Michael R Lynn

Sublime Invention

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Ballooning, like the Enlightenment, was a Europe-wide movement and a massive cultural phenomenon. Lynn argues that in order to understand the importance of science during the age of the Enlightenment and Atlantic revolutions, it is crucial to explain how and why ballooning entered and stayed in the public consciousness. By the end of the eighteenth century, scientific matters had come to occupy a significant place in people's lives at almost every level of society. Using balloons as a case study, Lynn traces the dissemination and appropriation of this new science up and down the social and economic scale, exploring the cultural importance of ballooning at the birth of large-scale, mass consumption of science. Spectacular by nature, ballooning has inspired historians to tell a few stories, but has not come under the intense scrutiny it deserves. Rather than simply narrate a chronology of discovery, this book offers a cultural and social analysis of ballooning over the first quarter century after their invention. There is a paradox at the centre of ballooning: on the one hand a mass popular culture emerged surrounding balloons, they captured the hearts and imagination of the entire continent and beyond and became a symbol of Enlightenment, state power, and scientific progress; on the other hand, they failed to fulfill their technological potential.
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416 printed pages

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