Among historians of science, the eighteenth century has often been neglected in favor of the two adjacent epochs that cast
such giant shadows—the seventeenth-century (First) Scientific Revolution, associated with names such as Descartes, Locke,
and Newton, and the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution. Regarding the era in between, it has been said that "until recently,
general histories of science have tended toward an impoverished estimation of this period."
In contrast, among philosophers
and historians of ideas, the "long" eighteenth century, called the Age of Reason or the Enlightenment, was always quite popular.
Recently, the period has been "discovered" by historians of science, a development that has contributed to the pleasure of
writing this chapter, the more so as a complete volte-face appears to have been made, as witness the following quote, in which
the eighteenth century is regarded as "the period that, if any, deserves to be called the ‘Age of Science.’"
volume deals mainly with the tail end of this age—the period roughly between the 1760s and the 1820s. It has been dubbed the
Second Scientific Revolution, or that of Romantic science, and recently, the Age of Wonder. It was a period of intense rivalry
between the imperial powers Great Britain, France, Spain, and the Netherlands, including large-scale wars in Europe and elsewhere.
was also a time of voyages of discovery—over land or across the oceans—after a long period of near absence of such undertakings.
The period from the 1760s to the 1820s has been called the second great age of European exploration, after the first one that
lasted from the fifteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. The second age started with Cook and Bougainville and ended with