Nathaniel Bowditch and the power of numbers : how a nineteenth-century man of business, science, and the sea changed American life / Tamara Plakins Thornton.

By: Thornton, Tamara Plakins, 1957- [author.]Material type: TextTextSeries: JSTOR eBooksPublisher: Chapel Hill : The University of North Carolina Press, [2016]Copyright date: ©2016Description: 1 online resourceContent type: text Media type: computer Carrier type: online resourceISBN: 9781469628110; 1469628112Subject(s): Astronomers -- United States -- Biography | Mathematicians -- United States -- Biography | Industrial organization -- United States -- HistoryAdditional physical formats: Print version:: Nathaniel Bowditch and the power of numbersDDC classification: 510.92 LOC classification: QB36.B7 | T55 2016Online resources: Click here to view this ebook. Summary: "Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), a mathematician, astronomer, and insurance executive--and a major agent of Enlightenment-era change ... took his personal work habits and blended them with the certainty and predictability of the science that he studied, creating something completely new for his time: the impersonal bureaucracy. Enthralled with the precision and certainty of numbers and the unerring regularity of the physical universe, Bowditch shaped some of New England's most powerful institutions, from financial corporations to Harvard College, into clockwork mechanisms. He ran his insurance company with rule-bound regularity, implementing systematic and novel paperwork procedures, methodical bookkeeping practices, and standardized filing systems, helping to usher in a new era of intellectual history"-- Provided by publisher.
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Includes bibliographical references and index.

"Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), a mathematician, astronomer, and insurance executive--and a major agent of Enlightenment-era change ... took his personal work habits and blended them with the certainty and predictability of the science that he studied, creating something completely new for his time: the impersonal bureaucracy. Enthralled with the precision and certainty of numbers and the unerring regularity of the physical universe, Bowditch shaped some of New England's most powerful institutions, from financial corporations to Harvard College, into clockwork mechanisms. He ran his insurance company with rule-bound regularity, implementing systematic and novel paperwork procedures, methodical bookkeeping practices, and standardized filing systems, helping to usher in a new era of intellectual history"-- Provided by publisher.

Print version record.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838) was one of the first polymath figures in U.S. history and is primarily remembered as the founder of modern maritime navigation. His interests in mathematics, astronomy, and navigation took him from seafaring to work as an actuarial and insurance executive. In his later years, Bowditch focused on standardizing business practices to document business decisions. Here, Thornton (history, State Univ. of New York, Buffalo; Handwriting in America: A Cultural History) digs into contemporary publications alongside Bowditch's own scientific correspondence (he burned the personal ones before he died) to present a window into the dual worlds of business and science in the early years of the republic. Thornton traces Bowditch's early life in Salem, MA, to his work with seafaring vessels and his eventual placement on the governing board of Harvard University as the vice president for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. VERDICT This recommended biography rediscovers an eccentric who was key in improving several emerging industries. Readers of early American history will find a rich story that moves between New England high society and the founding of the natural sciences.-John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

CHOICE Review

As human behavior is often governed by unseen forces beneath the conscious plane, human societies and nations are often influenced by unknown individuals and factors. This book exemplifies that fact. Many may have never heard of Nathaniel Bowditch (1773-1838), an astronomer and a mathematician who studied languages and mathematics deeply--enough to provide a multivolume translation of Laplace's Mécanique Céleste (1799-1825), with notes and corrections. His inspiration was a lifelong fascination with numbers and the inexorable characteristics of natural laws. This readable biography provides a thorough narrative and interestingly traces the rich life of this extraordinary man. The work is insightful in the manner in which it connects Bowditch's life and work to the rise of bureaucracy and capitalism in the US. Bowditch is one of the few names to have gained the honor of entry into the Dictionary of Scientific Biography without an adequate biography. This book fills that void. With more than 100 pages of notes and a bibliography, this work offers a thorough presentation. It deserves a presence in all libraries. Summing Up: Recommended. All readers. --Varadaraja V. Raman, Rochester Institute of Technology

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