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Scientific Instrument Society

Application for a research grant
The Scientific Instrument Society awards small grants for research on the history of scientific instruments. The grants are worth up to £500 each, and the Society will commit a maximum of £1500 in the calendar year. Grants may be used to cover any costs of research, including travel and photography. The grants are open to all applicants without restriction: both members and nonmembers may apply. Applications can be submitted at any time and will be reviewed by the Society’s Committee at its regular meetings throughout the year. The Committee’s decision is final. Applicants should complete the details in the table below (without being constrained by the current size of the boxes). Then email the completed form as an attachment to with the subject line “SIS grant application”. Name Institutional affiliation (if applicable) Status1 Address Email address Statement of project (maximum 250 words) An Instrument of Speculation? Attributing rationality to scientific instruments and their experts remains a common assumption in the historiography of pre-industrial England. Calling the period the ‘industrial enlightenment’, Joel Mokyr suggests that the circulation of ‘useful’ knowledge enabled improvement of otherwise imperfect instruments, thereby helping entrepreneurs to judge what business application would be feasible with available technologies. Larry Stewart also suggests that mechanical philosophers, thanks to their expertise, provided a ‘degree of security’ in the world of Koji Yamamoto (Mr) Department of History, University of York Ph.D candidate (third year)

speculative ventures. As Hume noted, however, reason was often found to be the slave of passions. Thus, I reconsider the attribution of rationality by an exhaustive survey of one of the most technologically advanced, and yet disastrously failed, ventures of the period: the Company of Mine Adventurers of England (fl. 16981711). The boxes of relevant manuscripts demand two weeks of intensive survey (see below). The Company’s publicity I have so far examined suggests that mechanical instruments and their experts were constantly called upon to lend credibility to unfounded promises of future profits. Therefore, I ask the following question in exploring the archive: did the demand of such publicity affect both 1) the experts’ assessment of the limits and defects of purportedly innovative air-pumps employed, and 2) the Company’s assessment of the integrity and competence of experts who supervised their operation? In doing so, my research clarifies how far the Company’s machines and experts, as well as the cognitive process involved, were the instruments of speculation rather than of enlightenment. £500 Archives: the West Glamorgan Archive Service (Access Points at Swansea and Neath) Sources to be consulted: Company minutes (1699-1707) and other relevant business letters, accounts, and inventories [RISW/GGF/17; RISW/Gn23; NAS/Gn/I2/1; NAS/GnI8/1-37] Provisional Date: 31 Mar. -12 Apr. 08 Total Expense Anticipated: £500.05 B&B (Swansea), 13 nights £ 260.00 (£20x13) Subsistence , 14 days £ 168.00 (£12x14) Train tickets £ 69.55 (York  Swansea, Saver Return with YPRC) Train tickets £ 3.00 (£1.50x2) (Swansea  Neath, Cheap Day Return with YPRC) 30 April 2008 A short paper to be published in the Bulletin Currently seeking a travel grant from the History Department, University of York

Sum applied for (maximum £500) Breakdown of costs

Projected completion date Form of final report2 Other sources of support


The following list is not exhaustive but the possibilities include registered student, post-doctoral researcher, university academic, museum curator, dealer and private individual. The main possibilities are a paper published in the Society’s Bulletin or a presentation at a Society meeting. If you envisage an alternative report, please specify.