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’.
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