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Gunnery and the struggle for the new science (1537-1687)

France, Catherine Ann (2014) Gunnery and the struggle for the new science (1537-1687). PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This thesis re-examines the contribution of ballistics and gunnery to the emergence of modern science. It seeks to answer the question that inevitably emerges from A. R. Hall’s seminal Ballistics in the Seventeenth Century (1952): Why did early modern scientists and writers on gunnery include theoretical treatments of the trajectory of a gun in their works, despite the fact that it could be of no use to the practice of gunnery? Hall’s response to this perplexing question was simply that ballistic theory provided a scientific ‘veneer’ in support of attempts to gain patronage from rulers and military leaders who were anxious to gain an advantage in the new cannon warfare that played a crucial role in the development of the emerging European nation states from the end of the fifteenth century. Recent historiography, which has emphasised the role of etiquette and rhetoric in patronage relationships, has only served to bolster the credibility of Hall’s explanation, leading to an attenuation of the programme of the early modern writers who attempted to solve the mystery of the trajectory (‘the gunners’ question’). My thesis contends that, pace Hall, the struggle for the solution to the gunners’ question is paradigmatic for the resolution of unsolved issues in the history of science, and would aid substantially in delineating the role of mathematics and quantification not only in ballistics but in the transformation of natural enquiry into a recognisably modern enterprise. Whilst retaining the long-term chronological approach of Hall, my thesis re- examines in detail a number of central figures in the history of ballistics as historical actors, rather than focusing narrowly on theoretical results. This brings to the forefront their struggle to unite theory with practice and to persuade their audience of the necessity for a new approach to natural enquiry. Through a re-examination of key texts, the thesis attempts to uncover their wider programmatic aims. They all had in common a self-perception that they were involved in building a new science of motion that would lay certain foundations for practice, they sought commonalities in all the diverse domains of the natural and artificial world, and they recognised that this was the only route to new and certain knowledge.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Gunnery, Early Modern Science, War
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.638906
Depositing User: Ms Catherine France
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2015 10:29
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2018 13:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7912

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