In the modern world, the public looks to scientists and scholars for their expertise on issues ranging from the
effectiveness of vaccines to the causes of natural disasters. But for early Americans, whose relationship to nature was more
intimate and perilous than our own, personal experience, political allegiances, and faith in God took precedence over the
experiments of the learned.
In Everyday Nature, Sara Gronim shows how scientific advances were received in the early modern
world, from the time Europeans settled in America until just before the American Revolution. Settlers approached a wide range
of innovations, such as smallpox inoculation, maps and surveys, Copernican cosmology, and Ben Franklin's experiments with
electricity, with great skepticism. New Yorkers in particular were distrustful because of the chronic political and religious
factionalism in the colony. Those discoveries that could be easily reconciled with existing beliefs about healing the sick,
agricultural practices, and the revolution of the planets were more readily embraced.
A fascinating portrait of colonial
life, this book traces a series of innovations that were disseminated throughout the Atlantic world during the Enlightenment,
and shows how colonial New Yorkers integrated new knowledge into their lives.