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Title:The Sidereal Visions of Kant, Humboldt, and Einstein: An Introduction to German Cosmological Prose
Author(s):Mcculloh, Mark Richard
Department / Program:German
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Germanic
History of Science
Abstract:Beginning with an examination of the problems inherent in the unorthodox approach "science as literature," this dissertation attempts an examination of creative language use and speculative fantasy in that field of the physical sciences which is perhaps man's boldest fiction, i.e., cosmography. Germany's contribution to the modern version of this creative effort has been significant, beginning with Johannes Kepler and gaining mature vernacular expression with the Newtonian Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (1755) by Immanuel Kant, a work that initiated the still current "nebular hypothesis" of cosmogony, suggested systematic replication on a galactic scale, and also predicted planets beyond Saturn. In the mid-nineteenth century, Alexander von Humboldt synthesized contemporary knowledge of the natural world in a consciously aesthetic description of the cosmic "landscape," Kosmos (1845-1858). Early in the twentieth century, Albert Einstein's numerous essays (1905-1917) and his paradigmatic "Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitatstheorie" (1916) revolutionized modern cosmology with a fanciful vision of gravitationally curved space, time dilation, and ultimate equivalence of mass and energy.
Writings on "science as literature" generally consider either the use of natural science as a subject for verse form (as it began to appear more commonly in the eighteenth century), or the appearance of modern scientific notions in works of an otherwise presumably nonscientific nature, e.g., the novel, the drama, and the lyric poem. Although historically inaccurate, the conviction that prose of the physical sciences places little value on aesthetic language use of literary form has permitted the literature scholar to neglect scientific literature. This dissertation grew out of the conviction that writers like Kant, Humboldt, and Einstein produced not only important artifacts for German intellectual history, but works of intrinsic literary value. Through critical and comparative investigation, this study attempts to provide a clearer picture of cosmography in German, a long-neglected prose genre.
Issue Date:1983
Description:425 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1983.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8309983
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1983

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