A.R.T. Jonkers

Winner Dissertation Prize 2000

North by Northwest. Seafaring, Science and the Earth’s Magnetic Field (1600-1800)

Supervisors: Prof. Dr C.A. Davids, dr. A. Jackson
Nomination: Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Arts

Report by the selection committee

This book is an exceptional example of interdisciplinary research spanning geomagnetism and history. It concerns the relationship between changes in the earth’s magnetic field, ideas about geomagnetism, and the way in which the navigational practice of European seafaring nations in the 17th and 18th centuries allowed for the effects of geomagnetism. In his study Jonkers combines the achievements of geophysics with knowledge, insights and methods from the history of science, the history of ideas and maritime history. This is a profound, empirical scientific study applied to facts from the past. The method used in this study is quite exceptional: geomagnetic findings are considered in relation to historical practice. The interdisciplinary approach is thus based on reciprocity. The analysis of historical sources from a physical perspective provides not only a better geophysical model but also a new instrument for historical research. The book is therefore of great value to both historians and scientists.