This chapter examines Bowditch’s attempts to join the international Republic of Letters through scholarly publication, culminating in 1818 with his honorary membership in London’s Royal Society, the result of his friends’ behind-the-scenes lobbying, and an occasion of nationalist celebration in America. Bowditch turned down a Harvard professorship in favor of combining a business career with mathematical and astronomical labors. Newspaper duels with mathematical inferiors enhanced his American reputation, but European authorities generally deemed his work as outdated though capable. His as-yet unpublished annotated translation of Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Mécanique Céleste required Bowditch to master advanced mathematical techniques unknown to Americans and eventually prompted him to study the latest in German scientific developments. Though Federalists smelled ideological danger in Laplace’s work, Bowditch rejected partisan approaches to scholarship and instead found lifelong inspiration in the Laplacean vision of order and regularity in the solar system.
North Carolina Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.
If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.