Student Research Projects

The Empirical Imperium: Science and Empire in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century United States

Student John Nash Maravich
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 433: Globalization and the United States


This paper seeks to outline the ways in which imperial powers in the eighteenth and nineteenth century used scientific exploration, discoveries, and scientists in grand imperial projects outlining the ways in which scientific inquiry and imperial prerogatives were united in a number of grand scientific expeditions in the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth century. This era is important because it represents what is often called the “heroic age” for a number of scientific disciplines, most notable geology and ecology. Much of the research carried out during this time fueled the growth in human understanding of the Earth and its dissemination and discussion fostered the growth of a global scientific community.

Using the 1769 transit of Venus as a starting point for these sorts of projects and the model by which all followed, this paper shall outline the evolution of the various large scale scientific expeditions sponsored by the United States and compare them to the various imperial powers of Europe with special attention given the the way the United States sponsored expeditions interacted with foreign powers. A comparison of the various expeditions will further illuminate the differences and similarities between these endeavors and their objectives.