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THE BOOKS: Science


Family Recipe Book, 1869?

The practice of medicine has made great advances since the 1800s. During that time period, medications like the ‘Canadian Pain Destroyer’ and ‘Pulmonic Wafers’ claimed to provide relief from ailments ranging from toothaches and asthma to cholera and dysentery. Advertisements like these were commonly run in newspapers, magazines and books. In the case of this recipe book, the book itself was simply a way of promoting the company’s products. The book was an ideal vehicle to bring the message of the ads to the public.


John A. Bruce & Co.’s Illustrated and Descriptive Catalogue of Seeds, 1884

This illustrated catalogue shows the various plants and seeds available through a Hamilton seed merchant and provides information about their growing conditions and crops yields. Published in 1884, the release of this 33rd annual edition says a great deal about the prominence and importance of agriculture in the province during the 1800s. The catalogue includes a number of illustrations of what would now be considered heritage or heirloom varieties of vegetables.


Time Reckoning for the Twentieth Century, 1889

In the late 1800s, Sir Sandford Fleming invented the concept of time zones and convinced the world’s scientific community of its merits. The world was becoming a smaller place – rail travel and trade were becoming more common, communication from place to place was getting easier – and Fleming recognized the need for a standardized system of time zones. This paper is his explanation of standardized time zones, how they work and their importance to the world.

Historical link: Sir Sandford Fleming - Historica Minute


Today, medical and scientific information is available to more people than ever before. Journals and books dedicated to medicine, science magazines and websites, online databases and encyclopedias all provide us with a better understanding of ourselves and the world around us. In the 19th century, scientific understanding was already well developed. This was the era of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution and Sir Sandford Fleming and his push to create standardized time zones throughout the world. Yet the means to share scientific knowledge was limited. At the time, few books were published and the public library system did not exist as we know it today. The reliability of the scientific information that was available was at times questionable.

  1. For each of the documents answer the following questions:
    1. Who are the authors of these sources?
    2. Who published these documents?
    3. Why was the document created? What is its purpose?
  2. Based on the answers for question 1, which of the three sources is most reliable? Which is least reliable? What can you say about the authenticity of the science in these documents?
  3. AS PART OF THE CLASS MAGAZINE: The types of science referred to in these documents differ greatly from one document to the next. Using the Science Evidence Organizer explain the type of science represented in the document and provide evidence of this. From the information gathered write a one page article explaining the state of science and some of the ways science was used in the 1800s. Use your response from question 2 to help fill in your answers.


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