The paper examines the relationships between instrument epistemology, failure, and textual authority with reference to the place of scientific instruments in published narratives of 19th‐century exploration. The paper draws on Baird's work on instrument epistemology and “semantic ascent” and Gooday's work on failure and on the morality of measurement. Its empirical focus comes from examination of RGS manuscript AP 52, a list of instruments provided by the RGS for 31 explorers in the period c.1877 to c.1883. Instruments are shown to (do) work in the field, even as explorers admitted to failure, in the devices and in themselves. Narrative accounts, often compiled elsewhere, obscure the contingent nature of instruments’ use. The findings have implications for assessing the agency of instruments in exploration, instrument epistemology, and narrative inscription, and for understanding failure in geographical work.
|Journal||Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers|
|Early online date||18 Jun 2019|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2019|