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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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Publication of this work has been made possible by a generous grant from the Fundação para o Estudo e Desenvolvimento da Região de Aveiro (FEDRAVE). In Australia, research was supported by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Research Council. In Portugal, visits to local and foreign institutions benefitted from the support of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and the University of Aveiro Research Centre “Didactics and Technology in Teacher Education”.

A number of colleagues at the University of Melbourne – Dino Bressan, Gianluca Caputo, John Hajek, Peter McPhee, Colin Nettelbeck – helped resolve difficulties in transcribing or translating uncertain passages in various languages. Roger Scott, in particular, has been patience personified in identifying and translating passages written in Latin and Greek. Dr Carlos Mora from the University of Aveiro also helped with translations from Latin. Tom Darragh from the Melbourne Museum provided translations of material in German.

Scholars too numerous to acknowledge individually, from many parts of the world, drew our attention to relevant materials – including in some cases letters we had not previously known about – or helped clarify matters discussed in letters. The comprehensiveness of our edition, the accuracy of our transcriptions of unfamiliar terms and the richness of our annotations have benefitted greatly from such assistance. Anita McConnell, Gerard Turner and Robert Anderson were especially helpful in this regard and more generally in their encouragement of our efforts.

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