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How Clinton’s Ditch Made a Way for Amos Eaton’s “Blaze of Geological Zeal”

July 25, 2020 @ 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

$8 - $10
How Clinton’s Ditch Made a Way for Amos Eaton’s “Blaze of Geological Zeal”

Virtual lecture features author of DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton

Get your ticket now for How Clinton’s Ditch Made a Way for Amos Eaton’s “Blaze of Geological Zeal” with David Spanagel, historian and author of DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York. The online program will take place Saturday, July 25 at 1 p.m. EDT. Spanagel is a guest in our bimonthly Deeper Dive Virtual Lecture series. Admission is $10 for the general public and $8 for Erie Canal Museum members. If you are a Museum member, email to receive a discount code. Please preregister and prepay through the Shop page of our website to receive an email providing access to this secure event.

Spanagel will discuss how the practical relevance of theoretical scientific knowledge emerged directly from Erie Canal excavation and construction, and how ignorance about geographical and technological challenges influenced innovation. Governor DeWitt Clinton believed that the social payoff for developing American scientific capability was in rendering immense wealth from untapped land and natural resources. Clinton’s wide reading and curiosity about nature resulted from a desire for practical application of esoteric knowledge.

Clinton and America’s first civil engineers invoked natural history time and time again as an essential tool in building the Canal. Onto this scene strode Amos Eaton, a man whose scientific career blossomed late in life, but just in time to illuminate that slice of earth’s history which was newly exposed by the excavation of the waterway.

Our speaker received a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and American Studies from Oberlin College, a Master’s in Education from the University of Rochester, and a doctorate in the history of science from Harvard University. Spanagel’s first book DeWitt Clinton and Amos Eaton: Geology and Power in Early New York, explores the broader cultural history of geological ideas and practices in early 19th century New York state. It examines the Erie Canal’s role as a centerpiece for a radical transformation of American understanding of earth’s history, and an extraordinary practical opportunity for American geologists to do internationally respectable work in natural history while exploring systematic theoretical discussions of dynamic geological processes.

Be sure to join us at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 25 for this fascinating presentation!

In response to the COVID-19 crisis and to protect visitors, volunteers, and staff, the Museum is closed to the public until further notice. This online event is a great way to learn Canal history as we all do our part to stay safe and healthy. Until we open our doors, we are working diligently to serve you through these types of programs. We greatly appreciate your support as we face financial uncertainty. If you’d like to make a donation to the Museum, please click here.

The Erie Canal Museum is partially supported by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


Erie Canal Museum
318 Erie Boulevard East
Syracuse, NY 13202 United States