I’m about halfway through Richard Holmes The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. Holmes uses the stories of an inter-related set of individual British scientists: the aristocratic botanist and administrator Joesph Banks, the German emigre astronomer William Hershel, and the romantic populist chemist and inventor Humphry Davy, and uses their stories to tie together social change, art, science and the personal lives of scientists in a vivid, rich way. He writes that he is describing the ‘second scientific revolution, which swept through Britain at the end of the eighteenth century, and produced a new vision which has rightly been called romantic science.’ Its a fantastic book, which I highly recommend.
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Tiffany Vance and Ronald Doel have traced the history of the Stommel diagram from physical oceanography into biology, in their 2010 paper Graphical Methods and Cold War Scientific Practice: The Stommel Diagram’s Intriguing Journey from the Physical to the Biological Environmental Sciences in Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (DOI: 10.1525/hsns.2010.40.1.1.)
The paper provides an rich history of how the innovative oceanographer Henry Stommel created his diagrams to emphasize the cross-scale dynamics of the ocean (See figure below), and how his diagram was adapted by biological oceanographers. However, they miss how Stommel diagrrams moved into ecosystem ecology and sustainability science.
Below I present a series of Stommel diagrams. The first three figures are reproduced in Vance and Doel’s paper, the later three are from sustainability science.
First, Stommel’s original figure, which was designed to show how oceanic processes varied across scales, and that sampling efforts had to be planned with a consideration of these.
Schematic diagram of the spectral distribution of sea level (From Stommel 1963. Varieties of Oceanographic Experience. Science)
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