposedly consigned to the past.

Keywords:   barometers, Enlightenment, polite science, weather prediction

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