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For the Love of Science

The Correspondence of J. H. de Magellan (1722–1790), in two volumes

Roderick W. Home, Isabel M. Malaquias and Manuel F. Thomaz

From his base in late eighteenth-century London, J. H. de Magellan corresponded with leading scientists and others in many parts of Europe, informing them of developments in British science and technology in the early years of the Industrial and Agricultural Revolutions. Intelligent, ingenious and interested in everything going on around him, Magellan was deeply committed to the Enlightenment view that the benefits flowing from human ingenuity should be made available to all mankind. Well connected both socially and within the scientific community, he made it his business to keep himself well informed about the latest advances in science and technology, and to pass on what he learned. In this remarkable correspondence, the metaphorical Republic of Letters becomes real, offering us a fascinating new view of pan-European intellectual and scientific life. Major themes are developments in scientific instrumentation and in chemistry, and the spread of steam-engine technology from England to the rest of Europe. Ranging from Stockholm and St Petersburg to Spain, Portugal and Philadelphia, the list of Magellan’s correspondents is a roll-call of the scientific luminaries of the age.

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From Jean Chevalier1


Archives Nationales, Paris, MSS Marine 2 JJ 66, f. 112

Au 28. Avril on a decouvert par la deuxieme fois la Comete qu’on avoit perdû de vuë sur notre Orizont ici à Lisbone le 22 de ce mois. je l’ai observe le 29. & les jours suivants que le temps me l’eût permis, excepté le comencement de ce mois de Mai, oû le tems pluvieux & les brouillards m’ont empechè. elle a suivi presque la route que vous venez d’annoncer dans votre lettre de 30 Avril. hier [20. Mai] on la voioit encore à simple vuë sans lunete, & avoit aussi une quëue sensible: Je crois de la pouvoir observer à l’aide des Instruments assez long temps, au moins pendant grande partie du Mois de Juin. quand elle disparoitra tout à fait, j’aurai l’honneur de vous communiquer le resultat de mes observations. &a.

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