Giving voice to geography: popular lectures and the diffusion of knowledge

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In the winter of 1912, the American geographer Ellen Churchill Semple delivered a short series of lectures to the Royal Scottish Geographical Society on the subject of anthropogeography. Her lectures closely followed the publication in 1911 of her book Influences of geographic environment, and were an important venue for the promotion of the ideas it contained. With reference to recent work in the history of science concerned with the communication of knowledge, this paper describes how the reception of Semple’s ideas on
environmental influence was facilitated and conditioned by her popular lectures to the Society. More generally, this paper considers how text and talk functioned differently in the diffusion of scientific ideas, and how, in each medium, standards of trust and credibility were established and assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198–203
JournalScottish Geographical Journal
Issue number2 & 3
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • historical geography
  • geographic thought
  • Ellen Churchill Semple
  • scientific knowledge
  • popular lectures

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