Science along the railroad: Expanding field work in the US central west

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Abstract

The building of the transcontinental railroad in the US Central West in the late 1860s greatly improved access to this region and led to the expansion of scientific field work. The relationships between science and the railroad spanned a diverse spectrum, ranging from its practical advantages to more complex interactions such as the transformation of nature along railway corridors and the reciprocal exchange of favours between scientists and railway companies. The dominance of science along the railroad in the second half of the nineteenth century continued into the early twentieth century, with a gradual shift to automobile travel beginning in the 1910s. By stimulating and shaping field research both on and off the railway corridor, the laying of iron tracks across the continent helped guide US science, just as it influenced so many other aspects of US life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-211
Number of pages25
JournalAnnals of Science
Volume61
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History and Philosophy of Science

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