23.11.12

*** Sidewalk Weekend! ***

Sidewalk Rating: Wintry
Had the renovations to the minister’s house on Bansinghall Street followed an accelerated timetable, it’s likely that Priestley would have never stumbled across his “delightful Pyrmont water”; without the brewery, it’s possible the Priestley wouldn’t have thrown himself into the study of gases that dominated the next decade of his research. We tend to talk about the history of ideas in terms of individual genius and broader cultural categories – the spirit of the age, the paradigm of research. But ideas happen in specific physical environments as well, environments that bring their own distinct pressures, opportunities, limitations, happy accidents to the evolution of human understanding. Take Joseph Priestley out of Enlightenment culture, and deprive him of the scientific method, and his legendary streak no doubt disappears, or turns into something radically different. . But take Priestley out of Meadow Lane, and deprive him of his hours at the brewery, and you would likely get a different story as well.”
 
[Stephen Johnson, fm The Invention ofAir.]

[Minneapolis' milling district by moonlight, c. 1930s.]


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