Latin American Centre Seminars: Natural History Values and Meanings in Nineteenth-Century Chile

Convener: Diego Sánchez Ancochea

Speaker: Patience Schell, University of Aberdeen

Nineteenth-century natural history flourished in Chile thanks to a collaboration between foreign immigrants and Chileans, in a context of Chilean state support for natural history institutions and training, but also in a context in which the natural sciences, and natural history specifically, came to have multiple meanings.  In this paper, I argue that natural history flourished, in part, because it offered its practitioners, both professional and amateur, a physical and intellectual pursuit which was seen to improve the individual, while being of benefit to society at large. Analysis of this discourse in Chile contributes to our growing understanding of the specific contexts of natural history practice, the ways in which natural history (and the sciences more broadly) became national concerns and the transnational circulation of ideas. 

Patience A. Schell is Chair in Hispanic Studies at the University of Aberdeen.  Amongst her research interests are the history of science, museums and friendship in nineteenth-century Latin America, particularly Chile. Her books include Church and State Education in Revolutionary Mexico City (2003) and The Sociable Sciences: Darwin and his contemporaries in Chile (2013).  Her articles have been published in Past and Present, The Americas and the Journal of Women’s History.