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The Impact of the Scottish Enlightenment on the Industrial Revolution

Andrew Bernstein

Presented at: OCON 2005

Date: Jul 02, 2005

The profound influence of the Scottish Enlightenment on the British Industrial Revolution has rarely been identified or appreciated. The central Enlightenment principles of reason, individualism and freedom took deep root in 18th century Scotland and brought great practical progress. Many leading Scottish intellectuals were themselves manufacturers or industrial consultants. For example, James Hutton, a scientist and early pioneer of geology, was a chemical manufacturer who earned considerable wealth from his innovative process of synthesizing ammonium chloride. William Cullen, who revolutionized the teaching of medicine at the University of Edinburgh, initiated a project to improve bleaching methods employed by local linen manufacturers. James Watt, Adam Smith and the chemist Joseph Black were three of many Scottish thinkers who wrought technological and industrial advances. The Industrial Revolution, so often unjustly maligned, will never be fully understood until it is seen as a consequence of the Enlightenment's conviction that applied rationality would transform man's life on earth.


Parts: 5

Handout: none


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