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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa


fewer great names and achievements

at this time than formerly, nevertheless she made a notable recovery from the low position she held at the close of the seventeenth century, and in some respects, especially in natural science, produced men able to rank with their contemporaries in other lands. In keeping with the practical bent of Spanish character Spaniards were more famous for their applications of scientific discoveries than for their contributions to pure science. Just as in the previous era, the Americas furnished a prominent field for scientific investigations. In the realm of botany, perhaps more than in anything else, Spaniards distinguished themselves. A list of the greatest names of the period would include Mutis, Moci?o, Sess?, Ruiz, Pav?n, and Molina, whose works dealt with the _flora_ of Bogot?, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, and Chile, especially in their practical applications in medicine and otherwise. To their names should be added those of Cavanilles and Sarmiento, whose writings had to do with the _flora_ of Valencia and Galicia. Under Philip V a botanical garden was projected, and it was founded at Madrid in the reign of Ferdinand VI. Other cities soon followed this example. Zoology and mineralogy were less prominently studied, and in the latter field Spain began to make more use of foreign specialists than in the Golden Age. A considerable impulse to the natural sciences was given by the founding, by Charles III, of the important museum at Madrid, in which existing collections were brought together
and to which various specimens from the Americas were added. Another factor was the sending out of scientific expeditions, mostly in or to the Americas, in which respect, according to the testimony of Humboldt, Spain expended more than any other European government. Meritorious work in physics and chemistry was also done by Spaniards,--for example, the discoveries of Ruiz de Luzuriaga and Salv? in the realm of magnetic fluids and electricity, the discovery of tungsten by the Elhuyar brothers, and the demonstration by Antonio de Ulloa of the existence of platinum,--even though foreigners were to carry these findings still further. Medicine advanced out of the stagnation which had characterized it in the later seventeenth century, although it continued to be in a backward state in the Americas.

[Sidenote: Mathematics and geography.]

The scientific movement of the eighteenth century reached the field of mathematics and kindred branches, producing much valuable work, though usually in the field of their practical applications. In the case of mathematics the decline had even reached the point of the negation of that science as a field for study. The Jesuits reintroduced it in their colleges, but it remained for the ministers of Charles III to restore it to its earlier strong footing by creating professorships of mathematics in the universities and in the schools of higher learning devoted to special fields. Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, better known for their expedition to South America and their authorship of the _Noticias secretas_, or Secret notices (not published until 1826), about conditions there, were among those who distinguished themselves in this subject. Geographical productivity was not so great as in the preceding era, since colonial conquests were less far-reaching than before, but for the single reign of Charles III there was almost as much in the way of geographical accounts and maps as at any time in the past. The names of P?rez, Heceta, Bodega, Ayala, Arteaga, L?pez de Haro, Elisa, and Fidalgo are only a few of the many who commanded expeditions in the new world designed in part for the acquisition of geographical information, though with political motives involved as well. In 1797 the Dep?sito Hidrogr?fico was founded in Madrid to serve as a centre for the preparation and storing of maps. This institution published many notable maps of the various parts of Spain's colonies.


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