The Unity of Physics and Poetry: H. C. Ørsted and the Aesthetics of Force Andrew D. Wilson INTRODUCTION A new era in the history of science began in the summer of 1820 when Hans Christian Ørsted announced his discovery of electromagnetism. In the attempt to understand the conceptual underpinnings of Ørsted's discovery, historians have generally believed that he was guided by a steadfast commitment to a force-based ontology inspired by Kant's dynamical theory of matter, which led him, in turn, to conceive of physical phenomena such as electricity, galvanism, magnetism, heat, and light as effects of force-based causes.1 As such, scholars have believed that Ørsted pursued his experimental work within a well-defined theoretical framework that provided him with coherent metaphysically grounded explanations of physical phenomena, even if the explanations were ultimately flawed. By approaching the foundations of Ørsted's science from this perspective, scholars have therefore naturally assumed that the conceptual term ``force'' (Kraft) in Ørsted's scientific writings functioned as a purely theoretical term, which referred to 1 See, e.g., Kristine Meyer, ``The Scientific Life and Works of H. C. Ørsted,'' in H. C. Ørsted, Naturvidenskabelige Skrifter, ed. Kristine Meyer (Copenhagen: Andr. Fred. Hølst & Søn, 1920), 1: xiii-clxvi;
Journal of the History of Ideas – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Nov 1, 2008
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