Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Nature and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Mexico: The "Sociedad Mexicana de Historia Natural" (1868–1914)
by Torres Montero, Maria Gabriela, Ph.D., University of Kansas, 2014, 252; 3682556
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation centers on the place natural history occupied in Mexican science and the ideas of the members of the Sociedad Mexicana de Historia Natural (SMHN). I propose that between 1865 and 1914, Mexican intellectuals who joined the Sociedad Mexicana de Historia Natural or participated on its margins, maintained a traditional, teleological understanding about the close links between the natural and social world. However, in this period they also embraced the use of scientific inquiry to enhance their understanding of the natural world in order to guide the country toward order and progress, similar to that enjoyed by other Western societies, especially France and the US. Influenced by Humboldt, Comte, Lamarck, and Spencer, Mexican scientists encouraged the study of natural history, believing that there was a strong and reciprocal relationship between the natural and social world. Mexican scientists had clear goals for this research: First, to learn how nature worked in order to maintain an equilibrium in the use of natural resources. Second, natural history could provide knowledge of how to use natural resources (flora, fauna, minerals), as well as improve the environment (climate, soil, air, water, geography) and the Mexican people (race, public health), which scientists believed would help to construct a modern and progressive country. Indeed, according to SMHN scientists, nature played a key role in the economic and social development of the country. For them, knowledge of the natural world would allow them to construct a progressive, civilized, and modern country similar to other powerful Western nations. In this vein, this dissertation examines what SMHN scientists thought about natural history and the management of resources to improve the country's economy and public good during the period from 1865 to 1914. This period is relevant because it constituted a turning point in the study of natural history in Mexico, linked to a long period of stable, authoritarian government known as the Porfiriato, the most important formative period of industrial expansionism in Mexico, increasing international investment in mining and railroads, a rise in agricultural exports, and other endeavors with a massive impact on the natural world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Cushman, Gregory T.
Commitee: Arias, Santa, Corteguera, Luis, Gregg, Sara, Schwaller, Robert
School: University of Kansas
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Kansas
Source: DAI-A 76/07(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Latin American history, Environmental Studies, Science history
Keywords: Mexican science, Natural history, Sociedad mexicana de historia natural
Publication Number: 3682556
ISBN: 978-1-321-56128-9
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