Laura Clerx

Ph.D. Candidate, History, Boston College

2023 to 2024
Research Fellow

Nature's Properties: Science and Commerce in Early America, 1780-1850

In the early republic, Americans involved in commercial enterprise called upon a rapidly expanding repertoire of scientific knowledge in their quest to understand and remake North American nature according to increasingly capitalist aims. Yet, even as science influenced the direction of commerce, the property-making activities of these early Americans shaped their knowledge of nature’s properties. Focusing on land, seasons, and transportation, this dissertation asks how expansion into newly-ceded western lands shaped a growing body of scientific knowledge. Examining the output of scientific societies alongside the political economic transformations of the post-Revolutionary years, and the material engagement with the environment that characterized land sale and transportation projects in the early republic, “Nature’s Properties: Science and Commerce in Early America, 1780-1850” demonstrates how scientific knowledge about the natural world in early America was shaped by concerns about nature’s economic value and the demands of a developing commercial economy.