True Myths: James Watt's Kettle, His Condenser, and His Chemistry

  title={True Myths: James Watt's Kettle, His Condenser, and His Chemistry},
  author={David Philip Miller},
  journal={History of Science},
  pages={333 - 360}
  • D. Miller
  • Published 1 September 2004
  • Art
  • History of Science
The mythology and iconography of science are currently of great interest to historians. Most historical work concerned with myth still involves exploding it in the manner of John Waller's recent book Fabulous science. Such work holds up an expert account of historical reality against the distortions of myth. I have encouraged the explosion of myth myself in suggesting that the recent flood of popular science history writing, what I have called the "Sobel Effect" literature, insofar as it… 

Figures from this paper

The Mysterious Case of James Watt's '"1785" Steam Indicator': Forgery or Folklore in the History of an Instrument?
Abstract Investigation of nineteenth-century accounts, and displays, of a recording steam indicator attributed to James Watt and dated 1785 led to the discovery of an instrument engraved with that
From engineer to scientist: reinventing invention in the Watt and Faraday centenaries, 1919–31
Abstract While important research on the history of scientific commemorations has been published in recent years, relatively little attention has been paid to the commemoration of invention and
Michael Combrune, Peter Shaw and Commercial Chemistry: the Boerhaavian Chemical Origins of Brewing Thermometry
Abstract Recent work by David P. Miller indicates how the chemical activity of a much-studied figure, James Watt, has been obscured by the retrospective assigning of heat studies in general to
Domestic science: making chemistry your cup of tea.
Responding to an unprecedented hunger for scientific knowledge, a profusion of introductory texts appeared in the mid-nineteenth century that directed lessons into homes across Britain and beyond.
Secular relics: Narrative objects and material biography in the museums of Darwin, Elgar & Holmes
This thesis investigates objects considered to be significant through their association with historically noteworthy persons and how these objects are displayed. Such objects and their related
Rhetoric of Effortlessness in Science
Scientists use several rhetorical strategies to heighten the objectivity and credibility of their findings. Examples are the rhetoric of effort, which involves emphasizing the amount of effort
From Fire-Wheel Boats to Cities on the Sea: Changing Perceptions of the Steamships in the Late Qing, 1830s-1900s
This essay charts the changing meaning of the steamship in late Qing China. During the Opium Wars, the steamship was often seen as a variant on traditional Chinese shipbuilding technology; soon after
RSVP Bibliography: 2003-2005
The RSVP Bibliography includes citations for books, articles, and reviews published between December 2003 and December 2005 in the field of nineteenth-century journalism. A team of 32 contributors
Representing revolution: icons of industrialization.
  • P. Fara
  • History, Medicine
  • 2006
The term 'Industrial Revolution' has been given multiple meanings, and this article explores some of these by exposing the messages concealed inside some of the most enduring images of the Revolution.
Disaster and success: design lessons from history
This paper discusses the pedagogical advantages of the structured inclusion of engineering history in undergraduate engineering programmes. The author argues that studying multiple case histories


Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy
Recent sociological studies of scientific discovery have challenged the assumption that such discoveries are easily identifiable processes which take place in the mind of heroic discoverers. In this
Latent Heat and the Invention of the Watt Engine
M /[ UCH has been written, early and late, on the connection between Joseph Black and James Watt; and few if any writers have entered a radical dissent from the proposition that Watt could not have
The social basis of scientific discoveries
Preface Michael Mulkay 1. The topic of discovery and the concept of nature 2. Psychological accounts of discovery 3. A synthetic assessment of the psychological accounts 4. The emergence of a social
Portrait of a discovery. Watson, Crick, and the double helix.
  • S. de Chadarevian
  • Medicine
    Isis; an international review devoted to the history of science and its cultural influences
  • 2003
This essay examines an iconic image of twentieth-century science: Antony Barrington Brown's photograph of James Watson, Francis Crick, and the double-helical model of DNA. The detailed reconstruction
Fabulous science: Fact and fiction in the history ofscientific discovery (Oxford
  • "The 'Sobel Effect'", Metascience,
  • 2002
In relation to science education, see Douglas Allchin
  • Fabulous science: Fact and fiction in the history ofscientific discovery
  • 2002
Watt's perfect engine: Steam and the age ofinvention (Cambridge, 2002),188
  • 2002
Thoughts on the constituent parts of water", Philosophical transactions, lxxiv (1784), 329-53, and Henry Cavendish, "Experiments on air
  • Philosophical transactions, Ixxiv
  • 1999