Science and the Apocalypse: The Great Lisbon Earthquake Disaster of 1755
On the morning of Nov. 1, 1755 - All Saints' Day - the capital of the Portuguese empire was largely destroyed by the combined assaults of the largest European earthquake in the last 10,000 years, an enormous tsunami, which barreled up the Tagus river and smashed into Lisbon's waterfront, and, finally, a hellacious fire, which did more material damage than both the earthquake and the tsunami combined.
Professor Mark Molesky, the author of This Gulf of Fire, will describe the great disaster and discuss its impact on Portugal and the Western World. He will examine the resultant debate about the meaning and causes of the earthquake, in which the three most celebrated minds of the 18th century - Voltaire, Rousseau, and Kant - participated. He will also describe some of the challenges historians and non-scientists face when writing about scientific subjects.
Molesky is an associate professor of history at Seton Hall University. He received his A.M. and Ph.D. in history from Harvard, where he was a lecturer on history and literature. His most recent book, This Gulf of Fire: The Destruction of Lisbon, or Apocalypse in the Age of Science and Reason, is a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize in History. Book Prize winners will be announced April 9 at the LA Times Book Festival at USC.
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