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Where Are They Now, Science Edition: The Voyager Spacecrafts

voyages of scientific exploration

Our desire to wonder about and explore the universe is ancient and endless. Even prehistoric cave art , in many cases, contains evidence of human curiosity about the cosmos. On the other hand, space travel is an extremely new phenomenon for us here on planet Earth, cosmically speaking. 

NASA’s Voyager program is one of the most important instances of space exploration in the long history of that very ancient human desire. When NASA sent Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 out in the 1970s, the mission was simple: explore Jupiter, Saturn and the moons of those two planets. The probes were originally designed to last just five years. And yet today, 45 years after they were launched, they’re still hurtling through interstellar space, at a greater distance than human-made objects have ever been from Earth. How is that possible, and why is it important?

The Amazing Optimism of Voyager and the Golden Record

Despite the initial plan to explore just Jupiter and Saturn, the folks who planned the Voyager mission did have larger goals than that in mind. For one thing, four planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — were in an alignment that only happens once every 175 years , allowing for the possibility of low-energy travel to those planets by the Voyagers. Eventually, scientists hoped that the twin probes would be able to explore the outer reaches of the solar system.

However, there was another part of the Voyager project that was even more optimistic than the hope of exploring interstellar space. A committee chaired by the famous astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan put together a special golden phonograph record that was affixed to each of the Voyager probes. This record, it was hoped, could be interpreted by intelligent life elsewhere in the universe — should any intelligent life actually exist and happen upon it.

voyages of scientific exploration

Encoded in its grooves, the Golden Record contains images, sounds, greetings and — most famously — 90 minutes of music deemed representative of human life on Earth. The music includes everything from Bach to Senegalese drums to Peruvian panpipes to “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry. It’s like a mixtape for the extraterrestrial lifeforms we hope, someday, to finally meet; it’s the ultimate time capsule.

Sagan and the other scientists working on the Voyager mission were aware that the likelihood of this record being found — and understood — by extraterrestrial life was nearly zero, but they put together the Golden Record anyway. I love the optimism of that. The Golden Record, most wonderfully, contains on its surface pictorial instructions about the origins of the spacecraft and about how to play a phonograph record. The act of sending out this record is an example of humanity at its best — reaching out to the unknown with both benevolence and hope. 

Images From Voyager & the “Pale Blue Dot”

Voyager 2 was actually the first of the probes to be launched. It set off on August 20, 1977, and  was set to complete fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune on its way out of the solar system. Voyager 1 was launched on September 5, 1977, and was set to complete a fly-by of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons. From there, it would continue on beyond the limits of the solar system.

voyages of scientific exploration

Through the Deep Space Network (DSN), the Voyagers were able to send back pictures and other data gathered during their journeys. While the photos of the planets are amazing images that have led to a much deeper understanding of our solar system, the most famous image is called “ Family Portrait of the Solar System ” — a composite of 60 images Voyager 1 took in 1990 before the programmers permanently shut off its camera to conserve energy. 

voyages of scientific exploration

This image became known as the “Pale Blue Dot,” the name Carl Sagan gave to the tiny speck of light in the image that represents Earth. That image was incredibly powerful ; it was the first time humanity had ever been able to look at our planet from so far away. Even now, it’s a reminder that we’re all connected, both here on our tiny planet and in the midst of a huge solar system in an infinite universe.

Other Voyager Milestones Over the Years

After the cameras turned off, the Voyagers continued into deeper space , far past the last planetary bodies in our solar system. In February of 1998, over two decades after it was launched, Voyager 1 had moved farther from Earth than Pioneer 10, making it the farthest object from Earth in space.

In December of 2004 (Voyager 1) and August of 2007 (Voyager 2), the Voyagers crossed the termination shock , which is basically the beginning of the ending of our sun’s influence in space. Then, in 2012 (Voyager 1) and 2018 (Voyager 2), they went even further, crossing the heliopause — the end of the influence of our sun — and finally reaching interstellar space. 

voyages of scientific exploration

A few years ago, before the pandemic, we were all getting wrapped up in Mars Rover fever and saying goodbye and goodnight to that sweet robot in space. I found myself thinking about the Voyagers then, too. They’re way out there, quietly winding their way through the cosmos, carrying with them data we imagined, once upon a time, might signify the best we had to offer. They’re still pinging back data dutifully, too — teaching us about the universe and making us realize how little we actually know.

Where Are They Now?

Sometimes, years go by and we don’t hear much about the Voyagers. When I was a kid, I did my big seventh grade history project on the Voyager mission. I remember writing a letter to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), asking if they might be able to send me some pictures and information in the mail. They did. That was over 20 years ago, and even then it felt like the Voyagers had already been gone for a lifetime. 

voyages of scientific exploration

Recently though, Voyager popped back up in the news cycle. It turns out Voyager 1 is sending back data that doesn’t quite make sense. In fact, while NASA says that the antenna that sends back data to Earth is still working, “the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the [system] could be in.”

It’s not easy for NASA to communicate with the Voyagers. Voyager 1 is so far away at this point — 14.5 billion miles! — that it takes two full days for a single message to get sent back and forth. However, there have been some surprising solutions. For example, back in 2017, when Voyager 1’s primary thrusters became degraded, the engineers managed to switch to backup thrusters that hadn’t been used in 37 years. Miraculously, the backups worked. 

In the end though, the power on Voyagers 1 and 2 won’t last forever. The engineers are still working on finding ways of keeping the Voyagers transmitting beyond 2025. At this stage, all of the scientific functions on board are still working. Someday though, the Voyagers will stop transmitting. But even then, the Golden Records ensure that the Voyagers always lend us the same optimism we sent them out with all those years ago. Will intelligent life ever find them? It’ll probably never happen, but one thing the Voyagers have taught me is we just never know. 


voyages of scientific exploration

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The Bark, Earl of Pembroke, later Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768. Thomas Luny, 1790.

A journey of exploration

Key inquiry questions • What were the aims of Britain's first voyage of exploration? • How were scientific investigations conducted? Cook's First Voyage of Exploration Cook's first voyage was a voyage of scientific discovery borne out of the scientific and philosophical thinking of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a European intellectual and cultural movement that questioned the church's beliefs by seeking truth in science and reason during the 17th and 18th centuries.  The voyage on board Her Majesty's Bark Endeavour (1768-1771) was a combined Royal Navy (the Admiralty) and Royal Society of London (civilian) expedition of the South Pacific for scientific advancement. Departing Plymouth in August 1768 the voyage's first goal was to record the transit of Venus in June 1769. Joseph Banks and his team of scientists, artists and servants joined the voyage with the second goal of observing and recording natural history. The third and undisclosed goal was to go in search of Terra Australis Incognita, the Great South Land and ‘with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain'. Cook went on two further voyages of discovery, the second with two ships Resolution and Adventure to continue the search for the unknown southern continent. This voyage saw Cook sail over 100,000 km and cross over the Antarctic Circle, reaching 71°10'S, further south than any ship before. On his third and final voyage he went in search of a great north west passage, one that would prove profitable for British trade. Sailing the Resolution and accompanied by the Charles Clerke commanding the Discovery , Cook was unsuccessful. The journey ended with his death in Hawaii on February 14, 1779 from conflict with the Hawaiian people. Question: Why were the instructions to search for the Great Southern Continent kept secret? Working scientifically The scientists onboard HMB Endeavour engaged in scientific thinking and process in their pursuit of knowledge. Charles Green brought new technologies and ideas in hopes to successfully record the transit of Venus and Joseph Banks was accompanied by Daniel Solander who worked with the Linnaeus classification system to group the new plants and animals they encountered. In exploring the Pacific, Cook and Banks made detailed observations in journals and Endeavour 's artists sketched and painted the new world as a record of their discoveries. A scientific approach to promote the health of sailors saw Cook test new ideas for the prevention and treatment of scurvy, a disease that led to the death of up to two million sailors up to the 18C. Question: How do we work and think scientifically?

Main image: The Bark, Earl of Pembroke, later Endeavour, leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768. Thomas Luny, 1790 .

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Voyages of Discovery

For centuries, explorers had been funded by their governments and by private investors to set out into unknown parts of the world. Many of these adventures were driven by the potential for profit and resources. Some sought to secure new strategic locations for trade routes and defence. Others aimed to spread religious influence. During the Enlightenment, more and more voyages into the ‘New World’ were driven by scientific forces. These voyages were not only looking to discover new lands, but to learn about them.

Travel by sea became safer and more efficient as the 18th century progressed, thanks to technological and scientific advancements in navigation and cartography , and a better understanding of the prevention and treatment of diseases like scurvy . This allowed ships to sail further, faster and with reduced morbidity and mortality of its crew. 

Sept 7, 1778 Every innovation whatever, tho ever so much to their advantage, is sure to meet the highest disapprobation from Seamen: Portable Soup and SourKrout were at first condemned by them as stuff not fit for human beings to eat. Few men have introduced into their ships more novelties in the way of victuals and drink than I have done. It has, however, in a great measure been owing to such little innovations that I have always kept my people generally speaking free from that dreadful distemper of Scurvy. (Cook's Journal: third voyage)

etching of the Endeavour in  Botany Bay

Ingleton, Geoffrey C. (Geoffrey Chapman) 1908-1998. (1937).  H.M. Bark Endeavour [picture] / Geoffrey C. Ingleton . http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135348965

cross section of the Endeavour

Adams, Dennis, 1914-2001. (1970).  [Endeavour, below decks] [picture] / Dennis Adams . http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-136065213

photograph of differently sized barrels labelled with various foodstuffs

Terry, Michael, 1899-1981. (1969).  Exhibition display showing the quantity and type of supplies onboard the Endeavour, Gisborne, New Zealand, 1969 / Michael Terry . http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-241592478

The major European powers were engaged in a simmering academic contest to be the first to explore and chart the unknown places of the world. Between 1765 and 1795, the British, French, Russian and Spanish governments dispatched over 20 scientific voyages between them. 

Some European Voyages of Discovery 1765–1795*

  • 1764–66 : HMS Dolphin
  • 1766–68 : HMS Dolphin and HMS Swallow
  • 1766 : HMS Niger
  • 1766–69 : La Boudeuse and L'Étoile
  • 1768–71 : HMS Endeavour
  • 1771–72 : Isle de France and Le Nécessaire
  • 1772 : Sir Lawrence
  • 1772–75 : HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure
  • 1771–72 : La Fortune and Le Gros-Ventre
  • 1773–74 : Le Roland and L'Oiseau
  • 1773–74: HMS Racehorse and HMS Carcass
  • 1776–80: HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery
  • 1785–88: La Boussole and L'Astrolabe
  • 1785–88 HMS King George
  • 1785–94: Slava Rossii
  • 1790–91: La Solide
  • 1789–94: Descubierta and Atrevida
  • 1791–94: La Recherche and L'Espérance
  • 1791–93: HMS Providence
  • 1791–95: HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham

*Voyages in  bold denote Cook's voyages

*Voyages in  bold denote Cook's voyages

To prevent them being intercepted by international rivals, on returning to England in 1771 Captain Cook was urged to :

send to our Secretary, for our information, accounts of your Proceedings, and Copys of the Surveys and drawings you shall have made. And upon your Arrival in England you are immediately to repair to this Office in order to lay before us a full account of your Proceedings in the whole Course of your Voyage, taking care before you leave the Vessel to demand from the Officers and Petty Officers the Log Books and Journals they may have Kept, and to seal them up for our inspection, and enjoyning them, and the whole Crew, not to divulge where they have been until they shall have Permission so to do.

watercolour of Avacha Bay

Ellis, William Wade, 1751-1785. (1779).  [View in Avacha Bay, Kamchatka] [picture] / W.W. Ellis fect . http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-134491602

painting of a ship amongst ice

Webber, John, 1752-1793. Views in the South Seas. (1809).  The Resolution beating through the ice, with the Discovery in the most eminent [sic] danger in the distance [picture] / J. Webber fecit . http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-135773713  

Many of the great scientific voyages of the Enlightenment era included scientists, botanists , doctors and other experts in a range of fields. They made meteorological , hydrological and geographical observations, and many brought back to Europe specimens of newly discovered flora and fauna. This stimulated great advances in a number of scientific disciplines, including botany , zoology , ichthyology , conchology , taxonomy , medicine, geography, geology, mineralogy, hydrology, oceanography , physics and meteorology.

voyages of scientific exploration

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Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this website contains a range of material which may be considered culturally sensitive including the records of people who have passed away.

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Robert Brown and Mungo Park pp 5–13 Cite as

Scientific Exploration During Voyages of Discovery

  • Joel Schwartz 4  
  • First Online: 05 August 2021

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Part of the Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden book series (MNYBG,volume 122)

The age of exploration developed from scientific discoveries that took place in England’s two great universities, Cambridge and Oxford. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the study of geography helped generate the growth of new ideas. Advances in mathematical geography and cartography fed the scientific revolution and spurred naturalists to take part in voyages of discovery, allowing them to collect many species of flora and fauna hitherto unknown in the developed world. The work of England’s foremost mathematical geographer, Edward Wright (1561–1615), and the contributions of mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, Thomas Harriot (1560–1621), aided nautical exploration by putting the theoretical information they learned to practical use in navigation. Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820) stood out among naturalist-voyagers. He made several important voyages on his own before his presence as naturalist on Cook’s first epic journey; his travels on H.M.S. Endeavour (1768–71) helped prepare several young naturalists in botanical exploration. Banks helped shape the development of botany, earth science, art, horticulture, and other aspects of English science and culture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries after his voyage on the Endeavour . His experience on the Endeavour , particularly the botanical investigations and the information spawned by the naturalists, artists, draftsmen, and collectors serving under him, the herbarium and library he assembled upon his return, and his relationship with Kew Gardens (“the King’s Garden”), the first botanic garden in Europe, were some of the gains realized by this and other voyages of exploration.

  • Mathematical geography
  • Cartography
  • H.M.S. Endeavour
  • Horticulture
  • Naturalist-voyagers
  • Edward Wright (1561–1615)
  • Thomas Harriot (1560–1621)
  • Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820)

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Most of Harriot’s original work was lost, but some of it was reproduced in Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations 3 vols. (London 1598 – 1600). This work incorporates an account of the Virginia expedition, A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (London, 1588).

Tony Rice discusses these explorations in his Voyages of Discovery: Three Centuries of Natural History Exploration (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1999 [For the Natural History Museum of London]. Also see Diane Welebit’s note, “The ‘Wondrous Transformations’ of Maria Sibylla Merian,” for Garden [Publication of the New York Botanical Gardens], March/April 1988, 11–13.

Tony Rice. Voyages of Discovery , p. 14. Also a brief but useful discussion of this aspect of Linnaeus’s character is in Bil Gilbert’s “The Obscure Fame of Carl Linnaeus,” Audubon 86 (September 1984), 102–114.

Londa L. Schiebinger indicates that “Sir Hans Sloane at one end of the eighteenth century [chocolate trade] and Sir Joseph Banks at the other joined economic ventures to botanical exploration.” She describes what she calls “applied botany” as “an essential part of the projection of military might into the resource-rich East and West Indies,” crucial in “colonizing efforts in tropical climates,” Plants and Empire. Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (Cambridge Mass. and London, England: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 5. Toby and Will Musgrave indicate that Banks understood the economic importance of collecting and studying “the flora of Britain’s colonial heritage,” but it “was mixed with a desire to preserve the ecosystems in which they flourished,” An Empire of Plants: People and Plants that Changed the World (London: Cassell & Co., 2000) . Banks was particularly concerned about the wholesale “felling of the cinchona trees for their valuable bark,” p. 7. Nigel Rigby reviews how Banks as a young naturalist on the Endeavour was not so much “fascinated” by the “domestication of the wilderness, nor its benefits to the Tahitians, nor even the extension of England’s imperium, but whether the planting would succeed.” Later on, “as the effective director of Kew Gardens Botanic Gardens, Banks would later become deeply involved in the global transportation of live plants and seed, and a powerful supporter of using botanical science within an imperial context, but at this point in his career he is posing purely practical questions: whether the seeds have survived the ocean voyage.” It could be argued that Brown was very much like the young Banks and would remain so, particularly later on when he was deeply concerned about the safe transport of what he collected back to Britain. “The Politics and Pragmatics of Seaborne Plant Transportation, 1769 – 1805,” pp. 81 – 100, in Science and Exploration in the Pacific European Voyages to the Southern Oceans in the Eighteenth Century Margarette Lincoln, ed. (Woodbridge, Suffolk and Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press in Association with the National Maritime Museum, 1998), p. 84.

Patrick O’Brian. Joseph Banks, A Life (Boston: David R. Godine, 1993), p. 65.

Lucile L. Brockway refers to Banks as the “unofficial founding father of Kew Gardens” in her comprehensive study of Kew, Science and Colonial Expansion. The Role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens (New York: Academic Press, 1979), p. 64. Brockway indicates that “the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, directed and staffed by eminent figures in the British scientific establishment, served as a control center which regulated the flow of botanical information.” She indicates, “This botanic information was of great commercial importance, especially in regard to the tropical plantation crops, one of the sources of wealth of the Empire,” p. 7. Toby and Will Musgrave in An Empire of Plants also refer to Banks as the “unofficial director of the Royal Gardens.” They explain that because King George III and Banks shared a passion for plants, Banks was able to convince the King to have a place to research and record the entire flora of Britain’s colonies, i.e., Kew Gardens, p. 149.

Joseph Dalton Hooker, Journal of the Right Honourable Sir Joseph Banks made during Captain Cook’s First Voyage on H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768–71 to Terra del Fuego, Otahite, New Zealand, Australia, the Dutch East Indies (London and New York: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., 1896).

The only twentieth-century printing, done in black ink, used 30 of the original plates and was published in a limited edition of 100 copies, in 1973. In the 1970s, the British firm Alecto decided to take on the task of printing from the surviving 738 original plates, the collection named Banks’ Florilegium . The New York Botanical Garden has a set as well (set # 3). In addition to the vast botanical material—Banks and Solander had brought back over a thousand different species of plants unknown in Europe at the time, including 17,000 different individual plants—Banks gathered a wealth of information on animals. His lists of the arthropod species he collected while on the Endeavour were useful to early investigators. The botanical illustrations drawn by Parkinson supplemented the living material. Jonas Dryander’s catalogue of drawings in Banks’s library and Solander’s notes on the voyage were additional help in sorting through the collections Banks brought back. Ann Botshon’s brief summary of the fate of Banks’s project is in her note, “Banks’ Florilegium,” Garden , November/December 1981, 14 – 17.

Published in Edward Smith’s The Life of Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society with some notices of his friends and contemporaries (London and New York: John Lane Company, 1911), pp. 25 – 26, f.n. 1. When Banks gave up the opportunity of serving as a naturalist on another voyage for Cook, he was a very arrogant and difficult young man Andrea Wulf observes in her study of the early pioneers of exploration in natural history, The Brother Gardeners, Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009). She indicates that Banks over time mellowed and learned to curb his temper and be more diplomatic.

Alexander von Humboldt. Cosmos. A Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe . Translated by Elise C. Otte, 2 vols. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). Andrea Wulf indicates in The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015) that Humboldt was a product of the German Enlightenment and investigated every natural component of the New World.

Charles H. Smith indicates that Humboldt’s written work not only inspired Alfred Russel Wallace to conduct voyages of exploration in natural history but also allowed him to embrace Humboldt’s methods of carefully examining scientific phenomena in developing scientific laws. “Alfred Russel Wallace note 8: Wallace’s earliest exposures to the writings of Alexander von Humboldt,” Archives of Natural History 45(2) (2018): 366 – 369, 366.

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Schwartz, J. (2021). Scientific Exploration During Voyages of Discovery. In: Robert Brown and Mungo Park. Memoirs of The New York Botanical Garden, vol 122. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-74859-3_2

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The Age of Discovery

Voyages of exploration and science.

About 650 years ago, European explorers turned to the sea to find faster trade routes to cities in Asia and Europe. Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal recognized the oceans’ importance to trade and commerce and he established a center of learning for the marine sciences. You could think of it as the first oceanographic institution. Mariners came to the center in Sagres, Portugal, to learn about the oceans and currents and how to make maps. These early maps provided the basis for important expeditions. In the late 1400s, Cristopher Columbus became the first European to sail westward across the Atlantic Ocean and return home. In the early 1500s Ferdinand Magellan sailed all the way around, or circumnavigated, the globe.

In the early 1700s, several European countries (mainly Spain, France and Britain) sought to expand their empires and discover new lands for raw materials, colonies or trade, and for spices from the East Indies, which they believed would help cure the Plague. They launched expeditions to survey faraway lands across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in doing so also explored the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans.

One of the most famous voyages of discovery of this time began in 1768 when the HMS Endeavour left Portsmouth, England, under the command of Captain James Cook. Over 10 years Cook led three world-encircling expeditions and mapped many countries, including Australia, New Zealand and the Hawaiian Islands. He was an expert seaman, navigator and scientist who made keen observations wherever he went. He was also one of the first ship captains to recognize that a lack of Vitamin C in sailors’ diets (due mostly to a lack of fresh fruit) caused scurvy, a serious disease that killed many sailors in those times. Cook always sailed with lots of pickled cabbage, which he insisted that the sailors eat. Scurvy was never a problem on his ships because the cabbage contained lots of Vitamin C.

In 1728, John Harrison, a British cabinetmaker and inventor, started working on an important instrument to aid seafarers navigating across large areas of ocean, far away from land or coastlines. At the time, pendulum clocks kept time. Obviously, these clocks did not work well on a ship on the rolling ocean! In 1736, after years of work, Harrison invented a clock that used a spring instead of a pendulum. It was the first marine chronometer, an instrument that could give accurate time on a rolling ship. With it, sailors could figure out how far east or west they had gone from 0° Longitude, or the prime meridian, and what longitude they were sailing past. By 1761, Harrison had built four clocks, each better than the one before. The last clock was tested on a voyage between England and Jamaica, and it kept excellent time. It ran only about 5 seconds slow per day, and the ship steered a clear course to Jamaica, a true feat in those days.

Painting of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator. Magellan was the first European explorer to cross the Pacific Ocean and the first to sail around the world. The painting is in the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, Italy. (Public Domain)

Photos of Harrison’s chronometers kindly provided by the National Maritime Museum , Greenwich, London.

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Mathematical practice and the 18th-century british voyages of scientific exploration.

Dr Rebekah Higgitt

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The event will focus upon mathematical expeditions, outlining how the use of mathematics has been instrumental to the success of historical voyages of exploration. 

The main speaker, Professor Ana Simões, will discuss A Global History of the Eclipse of 29 May 1919 (6pm). This will be preceded by shorter presentations by Dr Stephen Johnson on Privateer and Mathematician: the Voyages of Edward Wright (4pm) and by Dr Rebekah Higgitt on Mathematical Practice and 18th-Century British Voyages of Scientific Exploration (4:45pm).

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Rebekah is a Senior Lecturer at the School of History, University of Kent.

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The Oxford History of the British Empire: Volume III: The Nineteenth Century

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14 Scientific Exploration and Empire

  • Published: October 1999
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Throughout the nineteenth century, Britain sustained a programme of scientific exploration linked directly with her Imperial and trading interests. It played an important role both in shaping and expressing her culture. Although official commitment to exploration remained sporadic and efforts were rarely systematic, the continuity of British exploration is striking, and its purpose and style remained remarkably consistent. A discussion on the organization of exploration is offered. It also examines the styles, methods, and impacts of the explorers. Exploration and the British Empire sprang from the same motives and mutually supported each other in defining, exploiting, and acquiring territory. Yet during the Victorian heyday of British expansion, science and Empire reached their most perfect congruence in the activity of exploration, an acquisitive quest for knowledge that conferred power over new territories while sculpting metropolitan culture to support its use.

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