Thoreau Society Member Patrick Chura Presenting

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 - 13:00 to 14:30
Cambridge, MA

Harvard University - Special Interdisciplinary Seminar
“Engineering for All America”:
Thoreau, Melville, and the Science of Surveying

Professor Patrick Chura, University of Akron
Wednesday, September 25, 2013, 1 – 2:30 pm
2nd Floor, Maxwell-Dworkin Building

In eulogizing Henry Thoreau, Emerson expressed regret that instead of “engineering for all America,” his friend had chosen to be “the captain of a huckleberry party.” Thoreau’s extensive land surveying accomplishments argue that he did both.  This seminar, based on the prize-winning book Thoreau the Land Surveyor, will explore how two major American writers engaged the engineering science of their day, applying ethics to physics and morality to measuring. Self-education was Thoreau’s method of becoming the best professional surveyor in his community; certification as a “surveyor and engineer” was the last piece of formal education Herman Melville acquired before embarking on his first whaling voyage. The works of both writers frequently theorize synergies between rational investigation and literary imagination, showing how science and aesthetics cooperated in mid-nineteenth century intellectual culture, and how our national literature was shaped by a synthesis of interlinked, cross-disciplinary forms of knowledge. 

Patrick Chura is Professor of English at the University of Akron and author of Vital Contact: Downclassing Journeys in American Literature from Herman Melville to Richard Wright, as well as Thoreau the Land Surveyor.

The seminar will be followed by a tour of Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. Please RSVP to if you would like to attend the tour or meet individually with Professor Chura