This two-day workshop will focus on Scottish natural philosophy and mathematics, and their innovative developments between 1550 and 1750. The astronomical observatory James Gregory founded at the University of St Andrews in 1673, six years behind Paris, but two years ahead of Greenwich, is just one example of relevant institutional initiatives that were taking place in 17th-century Scotland.
However, despite the major shifts in scientific culture taking place elsewhere, traditional Scottish historiography of the period has been framed in terms of religious factions. The question of how scientific innovations flourished in this context has been little addressed.
To understand this question, there is a particular interest in mathematical practices related to measurement both in astronomy and in contexts such as navigation, surveying, cask gauging, grain measuring, and so on. Early modern professional gaugers and measurers were essentially authoritative mediators, often at the service of local authorities, powerful lords, or the crown itself, mediating between merchants, bankers, landowners, town dwellers, and public authorities.
Some apparently paradoxical processes of conceptual change in early modern mathematics, such as of ratio and proportionality, can only be understood by examining the mathematical collective tacit knowledge developed through practices with measuring instruments. Such instruments, and the associated practices, concepts, and books, circulated through networks of exchange.