In Transit: European cosmologies in the Pacific


Professor Simon Schaffer
5 August, 2010

Professor Simon Schaffer

Astronomical interests prompted a series of entries by European travellers into the Pacific. In studies of the complex motives and effects of these expeditions, it has been common to treat astronomical interests either as rationales for more profound political and economic enterprise, or as of a strictly utilitarian character. Here the aim is to understand the cosmologies on which certain forms of European astronomy depended, and how the Pacific encounters changed and reoriented their meanings. These cosmologies embraced models of the globe and of its populations, and were very much in question in the patterns of interaction between Pacific peoples and other experts.

Simon Schaffer is a professor in the history of science at the University of Cambridge. He recently co-edited The mindful hand: inquiry and invention from the late Renaissance to early industrialisation (2007) and The brokered world: go-betweens and global intelligence 1770-1820 (2009). He holds a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to study the history of astronomy and British colonialism. He is principal investigator on a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to write a history of the Board of Longitude 1714-1828.

Professor Schaffer is a guest of the Sydney Sawyer Conference: The Atlantic World in the a Pacific Field at the University of Sydney.