Instrumental in War

Science, Research, and Instruments Between Knowledge and the World


Editor: Steven Walton
Scientific research and instrumentation are crucial for military action today but they have not always been so. This collection investigates 500 years of the relationship between warfare, research, and instruments – both physical and intellectual – to understand this interaction. With U.S., English and French examples, contributors provide examples from army and naval history to show how governments and individuals made warfare scientific, developing instruments, stations, and organizations that furthered the cause. Some developments directly aided war efforts; others were parts of ‘normal science’ in peacetime; and others were relatively ineffective in directly bringing about military change. These developmental histories shed light on the origins of modern scientific warfare.

Contributors: Steven A. Walton; William A. Lynch; Jamel Ostwald; Seymour H. Mauskopf ; James R. Fleming; Gerard P. Scharfenberger; William M. McBride; David Alan Grier; Sebastien Soubiran; Kenton Kroker; Deborah J. Warner; Peter Galison.


EUR €182.00USD $220.00

Biographical Note

Steven A. Walton, Ph.D. (1999), Toronto, teaches Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State University. Working on the intersection of military technology and scientific understanding, he currently is working on renaissance gunnery, nineteenth-century American ordnance manufacture, and post-Civil War torpedo research.

Review Quote

"This is a major accomplishment. Never before has a scholarly volume presented the interactions of science, technology, and warfare as a continuum from the Renaissance through the cold war era—not, at least, since John U. Nef ’s War and Human Progress (1952). Since then, historians and scientists have studiously ignored (and sometimes passionately denied) that a mutually constructive relationship has flourished between science and warfare ever since the sixteenth century. Steven A. Walton’s volume suggests how much historians of science and technology have now transcended such ideological bias." Brett D. Steele, Technology and Culture, 2006

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Acknowledgements Volume Contributions List of Contributors Introduction, Steven A. Walton Chapter One, Mathematical Instruments and the Creation of the Military Gentleman, Steven A. Walton Chapter Two, Surveying and the Cromwellian Reconquest of Ireland, William A. Lynch Chapter Three, Like Clockwork? Clausewitzian Friction and the Scientific Siege in the Age of Vauban, Jamel Ostwald Chapter Four, Calorimeters and Crushers: The Development of Instruments for Measuring the Behavior of Military Powder, Seymour H. Mauskopf Chapter Five, Telegraphing the Weather: Military Meteorology, Strategy, and ‘Homeland Security’ on the American Frontier in the 1870s, James R. Fleming Chapter Six, Remnants of Testing at the Sandy Hook Proving Grounds, Sandy Hook, New Jersey, Gerard P. Scharfenberger Chapter Seven, From Measuring Progress to Technological Innovation: The Prewar Annapolis Engineering Experiment Station, William M. McBride Chapter Eight, Dr. Veblen at Aberdeen: Mathematics, Military Applications and Mass Production, David Alan Grier Chapter Nine, National Naval Laboratories and the Development of Fire Control Gyrocompasses in Interwar Britain and France, Sebastien Soubiran Chapter Ten, Washouts: Electroencephalography, epilepsy & emotions in the selection of American aviators during the Second World War, Kenton Kroker Chapter Eleven, A Matter of Gravity: Military Support for Gravimetry during the Cold War, Deborah J. Warner Chapter Twelve, Physics Between War and Peace, Peter Galison Index


Readers will include military historians, historians of science and technology, and those interested in instrumentation and research. Contributions are accessible to an advanced lay audience.