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date: 17 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores how public performances, research, and devices of demonstration put physics on show during the long eighteenth century. It first considers how demonstration machines made physics real to an amateur audience, how philosophical instrument-makers essentially manufactured the market for public performance, and how entertainment provided by experimental lectures evolved into engagement of many kinds. It then discusses the reactions of audiences to lectures, focusing on the experience of one lecturer: James Dinwiddie. It suggests that those captivated by experimental drama in a cosmopolitan Europe were further drawn to the instrument-makers’ shops. Many sought out apparatus that transformed amusement into their own exploration of nature. While dissemination in the physical sciences clearly had much to do with this commerce in devices, the purchase of apparatus was almost as anonymous as attendance at lectures.

Keywords: public performances, research, devices, physics, demonstration machines, instrument-makers, entertainment, experimental lectures, audiences, James Dinwiddie

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