‘Objects of national importance’: Exploration, Mapping and Measurement

  • Ben Marsden
  • Crosbie Smith


Leading geologist and gentleman of science Roderick Murchison’s words expressed a mapping imperative widely shared by European cultural elites since at least the eighteenth century. From the point of view of an imperial power, ‘spaces yet vacant on the map’ — especially within existing British territories — meant that ‘possession’ was incomplete, that control, if any, still resided with other forces, and that ‘civilisation’ — in the form of Western ‘rationality’ and ‘discipline’ — had yet to be introduced to that region. For Murchison, the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) — then still in its infancy — could and should serve as a principal agent for securing such British power, both on land and sea, and above all in ‘filling the void still existing in the southern hemisphere’.


Royal Society National Importance Terrestrial Magnetism East India Company Royal Observatory 
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Copyright information

© Ben Marsden and Crosbie Smith 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Marsden
    • 1
  • Crosbie Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.University of AberdeenUK
  2. 2.University of KentUK

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