Technology Drift 25, Rm. 302 Organized Session
26 Jul 2019 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190726T1600 20190726T1800 Europe/Amsterdam Manipulating Airs

This session examines the history of technological efforts to manipulate airs in the eighteenth-twentieth centuries. In particular, the four panelists discuss institutional efforts to control and improve air in prisons and hospitals, industrial efforts to re-define air as a powerful and productive substance, and cultural understandings of breath and breathing as a component of what it means to be human. Efforts to analyze, measure, and manipulate the aerial environment have frequently engaged historians of science, who have ably analyzed the medical history of respiration and the emergence of pneumatic chemistry and medicine. This session proposes to further this work both chronologically and thematically. The first paper will discuss how prison reform in the mid-eighteenth century focused on the need for improved ventilation technology and architecture. The second paper will examine the role of air in the sanitary reform of naval hospitals, emphasizing the role of female nurses. The third paper will highlight how later nineteenth-century ideas about the practical and commercial uses of air mirrored discussions surrounding "invisible fluids" like electricity. The final paper will examine the controversy surrounding medical ventilators, whose method of forcing air into an unconscious body was accepted for animals long before it was accepted for human beings. This session brings together scholars of early modern and modern science, medicine, and technology in order to illuminate how air and the aerial environment was implicated in discourses surrounding discipline and reform, gender and the body, and the boundary between animal and human.

Organized by Paul Sampson

Drift 25, Rm. 302 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org

This session examines the history of technological efforts to manipulate airs in the eighteenth-twentieth centuries. In particular, the four panelists discuss institutional efforts to control and improve air in prisons and hospitals, industrial efforts to re-define air as a powerful and productive substance, and cultural understandings of breath and breathing as a component of what it means to be human. Efforts to analyze, measure, and manipulate the aerial environment have frequently engaged historians of science, who have ably analyzed the medical history of respiration and the emergence of pneumatic chemistry and medicine. This session proposes to further this work both chronologically and thematically. The first paper will discuss how prison reform in the mid-eighteenth century focused on the need for improved ventilation technology and architecture. The second paper will examine the role of air in the sanitary reform of naval hospitals, emphasizing the role of female nurses. The third paper will highlight how later nineteenth-century ideas about the practical and commercial uses of air mirrored discussions surrounding "invisible fluids" like electricity. The final paper will examine the controversy surrounding medical ventilators, whose method of forcing air into an unconscious body was accepted for animals long before it was accepted for human beings. This session brings together scholars of early modern and modern science, medicine, and technology in order to illuminate how air and the aerial environment was implicated in discourses surrounding discipline and reform, gender and the body, and the boundary between animal and human.

Organized by Paul Sampson

Disciplining the Environment: Ventilation and Prison Reform in Britain, 1750-1800View Abstract
Organized Session 04:00 PM - 04:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 14:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 14:30:00 UTC
For this session, I will present a selection from my dissertation, “Ventilating the Empire: Environmental Machines in the British Atlantic World, 1700-1850.” My overall project proposes that efforts to improve air quality have a significant history that pre-dates the industrial revolution. Alarmed at the high mortality rates of sailors, miners, and prisoners who breathed “close, confined, putrid air,” British experimenter and clergyman Stephen Hales (1677-1761) invented new “ventilators”: hand-or-wind-powered bellows to freshen enclosed atmospheres. Hales’ ventilators were fixed inside ships, prisons, hospitals, and even the House of Commons. My dissertation asks how natural-philosophical ideas about climate, the environment, and human health were embodied in these devices and how the politics of ventilation evolved in Britain, France, and the United States during the long eighteenth century. The paper I will present examines the uses and abuses of ventilating machines in British prisons. First installed at the behest of Stephen Hales, these machines were specially modified to endure the strains placed on them by the unwilling prisoners who were tasked with their operation. Over two decades later, prison reformer John Howard noted that many of these devices were inadequate and made ventilation a central part of his crusade to improve prisons. His actions helped to shape the 1774 Act of Parliament for Preserving the Health of Prisoners, and prompted the Society for the Encouragement of Arts to fund a 17-year-long search for an improved method of ventilation by hand. I propose that the ongoing concern for ventilation was a central and oft-overlooked constituent of changing regimes of prison construction and prisoner reform that were emerging by the end of the eighteenth century.
Presenters Paul Sampson
Rutgers, The State University Of New Jersey
Ventilation, Fumigation, and the Creation of Healthy Air in British Naval Hospitals ca. 1775-1815View Abstract
Organized Session 04:30 PM - 05:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 14:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 15:00:00 UTC
In response to a request by the Navy’s Sick and Hurt Board to investigate the recent sickly state of HMS Foudroyant in March 1804, Plymouth Hospital Governor Richard Creyke summarised the best available advice for creating a heathy environment on board ship: “We strongly recommended Whitewashing, the washing of the people’s clothes, Blankets &c, in warm water and Soap, fumigation with Charcoal and Brimstone, to be generally and frequently used, and the Decks to be kept as dry as possible.” Creyke was familiar with supervising these same measures in Plymouth’s hospital wards. The creation, and where possible the maintenance, of what late eighteenth-century medical practitioners and naval administrators conceived of as healthy air was a primary concern of the clinical naval hospitals of Plymouth and Haslar the sole purpose of which was to cure and return sick and injured sailors to their ships as quickly as possible. This paper will discuss the means through which healthy air was created including architectural designs, ventilation, fumigation lamps, and cleanliness. I will also highlight the role of female hospital workers in the creation of healing environments. This included female nurses in the cleaning and fumigation of ward spaces and the shifting of wards (intense cleaning and fumigation process carried out in empty wards) in preparation to receive new patients, as well as washer women responsible for the cleanliness of bedding and hospital dress.
Presenters
ES
Erin Spinney
Air as Resource: Thinking about Air-Powered Transport in the Nineteenth CenturyView Abstract
Organized Session 05:00 PM - 05:30 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 15:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 15:30:00 UTC
In the nineteenth century, air started to be considered not just as an element, but as a techno-scientific resource. The laws of thermodynamics provided an instrument to exploit air power (specifically, pressured air), and scientists and engineers thought about using it, among others, for the transport of mail, goods, and persons. The product of such techno-scientific plans (some of which were realized, while others remained utopian) were pneumatic tubes, which have been and partly still are an important element in communication and transport infrastructure. The aim of my paper is to analyze the meaning attributed to air power and its infrastructure (pneumatic tubes) in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, while at the same time focusing on the production of scientific and technical knowledge on air-powered transport and its socio-political entanglements. For instance, between 1865 and 1871 the Siemens brothers corresponded with each other about the possibilities of pneumatic mail tubes and how to foster their installation: they called the new science “Pneumatik” and their correspondence is an example of knowledge circulation and techno-scientific transfer between Berlin and London. Visually, air was represented as a goddess (as was electricity), and for the new infrastructure of pneumatic mail tubes an allegedly ancient Greek tradition was invented. I would like to explore these aspects from the perspective of a cultural history of science and technology, on the basis of published and unpublished.
Presenters
LM
Laura Meneghello
Faculty Member, Department Of History, University Of Siegen
The Inspiration Machine: Positive Pressure and the Boundaries of the Breathing SelfView Abstract
Organized Session 05:30 PM - 06:00 PM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/26 15:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/26 16:00:00 UTC
This paper traces a long-standing-- and perhaps surprising-- resistance to forcing air into the body. Brain death, organ transplantation, and complex life support all depend on positive pressure ventilators only developed post-war. But, already by the end of the nineteenth century, such machines were regularly breathing for a veritable Noah’s Ark of German laboratory animals. A century earlier, in a pitch that failed, late eighteenth-century Humane Societies had attempted to promote positive pressure resuscitation, the forcing of air into an unconscious body against its natural pressure gradient, as modern; the ancients admitted no space between breathing life and unbreathing death, while moderns did. One of many protesting voices was Harvard Medical School founder Benjamin Waterhouse who replied in 1811 that the “bizarre and pernicious practice” of blowing breath into the lungs could never give life to “dead matter.” From this time forward, every introduction of the seemingly ordinary (and perhaps urgent) act of forcing air into the lungs was rejected as soon as it was suggested. It was not until 1957 that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation completely replaced long-used and studied methods that involved compressing the chest to change its shape, causing air to passively flow in and out of the body. Why was there such persistent resistance to introducing ostensibly life-saving air into a dying body? What changed, allowing new kinds of ventilation technologies? And what did it have to do with changing boundaries of the self?
Presenters
OW
Oriana Walker
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
Faculty member, Department of History, University of Siegen
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
CNRS/Maison Française d'Oxford
University of Glasgow
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