The Fluid Envelope of our Planet: How the Study of Ocean Currents Became a Science

Eric L. Mills

© 2009

Oceans have had a mysterious allure for centuries, inspiring fears, myths, and poetic imaginations. By the early twentieth century, however, scientists began to see oceans as physical phenomena that could be understood through mathematical geophysics. The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet explores the scientific developments from the early middle ages to the twentieth century that illuminated the once murky depths of oceanography.

Tracing the transition from descriptive to mathematical analyses of the oceans, Eric Mills examines sailors' and explorers' observations of the oceans, the influence of Scandinavian techniques on German-speaking geographers, and the eventual development of shared quantitative practices and ideas. A detailed and beautifully written account of the history of oceanography, The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet is also an engaging account of the emergence of a scientific discipline.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.5in x 9.3in
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  • PUBLISHED APR 2011

    From: $30.71

    Regular Price: $40.95

    ISBN 9781442612709
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    Regular Price: $87.00

    ISBN 9780802096975
  • PUBLISHED APR 2011

    From: $30.71

    Regular Price: $40.95

Quick Overview

A detailed and beautifully written account of the history of oceanography, The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet is an engaging account of the emergence of a scientific discipline.

The Fluid Envelope of our Planet: How the Study of Ocean Currents Became a Science

Eric L. Mills

© 2009

Oceans have had a mysterious allure for centuries, inspiring fears, myths, and poetic imaginations. By the early twentieth century, however, scientists began to see oceans as physical phenomena that could be understood through mathematical geophysics. The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet explores the scientific developments from the early middle ages to the twentieth century that illuminated the once murky depths of oceanography.

Tracing the transition from descriptive to mathematical analyses of the oceans, Eric Mills examines sailors' and explorers' observations of the oceans, the influence of Scandinavian techniques on German-speaking geographers, and the eventual development of shared quantitative practices and ideas. A detailed and beautifully written account of the history of oceanography, The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet is also an engaging account of the emergence of a scientific discipline.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 400 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.5in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘It is a fascinating account of what went before and got us to where we are today in our understanding of the circulation of the ocean and all that this means to marine biology, marine chemistry and the many practical applications of what we now know as physical oceanography.’
    Colin Summerhayes, International Journal of Maritime History: vol22:02:10

    ‘A page-turning history of physical oceanography ... Mills articulates the development of ideas, but he also delves into the background, motivation, and character of the leading actors in what is a compelling story that unfolds page by page ... To all of you interested in the development of ideas in oceanography: please read this book, you will learn, as I did, and in many places you will turn the pages as if it were a thriller.’
    Gwyn Griffiths Ocean Challenge

    ‘A finely crafted, thoroughly researched, well written, and rewarding study… Mills has made here a strong and vital contribution to our understanding of the rise of the modern physical environmental sciences.’
    Ronald Doel: ISIS, vol102:01:2011

    ‘This book, with its thorough, well-presented research, offers detailed insights into the history of major theories in physical oceanography. The work builds a complete view of the ideas, theories, and conflicts inherent in the birth of a new science … The work is well written and includes an extensive list of references … Highly recommended.’
    N.W. Hinman Choice

    'The Fluid Envelope of our Planet is an impressive, entertaining, and comprehensive account of physical oceanography. The careful research and compelling writing style of Eric L. Mills place the story of oceanography firmly in its historical context, with sensitivity to political, economic, social, and cultural trends. This book deftly shows that the roots of this scientific field can be followed to small, maritime-oriented nations such as Sweden and Norway and to upcoming scientific powers such as Canada, to Coast Guard officers and to princes, and to funding motivated by such diverse concerns as fisheries, engineering, weather forecasting, and safe shipping.'
    Helen M. Rozwadowski, History and Maritime Studies, University of Connecticut
  • Author Information

    Eric L. Mills is a professor emeritus in the Department of Oceanography at Dalhousie University and former director of the History of Science and Technology Program at the University of King’s College. He is the winner of the Jehuda Neumann Memorial Prize for the History of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography from the Royal Meteorological Society.

  • Table of contents

    CONTENTS
    Acknowledgments ix
    Introduction: The Fluid Envelope of Our Planet 3
    1 The Way of the Sea: Knowledge of Oceanic Circulation before the Nineteenth Century 10
    2 Groping through the Darkness: The Problem of Deep Ocean Circulation 44
    3 Boundaries Built with Numbers: Making the Ocean Mathematical 82
    4 Evangelizing in the Wilderness: Dynamic Oceanography Comes to Canada 111
    5 'Physische Meereskunde': From Geography to Physical Oceanography in Berlin, 1900–1935 137
    6 'Découverte de l'océan ': Monaco and the Failure of French Oceanography 162
    7 Slipping away from Norway: Dynamic Oceanography Comes to the United States 192
    8 Facing the Atlantic and the Pacific: Dynamic Oceanography Re-emerges in Canada, 1930–1950 232
    9 Studying The Oceans and the Oceans 258
    Appendix: Textbooks of Physical Oceanography 287
    Notes 291
    References 347
    Index 419
  • Awards

    John Lyman Prize in Science & Technology awarded by the North American Society for Oceanic History - Winner in 2010
    Keith Matthews Award for Best Book awarded by Canadian Nautical Research Society - Winner in 2010
    Wallace K. Ferguson Prize awarded by Canadian Historical Association - Commended in 2010
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