European Science in the 1800s - Science in Europe
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European Science in the 1800s

boys and teachers in school
A British school in the 1800s

August 2016 - In the first half of the 1800s AD, countries in northern Europe like France and Britain were able to force India, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, and other countries to give them food, and many more people in northern Europe were able to stop farming and get an education. Families sent more boys to school than girls, so most of the educated people were men. This new crowd of scientists built on the work of the Enlightenment and on each others' work and figured out a lot of new things about how the world worked.

Other scientists were more interested in curing diseases like tuberculosis and cholera and malaria. Men like Louis Pasteur used microscopes and experiments to figure out what germs were and how they spread, and they showed the importance of drinking clean water and washing your hands. From this, people like Friedrich Wohler moved on to chemistry, figuring out how atoms combined to make molecules and how to make chemicals in a laboratory. Scientists also began to ask what atoms themselves were made of. Alessandro Volta built the first electric battery; James Maxwell figured out how electricity and magnetism and light related to each other; Marie Curie worked on radioactivity.

As the armies of France, Britain, and Germany travelled around the world forcing people to give them their food, scientists also got a chance to travel around the world with the armies. Many scientists got interested in the new places and people and animals they saw. Geographers and historians who travelled to Egypt with Napoleon and saw the Pyramids wanted to find out more about ancient Egypt. Franz Bopp realized that the Indian language Sanskrit was related to the other Indo-European languages. Charles Darwin travelled to the Galapagos Islands and figured out how evolution worked.

Meanwhile, most kids in the other countries had to work hard farming and couldn't go to school, so they couldn't learn about science or discover new things when they grew up.

Science in the United States

Bibliography and further reading about the history of science:

Renaissance Science
Early Modern Science
Enlightenment Science
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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