Turning superstition into science. Atmospheric tides science and the transformation of astrology in Enlightenment Continental Europe

Begin - Einde 
2020 - 2024 (lopend)
Vakgroep Geschiedenis
Andere instituten 
Ca' Foscari University of Venice



The period 1700-1840 witnessed the flowering of a new ‘atmospheric tides’ science. The basic assumption of this science was that the sun and the moon not only generate significant tidal effects in the earth’s seas, but in its atmosphere as well. These atmospheric tides (henceforth AT) were held responsible for important weather changes, as well as for a variety of health issues in the human body (e.g. insanity, epilepsy, epidemics), thus rendering the latter predictable and manageable. Interestingly, AT science’s practitioners, audiences and critics all saw considerable continuities between the ‘pseudo-science’ of astrology and the new science on the conceptual, methodological, social, and cultural levels.

So far, research on the history of AT science has been limited, and has generally focused on the English case – undeservedly so, for AT science was both a pan-European phenomenon and offers a unique opportunity to clarify important aspects of the emergence of modern scientific culture. More specifically, AT science offers a privileged view on the precise way in which official science appropriated and transformed ‘pseudo-science’ for its own purposes in the Enlightenment. Focusing on AT science in France and Italy in the period 1750-1830, this project seeks to generate a more refined understanding of the apparent ‘death’ of astrology in the 18th century, and to further explore its appropriation and transformation into the 19th century.




Externe medewerkers

Craig Edwin Martin