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Trying Leviathan [electronic resource] : the nineteenth-century New York court case that put the whale on trial and challenged the order of nature /
D. Graham Burnett.
imprint
Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2007.
description
xiv, 266 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), col. maps ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0691129509 (hardcover : alk. paper), 9780691129501 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
More Details
imprint
Princeton : Princeton University Press, c2007.
isbn
0691129509 (hardcover : alk. paper)
9780691129501 (hardcover : alk. paper)
restrictions
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
contents note
Common sense -- The philosophical whale -- Naturalists in the crow's nest -- Men of affairs -- The jury steps out.
catalogue key
9904894
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 225-245) and index.
A Look Inside
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
New York City Book Awards, USA, 2007 : Won
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"Graham Burnett's pathbreaking book teems with lively accounts of a notorious legal conflict between different kinds of people and different kinds of knowledge played out in New York in the early years of the nineteenth century. Disputes like these vividly illuminate the preoccupations of past societies and make us more conscious of our own. An important and thoroughly engaging book."--Janet Browne, author of "Charles Darwin: The Power of Place""'Is a whale a fish?' Melville famously wrestled with the question in Moby-Dick, but as Graham Burnett reveals in "Trying Leviathan," the question had already been argued in--of all places--a Manhattan courtroom in 1818. In addition to providing a fascinating and provocative look at the relationship between science and culture in early nineteenth-century New York, Burnett writes eloquently about how the whalemen regarded their mysterious and awe-inspiring prey. This is a fun, surprising, and, in the best sense, challenging book."--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of "In the Heart of the Sea"""Trying Leviathan" recounts a remarkable collision of science and law in a New York City courtroom in 1818. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens. A compelling, provocative work."--Daniel Kevles, Yale University"In this irresistible narrative, full of fascinating characters, Graham Burnett has given us a brilliant, imaginative, often amusing, wonderfully realized study that brings together questions of epistemology, the relation of observation to theory, the era's worship of nature andsimultaneous commercial exploitation of it, claims of class to intellectual authority, and the relation of expertise to democracy."--Thomas Bender, New York University"I can't remember reading a more intelligent and well-written book than Graham Burnett's "Trying Leviathan," He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book."--Richard Ellis, author of "Men and Whales""Burnett shows the conflicted heart of nineteenth-century American science by looking at the complicated, amusing, and well-publicized trial of Maurice v. Judd, in which the question at stake was whether a whale is a fish. This makes a fascinating story, Burnett writes uncommonly well, and the final chapter is one of the most interesting pieces on popular science that I have ever read. "Trying Leviathan" is a powerful and brilliant addition to the history of American science and culture."--James Gilbert, University of Maryland
Flap Copy
"Graham Burnett's pathbreaking book teems with lively accounts of a notorious legal conflict between different kinds of people and different kinds of knowledge played out in New York in the early years of the nineteenth century. Disputes like these vividly illuminate the preoccupations of past societies and make us more conscious of our own. An important and thoroughly engaging book."--Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place "'Is a whale a fish?' Melville famously wrestled with the question in Moby-Dick, but as Graham Burnett reveals in Trying Leviathan , the question had already been argued in--of all places--a Manhattan courtroom in 1818. In addition to providing a fascinating and provocative look at the relationship between science and culture in early nineteenth-century New York, Burnett writes eloquently about how the whalemen regarded their mysterious and awe-inspiring prey. This is a fun, surprising, and, in the best sense, challenging book."--Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea " Trying Leviathan recounts a remarkable collision of science and law in a New York City courtroom in 1818. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens. A compelling, provocative work."--Daniel Kevles, Yale University "In this irresistible narrative, full of fascinating characters, Graham Burnett has given us a brilliant, imaginative, often amusing, wonderfully realized study that brings together questions of epistemology, the relation of observation to theory, the era's worship of nature and simultaneous commercial exploitation of it, claims of class to intellectual authority, and the relation of expertise to democracy."--Thomas Bender, New York University "I can't remember reading a more intelligent and well-written book than Graham Burnett's Trying Leviathan . He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book."--Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales "Burnett shows the conflicted heart of nineteenth-century American science by looking at the complicated, amusing, and well-publicized trial of Maurice v. Judd, in which the question at stake was whether a whale is a fish. This makes a fascinating story, Burnett writes uncommonly well, and the final chapter is one of the most interesting pieces on popular science that I have ever read. Trying Leviathan is a powerful and brilliant addition to the history of American science and culture."--James Gilbert, University of Maryland
Flap Copy
"Graham Burnetts pathbreaking book teems with lively accounts of a notorious legal conflict between different kinds of people and different kinds of knowledge played out in New York in the early years of the nineteenth century. Disputes like these vividly illuminate the preoccupations of past societies and make us more conscious of our own. An important and thoroughly engaging book."-- Janet Browne, author of Charles Darwin: The Power of Place "'Is a whale a fish?' Melville famously wrestled with the question in Moby-Dick, but as Graham Burnett reveals in Trying Leviathan , the question had already been argued in--of all places--a Manhattan courtroom in 1818. In addition to providing a fascinating and provocative look at the relationship between science and culture in early nineteenth-century New York, Burnett writes eloquently about how the whalemen regarded their mysterious and awe-inspiring prey. This is a fun, surprising, and, in the best sense, challenging book."-- Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea " Trying Leviathan recounts a remarkable collision of science and law in a New York City courtroom in 1818. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens. A compelling, provocative work."-- Daniel Kevles, Yale University "In this irresistible narrative, full of fascinating characters, Graham Burnett has given us a brilliant, imaginative, often amusing, wonderfully realized study that brings together questions of epistemology, the relation of observation to theory, the eras worship of nature and simultaneous commercial exploitation of it, claims of class to intellectual authority, and the relation of expertise to democracy."-- Thomas Bender, New York University "I can't remember reading a more intelligent and well-written book than Graham Burnett's Trying Leviathan . He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book."-- Richard Ellis, author of Men and Whales "Burnett shows the conflicted heart of nineteenth-century American science by looking at the complicated, amusing, and well-publicized trial of Maurice v. Judd, in which the question at stake was whether a whale is a fish. This makes a fascinating story, Burnett writes uncommonly well, and the final chapter is one of the most interesting pieces on popular science that I have ever read. Trying Leviathan is a powerful and brilliant addition to the history of American science and culture."-- James Gilbert, University of Maryland
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2007-10-01:
It's science itself that was put on trial in 1818 in a dispute over a $75 inspection fee, as related in this fascinating account. Burdick (Masters of All They Surveyed), director of Princeton's history of science program, illuminates the convergence of commerce, science and shifting views of the natural world and human exploitation of it. The case of Maurice v. Judd arose from merchant Samuel Judd's refusal to pay the inspector's fee on three casks of spermaceti oil, claiming inspection was required only for fish oil, not whale oil. The jury heard the case in a "gloriously feisty public forum" as the Linnaean classification system was debated, with Samuel Latham Mitchill, a local "patriarch of natural history," testifying that the whale was indeed not a fish. The plaintiff's lawyers argued against a system that said whales, monkeys and humans were related, and raised the threat to civil order if scientists were allowed to interpret legal statutes. Burnett's look at the trial and its fallout adds a historical dimension to debates caused by science's role in the legal sphere, especially when it introduces new concepts. 16 pages of color illus., 19 b&w illus. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Reviews
Review Quotes
As D. Graham Burnett notes in his curious new history,Trying Leviathan, ...[t]he vast majority of American not only assumed that a whale was a fish, but were surprised to learn that the question could be debated. ...Burnett describes the trial with the keen eye of an informed courtroom observer...
"As D. Graham Burnett notes in his curious new history, Trying Leviathan , ...[t]he vast majority of American not only assumed that a whale was a fish, but were surprised to learn that the question could be debated. ...Burnett describes the trial with the keen eye of an informed courtroom observer..."-- Alexander Nazaryan, The Village Voice
As D. Graham Burnett notes in his curious new history, Trying Leviathan , ...[t]he vast majority of American not only assumed that a whale was a fish, but were surprised to learn that the question could be debated. ...Burnett describes the trial with the keen eye of an informed courtroom observer... -- Alexander Nazaryan, The Village Voice
As D. Graham Burnett notes in his curious new history,Trying Leviathan, ...[t]he vast majority of American not only assumed that a whale was a fish, but were surprised to learn that the question could be debated. ...Burnett describes the trial with the keen eye of an informed courtroom observer... -- Alexander Nazaryan, The Village Voice
At once bewitching and bookish, with a Dickensian cast of characters (including a sea captain named Preserved Fish),Trying Leviathanbristles with insights about the relationships between popular belief, democracy, science and the law that resonate with contemporary controversies over Darwinism and intelligent design.
"At once bewitching and bookish, with a Dickensian cast of characters (including a sea captain named Preserved Fish), Trying Leviathan bristles with insights about the relationships between popular belief, democracy, science and the law that resonate with contemporary controversies over Darwinism and intelligent design."-- Glenn C. Altschuler, New York Observer
At once bewitching and bookish, with a Dickensian cast of characters (including a sea captain named Preserved Fish), Trying Leviathan bristles with insights about the relationships between popular belief, democracy, science and the law that resonate with contemporary controversies over Darwinism and intelligent design. -- Glenn C. Altschuler, New York Observer
At once bewitching and bookish, with a Dickensian cast of characters (including a sea captain named Preserved Fish),Trying Leviathanbristles with insights about the relationships between popular belief, democracy, science and the law that resonate with contemporary controversies over Darwinism and intelligent design. -- Glenn C. Altschuler, New York Observer
Burnett has a lot of fun with the trial and notes that it's not only scientists who speak a foreign language.
"Burnett has a lot of fun with the trial and notes that it's not only scientists who speak a foreign language."-- Roger Gathman, Austin American Statesman
Burnett has a lot of fun with the trial and notes that it's not only scientists who speak a foreign language. -- Roger Gathman, Austin American Statesman
Burnett has given us a splendid example of how to wring the historical juice from a legal case. . . . Burnett enjoys himself in writing this book, and his editors have generously indulged his style (and his footnotes). Readers should settle back and roll with the flourishes, rather than yearn for the sparse, utilitarian narrative of a whaler's log.
"Burnett has given us a splendid example of how to wring the historical juice from a legal case. . . . Burnett enjoys himself in writing this book, and his editors have generously indulged his style (and his footnotes). Readers should settle back and roll with the flourishes, rather than yearn for the sparse, utilitarian narrative of a whaler's log."-- Katharine Anderson, Left History
Burnett has given us a splendid example of how to wring the historical juice from a legal case. . . . Burnett enjoys himself in writing this book, and his editors have generously indulged his style (and his footnotes). Readers should settle back and roll with the flourishes, rather than yearn for the sparse, utilitarian narrative of a whaler's log. -- Katharine Anderson, Left History
Burnett offers readers a fascinating episode in the history of early American science, along the way raising questions about both the authority of professional naturalists and the historiography of modern (and especially American) science.
"Burnett offers readers a fascinating episode in the history of early American science, along the way raising questions about both the authority of professional naturalists and the historiography of modern (and especially American) science."-- Kristin Johnson, British Journal for the History of Science
Burnett offers readers a fascinating episode in the history of early American science, along the way raising questions about both the authority of professional naturalists and the historiography of modern (and especially American) science. -- Kristin Johnson, British Journal for the History of Science
Burnett's book is a spectacular success . . . and he should be proud of it as such. For those with an antiquarian's taste there are many delicacies to be found inTrying Leviathan.
"Burnett's book is a spectacular success . . . and he should be proud of it as such. For those with an antiquarian's taste there are many delicacies to be found in Trying Leviathan ."-- Daniel Stewart, International Journal of Maritime History
Burnett's book is a spectacular success . . . and he should be proud of it as such. For those with an antiquarian's taste there are many delicacies to be found in Trying Leviathan . -- Daniel Stewart, International Journal of Maritime History
Burnett's book is a spectacular success . . . and he should be proud of it as such. For those with an antiquarian's taste there are many delicacies to be found inTrying Leviathan. -- Daniel Stewart, International Journal of Maritime History
...[Burnett's] perspective on the intellectual and social climate of early-nineteenth-century America makes fascinating reading. The issues raised inMaurice v. Juddhave surfaced again and again, right up to present-day battles over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools.
...[Burnett's] perspective on the intellectual and social climate of early-nineteenth-century America makes fascinating reading. The issues raised in Maurice v. Judd have surfaced again and again, right up to present-day battles over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. -- Natural History
...[Burnett's] perspective on the intellectual and social climate of early-nineteenth-century America makes fascinating reading. The issues raised inMaurice v. Juddhave surfaced again and again, right up to present-day battles over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. -- Natural History
"...[Burnett's] perspective on the intellectual and social climate of early-nineteenth-century America makes fascinating reading. The issues raised in Maurice v. Judd have surfaced again and again, right up to present-day battles over the teaching of intelligent design in public schools."-- Natural History
In 1818, in a New York City courtroom, the case of Maurice v. Judd posed an apparently straightforward question: Was whale oil fish oil, and therefore subject to state inspection and taxation? As expert witnesses testified, however, the trial quickly became a passionate public debate on the order of nature and the supremacy of man. In the fascinatingTrying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature, D. Graham Burnett describes the trial, its undercurrents, and its repercussions with sublime wit and consummate skill.
"In 1818, in a New York City courtroom, the case of Maurice v. Judd posed an apparently straightforward question: Was whale oil fish oil, and therefore subject to state inspection and taxation? As expert witnesses testified, however, the trial quickly became a passionate public debate on the order of nature and the supremacy of man. In the fascinating Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature , D. Graham Burnett describes the trial, its undercurrents, and its repercussions with sublime wit and consummate skill."-- Anna Mundow, The Boston Globe
In 1818, in a New York City courtroom, the case of Maurice v. Judd posed an apparently straightforward question: Was whale oil fish oil, and therefore subject to state inspection and taxation? As expert witnesses testified, however, the trial quickly became a passionate public debate on the order of nature and the supremacy of man. In the fascinating Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature , D. Graham Burnett describes the trial, its undercurrents, and its repercussions with sublime wit and consummate skill. -- Anna Mundow, The Boston Globe
In 1818, in a New York City courtroom, the case of Maurice v. Judd posed an apparently straightforward question: Was whale oil fish oil, and therefore subject to state inspection and taxation? As expert witnesses testified, however, the trial quickly became a passionate public debate on the order of nature and the supremacy of man. In the fascinatingTrying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature, D. Graham Burnett describes the trial, its undercurrents, and its repercussions with sublime wit and consummate skill. -- Anna Mundow, The Boston Globe
In takingMaurice v. Juddand fleshing out the details of the economics, natural history and politics of the day, Burnett offers a fascinating look into the early culture of science. We in the enlightened 21st century may laugh at the scientific ignorance of our forebears. But consider the debate about science in our times when many doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, climate change and the age of the Earth.
"In taking Maurice v. Judd and fleshing out the details of the economics, natural history and politics of the day, Burnett offers a fascinating look into the early culture of science. We in the enlightened 21st century may laugh at the scientific ignorance of our forebears. But consider the debate about science in our times when many doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, climate change and the age of the Earth."-- David B. Williams, Seattle Times
In taking Maurice v. Judd and fleshing out the details of the economics, natural history and politics of the day, Burnett offers a fascinating look into the early culture of science. We in the enlightened 21st century may laugh at the scientific ignorance of our forebears. But consider the debate about science in our times when many doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, climate change and the age of the Earth. -- David B. Williams, Seattle Times
In takingMaurice v. Juddand fleshing out the details of the economics, natural history and politics of the day, Burnett offers a fascinating look into the early culture of science. We in the enlightened 21st century may laugh at the scientific ignorance of our forebears. But consider the debate about science in our times when many doubt the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, climate change and the age of the Earth. -- David B. Williams, Seattle Times
InTrying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett links the case ofMaurice v. Juddto a number of important cultural and social issues, but he consciously avoids depicting the story as a battle between learned men of science and the ignorant masses. Instead, he uses the trial as an epistemological exercise: how could Americans know at the time that whales were not fish? Who had the authority to make such a classification? How does scientific knowledge become conventional wisdom? Burnett's examination of these questions makes for one of the most intellectually rigorous fish stories ever told.
"In Trying Leviathan , D. Graham Burnett links the case of Maurice v. Judd to a number of important cultural and social issues, but he consciously avoids depicting the story as a battle between learned men of science and the ignorant masses. Instead, he uses the trial as an epistemological exercise: how could Americans know at the time that whales were not fish? Who had the authority to make such a classification? How does scientific knowledge become conventional wisdom? Burnett's examination of these questions makes for one of the most intellectually rigorous fish stories ever told."-- American Scientist
In Trying Leviathan , D. Graham Burnett links the case of Maurice v. Judd to a number of important cultural and social issues, but he consciously avoids depicting the story as a battle between learned men of science and the ignorant masses. Instead, he uses the trial as an epistemological exercise: how could Americans know at the time that whales were not fish? Who had the authority to make such a classification? How does scientific knowledge become conventional wisdom? Burnett's examination of these questions makes for one of the most intellectually rigorous fish stories ever told. -- American Scientist
InTrying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett links the case ofMaurice v. Juddto a number of important cultural and social issues, but he consciously avoids depicting the story as a battle between learned men of science and the ignorant masses. Instead, he uses the trial as an epistemological exercise: how could Americans know at the time that whales were not fish? Who had the authority to make such a classification? How does scientific knowledge become conventional wisdom? Burnett's examination of these questions makes for one of the most intellectually rigorous fish stories ever told. -- American Scientist
InTrying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett provides an account that enlivens further this already energetic historiography. The empirical meat of the book involves a detailed and well-organized reconstruction of the trial of James Maurice (inspector of 'fish oils') versus Samuel Judd (chandler), which was brought before the New York Court of Common Pleas in October 1818.
"In Trying Leviathan , D. Graham Burnett provides an account that enlivens further this already energetic historiography. The empirical meat of the book involves a detailed and well-organized reconstruction of the trial of James Maurice (inspector of 'fish oils') versus Samuel Judd (chandler), which was brought before the New York Court of Common Pleas in October 1818."-- Diarmid Finnegan, H-Net Reviews
In Trying Leviathan , D. Graham Burnett provides an account that enlivens further this already energetic historiography. The empirical meat of the book involves a detailed and well-organized reconstruction of the trial of James Maurice (inspector of 'fish oils') versus Samuel Judd (chandler), which was brought before the New York Court of Common Pleas in October 1818. -- Diarmid Finnegan, H-Net Reviews
InTrying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett provides an account that enlivens further this already energetic historiography. The empirical meat of the book involves a detailed and well-organized reconstruction of the trial of James Maurice (inspector of 'fish oils') versus Samuel Judd (chandler), which was brought before the New York Court of Common Pleas in October 1818. -- Diarmid Finnegan, H-Net Reviews
InTrying Leviathan, Mr. Burnett brilliant deconstructs the [Maurice v. Judd] controversy.
Is the whale a fish? This seemingly arcane question was at stake in the 1819 New York court caseMaurice v. Judd. If the whale was not a fish, its oil would not be subject to the same taxation. But as D. Graham Burnett entertainingly and ably demonstrates, this case was about far more than tax. It turned on questions of taxonomy and classification, giving the scholar insight into the ways the new science of comparative anatomy worked in the public and legal imagination...Burnett's micro-history of the trial offers a careful archaeological study, probing both vested business interests and the relationship between the law and the academy.
Is the whale a fish? This seemingly arcane question was at stake in the 1819 New York court case Maurice v. Judd . If the whale was not a fish, its oil would not be subject to the same taxation. But as D. Graham Burnett entertainingly and ably demonstrates, this case was about far more than tax. It turned on questions of taxonomy and classification, giving the scholar insight into the ways the new science of comparative anatomy worked in the public and legal imagination...Burnett's micro-history of the trial offers a careful archaeological study, probing both vested business interests and the relationship between the law and the academy. -- Jerome de Groot, Financial Times
It's science itself that was put on trial in 1818 in a dispute over a $75 inspection fee, as related in this fascinating account...Burnett's look at the trial and its fallout adds a historical dimension to debates caused by science's role in the legal sphere, especially when it introduces new concepts.
"It's science itself that was put on trial in 1818 in a dispute over a $75 inspection fee, as related in this fascinating account...Burnett's look at the trial and its fallout adds a historical dimension to debates caused by science's role in the legal sphere, especially when it introduces new concepts."-- Publishers Weekly
It's science itself that was put on trial in 1818 in a dispute over a $75 inspection fee, as related in this fascinating account...Burnett's look at the trial and its fallout adds a historical dimension to debates caused by science's role in the legal sphere, especially when it introduces new concepts. -- Publishers Weekly
The book is well organized and fully documented. Burnett's many notes suggest significant research. It will be attractive to historians of many different topics, or sub-fields, which the author explores with much creativity. . . . An extensive bibliography and a generously organized index complete this book. It is a very important contribution to the relationship between science and society in the early years of American nation-building and nationalism.
"The book is well organized and fully documented. Burnett's many notes suggest significant research. It will be attractive to historians of many different topics, or sub-fields, which the author explores with much creativity. . . . An extensive bibliography and a generously organized index complete this book. It is a very important contribution to the relationship between science and society in the early years of American nation-building and nationalism."-- Ubiriatan D'Ambrosio, The Pacific Circle
The book is well organized and fully documented. Burnett's many notes suggest significant research. It will be attractive to historians of many different topics, or sub-fields, which the author explores with much creativity. . . . An extensive bibliography and a generously organized index complete this book. It is a very important contribution to the relationship between science and society in the early years of American nation-building and nationalism. -- Ubiriatan D'Ambrosio, The Pacific Circle
Throughout this brief book, Burnett does a wonderful job re-creating the trial and the trial atmosphere. . . .Trying Leviathanis explicated so clearly that no reader will come away empty-handed. . . . This is a book with broad appeal.
"Throughout this brief book, Burnett does a wonderful job re-creating the trial and the trial atmosphere. . . . Trying Leviathan is explicated so clearly that no reader will come away empty-handed. . . . This is a book with broad appeal."-- George O'Har, Technology and Culture
Throughout this brief book, Burnett does a wonderful job re-creating the trial and the trial atmosphere. . . . Trying Leviathan is explicated so clearly that no reader will come away empty-handed. . . . This is a book with broad appeal. -- George O'Har, Technology and Culture
Throughout this brief book, Burnett does a wonderful job re-creating the trial and the trial atmosphere. . . .Trying Leviathanis explicated so clearly that no reader will come away empty-handed. . . . This is a book with broad appeal. -- George O'Har, Technology and Culture
[Trying Leviathan] has valuable lessons for us. It is also a terrific read.
"[ Trying Leviathan ] has valuable lessons for us. It is also a terrific read."-- Arthur M. Shapiro, Reports of the National Center for Science Education
[ Trying Leviathan ] has valuable lessons for us. It is also a terrific read. -- Arthur M. Shapiro, Reports of the National Center for Science Education
[Trying Leviathan] has valuable lessons for us. It is also a terrific read. -- Arthur M. Shapiro, Reports of the National Center for Science Education
Trying Leviathanis a truly splendid book. The book is well-written and entirely intelligible to a lay audience.
" Trying Leviathan is a truly splendid book. The book is well-written and entirely intelligible to a lay audience."-- Roderick Munday, Justice of the Peace
Trying Leviathan is a truly splendid book. The book is well-written and entirely intelligible to a lay audience. -- Roderick Munday, Justice of the Peace
Trying Leviathanis a truly splendid book. The book is well-written and entirely intelligible to a lay audience. -- Roderick Munday, Justice of the Peace
Trying Leviathanisn't just another fish story....[H]is story is riveting, one of those wonderful obscure microcosmic matters.
" Trying Leviathan isn't just another fish story....[H]is story is riveting, one of those wonderful obscure microcosmic matters."-- Sam Roberts, New York Times
Trying Leviathan isn't just another fish story....[H]is story is riveting, one of those wonderful obscure microcosmic matters. -- Sam Roberts, New York Times
Trying Leviathanisn't just another fish story....[H]is story is riveting, one of those wonderful obscure microcosmic matters. -- Sam Roberts, New York Times
What makes this case so important, the author argues, is that it serves as a vehicle for investigating whales as 'problems of knowledge,' offers a window on the often contentious world of taxonomy, and reveals how the 19th-century public viewed natural history.
"What makes this case so important, the author argues, is that it serves as a vehicle for investigating whales as 'problems of knowledge,' offers a window on the often contentious world of taxonomy, and reveals how the 19th-century public viewed natural history."-- Science News
What makes this case so important, the author argues, is that it serves as a vehicle for investigating whales as 'problems of knowledge,' offers a window on the often contentious world of taxonomy, and reveals how the 19th-century public viewed natural history. -- Science News
When the Catholic Church put Galileo on trial for his heretic views, man's position in the Universe was at stake. When schoolteacher John Scopes entered a Tennessee courtroom in 1925 for violating the state's anti-evolution statute, the issue was man's relationship to the animal kingdom. It's hard to imagine that a case brought by a Manhattan fish-oil inspector against a purveyor of whale oil could end up in similar territory. As D. Graham Burnett's enthralling book demonstrates, it did just that...Burnett curates the abundant quotations with skill and strengthens his thesis with some marvellous contemporary illustrations. His clear writing and delightful detours help build a sense of suspense at the outcome of the trial. All of which makes this serious book an unexpected page-turner.
When the Catholic Church put Galileo on trial for his heretic views, man's position in the Universe was at stake. When schoolteacher John Scopes entered a Tennessee courtroom in 1925 for violating the state's anti-evolution statute, the issue was man's relationship to the animal kingdom. It's hard to imagine that a case brought by a Manhattan fish-oil inspector against a purveyor of whale oil could end up in similar territory. As D. Graham Burnett's enthralling book demonstrates, it did just that...Burnett curates the abundant quotations with skill and strengthens his thesis with some marvellous contemporary illustrations. His clear writing and delightful detours help build a sense of suspense at the outcome of the trial. All of which makes this serious book an unexpected page-turner. -- Henry Nicholls, Nature
Winner of the 2007 Isabelle Hermalyn Book Award, New York Urban History Winner of the 2007 New York City Book Award
Burnett shows the conflicted heart of nineteenth-century American science by looking at the complicated, amusing, and well-publicized trial of Maurice v. Judd, in which the question at stake was whether a whale is a fish. This makes a fascinating story, Burnett writes uncommonly well, and the final chapter is one of the most interesting pieces on popular science that I have ever read.Trying Leviathanis a powerful and brilliant addition to the history of American science and culture.
Graham Burnett's pathbreaking book teems with lively accounts of a notorious legal conflict between different kinds of people and different kinds of knowledge played out in New York in the early years of the nineteenth century. Disputes like these vividly illuminate the preoccupations of past societies and make us more conscious of our own. An important and thoroughly engaging book.
I can't remember reading a more intelligent and well-written book than Graham Burnett'sTrying Leviathan. He is a brilliant writer, and he has transformed a nineteenth-century legal battle over the taxonomic classification of whales into a wonderful and engaging book.
In this irresistible narrative, full of fascinating characters, Graham Burnett has given us a brilliant, imaginative, often amusing, wonderfully realized study that brings together questions of epistemology, the relation of observation to theory, the era's worship of nature and simultaneous commercial exploitation of it, claims of class to intellectual authority, and the relation of expertise to democracy.
'Is a whale a fish?' Melville famously wrestled with the question in Moby-Dick, but as Graham Burnett reveals inTrying Leviathan, the question had already been argued in--of all places--a Manhattan courtroom in 1818. In addition to providing a fascinating and provocative look at the relationship between science and culture in early nineteenth-century New York, Burnett writes eloquently about how the whalemen regarded their mysterious and awe-inspiring prey. This is a fun, surprising, and, in the best sense, challenging book.
Trying Leviathanrecounts a remarkable collision of science and law in a New York City courtroom in 1818. Burnett brilliantly parses the case both inside and outside the court, exploring the conflicts it aroused between learned taxonomists and sea-leathered whalers, practical businessmen and everyday citizens. A compelling, provocative work.
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, October 2007
New York Times Full Text Review, October 2009
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Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
In 'Trying Leviathan', D. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular - and biblically sanctioned - view that the whale was a fish.
Main Description
In Moby-Dick , Ishmael declares, "Be it known that, waiving all argument, I take the good old fashioned ground that a whale is a fish, and call upon holy Jonah to back me." Few readers today know just how much argument Ishmael is waiving aside. In fact, Melville's antihero here takes sides in one of the great controversies of the early nineteenth century--one that ultimately had to be resolved in the courts of New York City. In Trying Leviathan , D. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular--and biblically sanctioned--view that the whale was a fish. The immediate dispute was mundane: whether whale oil was fish oil and therefore subject to state inspection. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature--and how we know it--was at stake. Burnett vividly recreates the trial, during which a parade of experts--pea-coated whalemen, pompous philosophers, Jacobin lawyers--took the witness stand, brandishing books, drawings, and anatomical reports, and telling tall tales from whaling voyages. Falling in the middle of the century between Linnaeus and Darwin, the trial dramatized a revolutionary period that saw radical transformations in the understanding of the natural world. Out went comfortable biblical categories, and in came new sorting methods based on the minutiae of interior anatomy--and louche details about the sexual behaviors of God's creatures. When leviathan breached in New York in 1818, this strange beast churned both the natural and social orders--and not everyone would survive.
Table of Contents
List of Figuresp. xi
Introductionp. 1
The Peace Offering That Stankp. 1
Maurice v. Judd and the History of Sciencep. 5
From Dock to Docketp. 14
Common Sensep. 19
Manhattan and Its Whalesp. 19
The Philosophical Whalep. 44
Samuel Latham Mitchill and Natural History in New York Cityp. 44
"No More a Fish than a Man"p. 61
Taxonomy at the Barp. 72
Naturalists in the Crow's Nestp. 95
What the Whalemen Knewp. 95
Men of Affairsp. 145
The Whale in the Swampp. 145
The Jury Steps Outp. 166
The Knickerbockers Slay a Yankee Whalep. 166
Who Decides Who Decides?p. 167
Picking Up the Piscesp. 178
Conclusionp. 190
New Science, New York, New Nationp. 190
Epilogue: Whales and Fish, Philosophers and Historians, Science and Societyp. 211
Acknowledgmentsp. 223
Bibliographyp. 225
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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