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By Sean F. Johnston

It is a background of the hidden workings of actual technology - a technical endeavour embedded in a social context. It argues that this 'undisciplined' topic, straddling academia, trade and law, will be commonplace not just of twentieth century technological know-how, yet of its destiny.

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30 On Herschel's novel astronomical style, see Schafer S 1981 'Uranus and the establishment of Herschel's astronomy' J. Hist. Astron. 12 11-26. 31 Michell J 1767 'An inquiry into the probable parallax, and magnitude of the fixed stars, from the quantity of light which they afford us, and the particular circumstances of their situation' Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. 57 234-45 32 Hoskin M A 1963 William Herschel and the Construction of the Heavens (London). 33 Bouguer op. cit. note 2, reported that the Swedish astronomer Celsius had used a similar method based on printed slips or black and white patterns.

Photography: juggling variables Developed from the 1830s, photography is seemingly tied closely to issues of light intensity. Ostensibly obvious questions-all quantitative--could be posed: How much light is needed to darken a photographic plate? How much are plates of different compositions darkened by the same amount of light? How much do different colours of light affect the results? How much does an optical filter reduce the intensity of transmission? But questions such as these reveal the gulf between the contexts of the mid-19th and 20th centuries.

His rather arbitrary numerical descriptions intermingled with the flowery language of the artist: 'Blue.. belongs more to the principle of darkness or shade.. and is consequently the most retiring of the three. It is also of these elements the most cool and pleasing to the eye, associating, as it does, with the groundwork of the retina itself'49. Hay's method of quantifying colour was to assign rather arbitrarily proportions of 'light and darkness' with little reference to Light as a Law-Abiding Quantity either experiment or theory.

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