12:20 – 13:35 PANEL III

Chair: BORBALA ZSUZSANNA TÖRÖK (University of Vienna)

Link zur Videokonferenz Panel III

Saussure: Ascent on the Glacier du Tacul, 1788

ERNST HAMM (York University, Toronto): Alpine Science: More Than Getting There First (Keynote)

A defining feature of scientific knowledge is that it should apply to anyone anywhere. Yet knowledge, however global its reach may be, is made locally and it is the historian’s task to explain the social and technological relations of knowledge making and, as will be the focus here, to consider the places where it was made. I am indebted here to Marianne Klemun, who has done so much to enrich our understanding of the ways in which places and spaces are central to the history of science. This is especially so for the kinds of places I will consider: mountains. Histories of mountain expeditions have for obvious reasons given much stock to the question of first ascents. Marianne, however, has shown in her memorable account of the Großglockner ascents of 1799 and 1800 that the most arresting feature of those expeditions was their scientific character. They were major scientific undertakings, expeditions that are still underappreciated in the English-speaking world, at least. She has also greatly enhanced our understanding of scientific expeditions by considering them not merely as opportunities for the collection of data and specimens that will be subject to analysis and display in a distant metropole, but as distinct scientific practices in and of themselves. By treating “expeditions as experiments” she has challenged the very distinction between field and laboratory (Expeditions as Experiments, 2016).

This paper will consider three strikingly different cases of mountain expeditions: Friedrich Parrot’s expedition to Mt Ararat, Goethe and the Brocken, and A. P. Coleman in the Canadian Rockies. All three of these instances are at most marginally concerned with first ascents; all show that mountain expeditions are deeply intertwined with scientific ques- tions and with many other matters such as promotion of the economy, national and imperial aims, fashioning a culture, myth-making. All three instances have played important parts in making mountains much more than massive geographical features towering above their surroundings.

Ernst Hamm teaches the history of science and science and technology studies at York University in Toronto. He is working on the interactions of mountains, romantics and geology.

Comment: ULRIKE SPRING (University of Oslo)

Ulrike Spring is associate professor of history at the Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo. She is particularly interested in scientific expeditions and tourism to the North, and in the mediation of knowledge in museums.