James A. Secord

Visions of Science: Epilogue

James A. Secord closes his Visions of Science (2014) with an Epilogue, concluding that the early decades of the nineteenth century was a “period of projections, projects, and prophesies, of attempts to imagine the future.” This was the promise of the new science. The technological innovations in printing, publication, and distribution diffused the message of the new prophets widely. But this new knowledge had a life of its own, and both Tories and radicals feared it. The Tories feared its ramification on traditional values; the radicals feared it would ultimately distract the worker from his political plight.

The March of the Intelect

“I come, I come! cries the great machine of intellect, ushering in the universal availability of information.” (The British Museum, 1828)

In any event, according to Secord the “secular millennium of useful knowledge trumpeted by Brougham in 1825 never arrived.” While the utopia quickly faded, a new prophetic ethos emerged, which “fed into a deeper and more lasting current of belief in progress.” Every author Secord discusses assumed that science “revealed the laws instituted by divine providence that underpinned the material and spiritual advance of civilization.” This is worth reflection. To these men and women, God had bestowed upon Britain a divine commission to “spread enlightenment across the globe.” They had a powerful vision of progress, and they used the new science to support it. Indeed, the new science need not lead to atheism or materialism. The metascientific works of the nineteenth century engaged the reader to reflect on “scientific law, the uniformity of nature, and divine goodness” simultaneously.

However, this rhetorical strategy was remarkably altered a generation later. The scientific naturalists retained the metaphysical belief in progress, but left out the doctrine of divine providence of Christian tradition. Another generation later, men and women now pay obeisance to scientists themselves.

Secord’s Visions of Science is readable, engaging, and informative. It is written however for a popular audience, with large text, spacing, and margins, encouraging annotations. Even the physical appearance of the book is inviting, the grey jacket cover going well with a black case cloth and red endpaper. His footnotes cite well-known authors, which provides guidance for further investigation. Some specialists will undoubtedly find faults and something to criticize. But it should be obvious at the outset that Secord pursued an non-specialist audience. A helpful Chronology follows the Epilogue, marking important political events and works published from 1819 to 1837. A guide to Further Reading follows, with classic and more recent works on science in nineteenth-century Britain. The work is printed on cheap paper, though, which made annotating difficult even with a fine round stic pen. There are also some embarrassing typos, such as, for example, when Secord writes “Book of Revelations” and “though” when he obviously meant “Book of Revelation” and “through.” This is surprise coming from editors of Oxford University Press.

These criticisms notwithstanding, James Secord has produced an important book. Both specialist and non-specialist will benefit from its insight and analysis of influential, early nineteenth-century popularizers of science.

Visions of Science: Thomas Carlyle

Scottish doctor and chemist Andrew Ure (1778-1857), in his The Philosophy of Manufactures (1835), proclaimed his era as “distinguished from every preceding age by an universal ardour of enterprise in arts and manufactures.” And of all the nations, “Great Britain may certainly continue to uphold her envied supremacy, sustained by her coal, iron, capital, and skill, if, acting on the Baconian axiom, ‘Knowledge is Power,’ she shall diligently promote moral and professional culture among all the ranks of her productive population.” He praised the “physico-mechanical” philosophy for all the blessings it has bestowed on society, “ameliorating the lot of mankind.” The manufacturer, through his factory of machines, and through the manipulation of nature, has produced “articles of necessity, convenience, or luxury, by the most economical and unerring means.” Ure compared the factory “to the muscular, the nervous, and the sanguiferous systems of an animal.” The machine has replaced the human. “Machinery, with little or no aid of the human hand,” he writes, “dispenses entirely with manual labour.”

Ure’s enthusiasm for the “Iron Man,” the great industrial and manufacturing revolution of the early decades of the nineteenth century, was shared by many. But there is another side to the story, of course. The factory was also the “dark Satanic mills” of William Blake’s 1808 poem. Hell had risen, with fog, mud, nightmare, darkness, and squalor, and engulfed the earth. Michael Thomas Sadler (1780-1835), British Tory MP and evangelical Anglican, decried the sorry lot of the factory worker, especially children. He put together a committee to investigate the poor conditions of the factories. He was awarded with much resistance from Whig politicians, who put together their own committee to investigate the findings of Sadler’s committee! The plight of the poor was no match for ideas of progress.

Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)

In his last chapter, James Secord explores the work of Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), who, in his well-known Sartor Resartus, serialized in Fraser’s Magazine from 1833-34, and published in a single volume in 1838, satirized men of science and their ideas and hopes of progress. Carlyle appears to be an odd selection in a book that discusses the work of science popularizers such as Davy, Babbage, Herschel, Somerville, Lyell, and Combe. But it is a fitting end, for Carlyle’s writings influenced—perhaps unexpectedly—the next generation of the men of science, the scientific naturalists.

Sartor begins by asking why, in a “our present advanced state of culture, and how the Torch of Science has now been brandished and borne about,” why has “little or nothing of the fundamental character, whether in the way of Philosophy or History, has been written on the subject of Clothes” (my emphasis). This was, of course, ironical. The author digresses into the great advances of science, declaring that “to many Royal Society, the Creation of a World is little more mysterious than the cooking of a dumpling.” Indeed, he goes on, “Man’s whole life and environment have been laid open and elucidated; scarcely a fragment or fibre of his Soul, Body, and Possessions, but has been probed, dissected, distilled, dessicated, and scientifically decomposed: our spiritual Faculties, of which it appears there are not a few, have their Stewarts, Cousins, Royer Collards: every cellular, vascular, muscular Tissue glories in its Lawrences, Majendies, Bichats.” All this deep and glorious scientific work, and yet no science of clothes!

But there is hope, for “Germany, learned, indefatigable, deep-thinking Germany comes to our aid.” While the Philosophy of Clothes languishes among the English, there is a man in Germany, a Professor Diogenes Teufelsdröckh (“god-born devil-dung”) of Weissnichtwo (“know-not-where”), who has published a treatise expressly on the subject, Die Kleider, ihr Werden un Wirken (“Clothes, their Origin and Influence). Kindly, Teufelsdröckh has sent a copy of this work to the present editor and narrator of Sartor. The rest of Sartor discusses the “difficulties,” “reminiscences,” and “characteristics” of Die Kleider.

According to Secord, Sartor is a parody, an ironic “inversion of the reflective scientific treatises that flourished around 1830,” an ad absurdam extension of mechanical philosophy as another author puts it. Many commentators have pointed out the similarities between Carlyle’s Sartor and Jonathan Swift’s (1667-1745) Tale of a Tub (1704) or Gulliver’s Travels (1726). But as Secord notes, although Carlyle indeed drew from these genres, he only did so “to undermine them, to demonstrate the impossibility of drawing sharp lines between different literary forms.” But of all literary forms, Carlyle unremittingly mocks the literature of scientific reflection. As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, in the American edition of Sartor (Boston, 1837):  “the manifest design of the work…is, a Criticism upon the Spirit of the Age,—we had almost said, of the hour, in which we live; exhibiting, in the most just and novel light, the present aspects of Religion, Politics, Literature, Arts, and Social Life.” It is a work, he continues, which will find its “way to the heart of every lover of virtue.”

Most contemporary readers, however, were confused by the work. At times prolix, paradoxical, and personal, many readers were puzzled and even angered by Carlyle’s mockery of Whiggism, with its talk of “Progress of the Species, Dark Ages, Prejudice, and the like.” Indeed, talk of the progress of science “finds small favour with Teufelsdröckh.”

In a chapter entitled “Natural Supernaturalism,” Carlyle calls for the “birth of a spiritually vital science that would release the human potential for action.” Here the “editor” discusses how Teufelsdröckh’s Philosophy of Clothes has attained “transcendentalism.” Teufelsdröckh asks whether a miracle is simply a violation of the Laws of Nature? But what, exactly, are the Laws of Nature? They are the fixed, unalterable rule of the Universe. But Sartor asks, “What those same unalterable rules, forming the complete Statute-Book of Nature, may be possibly be?

They stand written in our Works of Science, say you; in the accumulated records of Man’s Experience?—Was Man with his Experience present at the Creation, then, to see how it all went on? Have any deepest scientific individuals yet dived down to the foundations of the Universe, and gauged everything there? Did the Maker take them into His counsel; that they read His ground-plan of the incomprehensible All; and can say, This stands marked therein, and no more than this? Alas, not in anywise! These scientific individuals have been nowhere but where we also are; have seen some hand breadths deeper than we see into the Deep that is infinite, without bottom as without shore.

Laplace’s Book on the Stars, wherein he exhibits that certain Planets, with their Satellites, gyrate round our worthy Sun, at a rate and in a course, which, by greatest good fortune, he and the like of him have succeeded in detecting,—is to me as precious as to another. But is this what thou namest ‘Mechanism of the Heavens,’ and ‘System of the World’; this, wherein Sirius and the Pleiades, and all Herschel’s Fifteen thousand Suns per minute, being left out, some paltry handful of Moons, and inert Balls, had been—looked at, nick-named, and marked in the Zodiacal Way-bill; so that we can now prate of their Whereabout; their How, their Why, their What, being hid from us, as in the signless Inane?

System of Nature! To the wisest man, wide as is his vision, Nature remains of quite infinite depth, of quite infinite expansion; and all Experience thereof limits itself to some few computed centuries and measured square-miles. The course of Nature’s phases, on this our little fraction of a Planet, is partially known to us: but who knows what deeper courses these depend on; what infinitely larger Cycle (of causes) our little Epicycle revolves on? To the Minnow every cranny and pebble, and quality and accident, of its little native Creek may have become familiar: but does the Minnow understand the Ocean Tides and periodic Currents, the Trade-winds, and Monsoons, and Moon’s Eclipses; by all which the condition of its little Creek is regulated, and may, from time to time (unmiraculously enough), be quite overset and reversed? Such a minnow is Man; his Creek this Planet Earth; his Ocean the immeasurable All; his Monsoons and periodic Currents the mysterious Course of Providence through AEons of AEons.

We speak of the Volume of Nature: and truly a Volume it is,—whose Author and Writer is God. To read it! Dost thou, does man, so much as well know the Alphabet thereof? With its Words, Sentences, and grand descriptive Pages, poetical and philosophical, spread out through Solar Systems, and Thousands of Years, we shall not try thee. It is a Volume written in celestial hieroglyphs, in the true Sacred-writing; of which even Prophets are happy that they can read here a line and there a line. As for your Institutes, and Academies of Science, they strive bravely; and, from amid the thick-crowded, inextricably intertwisted hieroglyphic writing, pick out, by dexterous combination, some Letters in the vulgar Character, and therefrom put together this and the other economic Recipe, of high avail in Practice. That Nature is more than some boundless Volume of such Recipes, or huge, well-nigh inexhaustible Domestic-Cookery Book, of which the whole secret will in this manner one day evolve itself, the fewest dream.

There is an obvious and quite deliberate echo of God’s response to Job in the Hebrew Bible: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (Job 38.4-7).

Lest we think Carlyle a Luddite or anti-scientific, we should recall, as Secord reminds us, that he excelled in mathematics while at the University of Edinburgh; indeed his first job was teaching mathematics at Annan Academy, a preparatory school for boys in Scotland. He was also a paid assistant of David Brewster (1781-1868), one of the founding members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. “Carlyle’s ability to mock the developing traditions of scientific writing,” Secord writes, “drew on long experience of teaching, translating, and reviewing.”

Carlyle had become disillusioned from with contemporary science at a young age. In an 1822 article he had written for Brewster’s Edinburgh Encyclopedia on the French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal, Carlyle ridiculed Pascal’s famous calculator as “a wonderful but useless proof of its author’s ingenuity.” When he began pursuing studies in mineralogy, Carlyle was introduced to the work of Goethe, Schelling, and other writers of German Romanticism. Against the utilitarian philosophies of British thinkers, Carlyle was enraptured dynamic Naturphilosophie.  He came to see mechanics as limited, “focused on applications, and based on experiment and observation; dynamics was primary, vital, and grounded in intuition.” Carlyle saw a need to reform natural philosophy once again, for contemporary philosophers and mathematicians were “turning so-called ‘useful knowledge’ into a Pascal-like engine for the mechanical transformation of every area of life.” This “mechanization” was the “Signs of the Times,” and it will drastically and poisonously alter every aspect of society.

Secord transitions from Sartor to the wider context to help us better grasp Carlyle’s denigration of the “Age of Machinery.” At the urging of Lord Brougham, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) was founded in 1826 with the concerted goal of communicating every piece of “useful” information available to the working classes. But according to Carlyle, the “world of bookselling and publishing was as completely corrupted by mechanism as the rest of British society.” He mocked the SDUK in an 1833 article in Fraser’s Magazine. Fraser’s was known its satirical bite, for railing “against the utopian impracticality of schemes for universal education.” According to Secord, every “issue had articles mocking radicals and the reforming Whigs, especially their support for utilitarian political economy.” The new learning would only distract the worker. Ultimately, these aspirations were impractical. Worse yet, the new learning would endanger traditional values, “the schoolmaster peddling reason could be succeeded by the demagogue preaching irreligion and democracy.” In short, a periodical like Fraser’s was an ideal place for Carlyle to publish his Sartor.

In his call to reform science, Carlyle’s Sartor “became a spiritual guide for thousands of readers in Europe and America, especially [Secord tells us] young men in search of a creed to replace traditional Christianity.” The high calling of the man of science appealed, for example, to readers like Thomas Henry Huxley and John Tyndall. Both Huxley and Tyndall rejected materialism as a philosophy of life: “The evolution of matter and of life need not lead to a world devoid of spirit and governed solely by material processes.” As Sartor declares, the new men of science could “stand peaceful on his scientific watch-tower,” a truly “spiritual observatory.”

Visions of Science: George Combe

George Comeb

George Combe (1788-1858)

“Skulls do not lie.” That was the common motto among the phrenologists of the nineteenth century. In his sixth chapter to Visions of Science (2014), Secord examines the life and work of George Combe (1788-1858), the most read and well-known phrenologist of the nineteenth century. Most of what Secord writes in this chapter can be found in his earlier Victorian Sensation (2000). In addition, he makes use of previous studies, including Roger Cooter’s The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science: Phrenology and the Organization of Consent in Nineteenth-Century Britain (1984), and especially John van Wyhe’s Phrenology and the Origins of Victorian Scientific Naturalism (2004), which I have mentioned in another post, and Charles Gibbon’s biography of Combe in The Life of George Combe, Author of ‘The Constitution of Man’, 2 vols. (1878).

Long before Darwin published his Origin of Species (1859), doctrines of natural law had been peddled by Combe—yet Combe has been accorded no role in standard histories of evolutionary naturalism. Combe originally published his The Constitution of Man, Considered in Relation to External Objects in 1828 to a select audience, but starting in 1835, when W. & R. Chambers began publishing an inexpensive “People’s Edition” version of the text, Combe became one of the most widely-read authors of the century.

Combe had been influenced by the writings of Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) and Johann Spurzheim (1776-1832), who had effectively argued that the brain was the organ of the mind, and its relative size and shape dictated the development of an individual, intellectually, morally, emotionally, and so on. Combe argued that so-called “natural laws” of phrenology were essential for living rightly, “as a first step towards self-help and not being misled by others.” As Secord writes, “readers could achieve the self-knowledge that would allow them to change their circumstances and act appropriately in a rapidly changing and increasingly individualistic world.”

Combe’s argument was immensely attractive to Victorians. Novelist Margracia Loudon, for example, read Constitution at least three times, sparking “an experience akin to a religious conversion.” As she writes in a letter to a friend:

…never was I so entirely delighted with any book. That one small volume seems to me to comprise more wisdom, of a kind practically applicable to the production of human happiness, than all the ponderous works put together that I have ever met with. All the vague aspirations after any thing true or beautiful, which I have ever traced, faintly gleaming through the mystic or inconsistent pages of other writers, appear to me to be, in Mr. Combe’s book, concentrated into a steady, cheering, guiding light, by which mankind, if they would be accept the aid it offers them, might feel assured of attaining true felicity, both temporal and eternal.

Combe’s Constitution proclaimed that the laws of nature were progressive. If we are to attain true progress, true happiness, we must obey these laws. “The first principle on which existence on earth, and all its advantages depend,” Combe writes, “is obedience to the physical and organic laws.”

L0022893 George Combe, names of phrenological organs, 1836

“Names of the Phrenological Organs,” from George Combe, Outlines of Phrenology (Edinburgh, 1836)

As Charles Lyell, Combe began as an Edinburgh barrister. During this time he came to reject the traditional Christian doctrines of human sin and redemption. He thought the philosophies of John Locke, Adam Smith, and Dugald Stewart too abstract to apply to everyday life. Although impressed with Spurzheim’s work as a surgeon, he was disgusted by the Burke and Hare scandal, who murdered and sold prostitutes for dissection at university anatomy lectures. Phrenology, he thought, ought to be more practical, “pursued primarily through skilled observations by experienced practitioners, rather than through dissection or physiological experiment…what really mattered was the skilled movement of the fingers of the trained phrenologist.”

Combe wanted to give phrenology a greater “scientific” status, and what better way to achieve this goal than through the printed word. He developed a network of followers who published “primers, introductory surveys, advanced textbooks, and journals” on phrenology. From polemical pamphlets and treatises to standard works of scientific reference, Combe pushed for the respectability and scientific status of phrenology.

More than geology, the science of the mind was by far the most contentious of the new “sciences.” Radicals such as Thomas Hope (1769-1831), Richard Carlile (1790-1843), William Lawrence (1783-1867) and others used the new science for their materialist philosophies.

Combe wanted phrenology to be respectable, so when Scripture or theology came up in his Constitution, he discussed them in “reverential terms and claimed to be compatible with every word in the New Testament.” Combe feigned humility when he said that natural law did not ensure salvation. The problem, as Secord points out, “was that Constitution maintained that understanding the laws of nature must be a preliminary to all religious instruction, so that the Bible needed to be interpreted in light of the Constitution rather than the other way around.” Of course, the greatest fear among evangelical readers was that the “laws of nature revealed by science would replace the need fro a caring God.”

These fears were amplified when sales of the Constitution reached unprecedented numbers. However, like the rest of the authors Secord discusses, Combe was no atheist. For Combe, God had created a progressive system, and if humans truly wanted to improve themselves, they had to obey these progressive, natural laws. Indeed, “an understanding of the natural laws was an essential prerequisite to appreciating the higher truths of Christianity.”

So, why was Combe’s Constitution so appealing? According to Secord, Combe did not tell his readers what they did not already believe. Certain prejudices and assumptions about race, gender, and class were readily available to Victorians. What Combe achieved was giving these assumptions the veil of “scientific” status. As Seocrd observes, “it allowed readers to interpret the character of others as expressed in their behaviour, whether they were intimate relations, strangers on the street, or potential political allies.” This desire to judge character based on material or outward appearances became a “science” under Combe. Futhermore, the Constitution “motivated an understanding of one’s own mind that was at the core of the developing idea of self-help, while showing how that understanding could be used towards broader aims and social transformation.” Indeed, it provided the “underpinnings for a whole range of Victorian reform movements, from removing Church control over education to repeal of the taxes on corn.” In short, it provided both political and metaphysical assumptions under the guise of “science.”

“In this world of masks, misleading impressions, and the clutter of material things,” Secord concludes, “Constitution offered a way of using surfaces to penetrate to the underlying nature of individual character.”

Visions of Science: Charles Lyell

Charles Lyell

Charles Lyell (1797-1875)

James Secord opens his fifth chapter, which focuses on Charles Lyell’s (1797-1875) Principles of Geology (1830-33), by stating that geology had become the most contentious of the new sciences. But this requires some qualification. In Britain, where knowledge of the natural world was used to prove the existence, power, and wisdom of God, many leading geologists were clergymen. The situation was rather different in France, however, where leading intellectuals were anti-clerical.

The history of geology is complex and full of interesting characters. Hexamera, or commentaries on the creation account in the book of Genesis, have been part of the Christian tradition since the second century. “Sacred chronology,” as it was called, attempted to calculate the age of the earth based on the genealogies of the patriarchs recorded in Genesis, Jewish lunar calenders, and pagan histories. There was no consensus among chronologists, however. The most famous (or infamous) of course was the date offered by James Ussher (1581-1656) in his Annals of the Old and New Testament (1650).

With the advent of mechanical philosophy, many thinkers attempted to give a new and more refined account of the earth. René Descartes (1596-1650), John Ray (1627-1705), Thomas Burnet (1635-1715), William Whiston (1667-1752), and John Woodward (1667-1728) had used prevailing mechanical theories to explain the formation and changes of the earth, now called geomorphology. Yet these thinkers proposed mechanical theories that accorded with the biblical account.

The presence of organic fossils, however, had always presented a challenge to the traditional biblical narrative. At the dawn of the eighteenth century, the discoveries and theories of Carolus Linnaeus (1707-78), George Louis Leclarc, Comte de Buffon (1707-88), Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827) and others had made it increasingly difficult to reconcile a literal reading of “days” in Genesis with observations from nature. Despite these difficulties, biblically focused geology continued throughout the eighteenth century, in the work of, for instance, Jean-André Deluc (1727-1817), John Townsend (1739-1816), John Macculloch (1773-1835) and others.

What has been called “naturalistic” or “secular” theories of the earth arose from seventeenth century deism. Perhaps the most successful was Scottish gentlemen farmer James Hutton (1726-97). In his Theory of the Earth (1795), Hutton proposed an immensely old earth to explain its changes, completely circumventing the “biblical” time scale. Independent of Hutton, French deist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829), a protégé of Buffon, likewise proposed an immense age to the earth. And George Cuvier (1769-1832), a devout Protestant, viewed the flood as one of a series of dramatic natural events, but like Hutton and Lamarck, he understood the earth to be extremely old. In 1813, Cuvier explained that there had been a series of great geological “catastrophes” in earth history. These, he supposed, wiped out species in restricted regions. John Playfair (1748-1819) popularized Hutton’s work in his Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802) the following century, and in 1822, English geologist William Daniel Conybeare (1787-1857) accepted the Huttonian theory to explain the elevation of mountains and continents. Indeed, Hutton’s ideas—as conveyed by Playfair—would serve as the foundation of Lyell’s Principle of Geology. As Secord writes, “Playfair’s Illustrations presented geology as a science which dealt with stable systems operating under unvarying laws. Lyell never seems to have read Hutton’s original publications, but he used Playfair’s works extensively.”

Secord claims that the Principles of Geology was used “to come to terms with the consequences of scientific findings in relation to the biblical accounts of the Creation and the Flood.” He nicely sums up the central argument of these book thus: “Those studying the history of the earth should carry out their investigations under the assumption that causes now visible (volcanoes, rivers, tidal currents, earthquakes, storms) are of the same kind that have acted in the past, and have done so with the same degree of intensity as in the present.” In a well-known aphorism, Lyell held that “the present is the key to the past.”

Lyell was born and raised in a moderate Tory environment. By the time he began writing his Principles, however, his sympathies were becoming ever more Whiggish. At Oxford he encountered a geology of a particularly devout kind. For example, he attended the lectures of Rev. William Buckland (1784-1844), his first teacher in geology, and who also spoke of the earth as “millions of millions of years” in age in his Reliquiae diluvianae (1823). His interpretation was sanctioned by many leading Anglican theologians, including John Bird Sumner (1780-1862) and E.B. Pusey (1800-82). In Buckland’s scheme, the Bible covered only the history of mankind, not the rest of creation. According to Secord, Buckland offered his students a “romantic vision of the progress of life through countless ages, populated by strange animals perfectly adapted to even stranger physical conditions, and culminating in the creation of the human race.”

By the mid-1820s, Lyell was an ardent liberal Protestant. Although trained as a barrister, he saw in science a “refuge from political and religious strife.” Lyell abandoned the attempt to harmonize Genesis and geology in detail, finding in Genesis religious truths, such as God’s creation of all things, but no science. Like many others, Lyell argued for a greatly expanded time frame for Creation.

Lyell published his first edition of the Principles through John Murray. But this was intended for a limited audience. He “targeted a conservative and respectable readership,” writes Secord. He wanted to convince gentlemen and ladies that geology was not anti-Bible and anti-Christian, and that it had nothing to do with materialism. He wrote for “an enlightened clerisy of truth-seekers,” and “saw no need for ordinary readers to master all the research and reasoning that had gone into the making of knowledge.”

Lyell challenged Cuvier’s “catastrophist” perspective, arguing that all earth movements were slow and gradual on the same scale as modern volcanoes, rivers, tidal currents, earthquakes, and storms. According to Lyell, a scientific, vera causa geology did not admit the existence of catastrophes, especially the like of which had never been observed. Lyell claimed that the laws of nature have not changed over time, that the kind of causes operating now have not changed, and that the intensity of these causes have always remained the same. Catastrophist speculations were not science and therefore had no place in geology.

As a science, moreover, geology should have nothing to do with providential interventions. Lyell’s theory was similar to Hutton’s. William Whewell (1794-1866), Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, had coined the terms “uniformitarianism” and “catastrophism” in 1832 in his review of Lyell’s Principles, and firmly assigned Lyell to the uniformitarian camp. Lyell, it has been said, envisaged a “steady-state” earth, and as far as he was concerned, there was no overall change in any particular direction—that is, no “progress.”

But as Secord observes, Lyell did see progress in the history of mankind. Nature was static, to be sure; but humanity was progressive. While he “rejected the possibility of constructing any narrative ‘story of the earth,'” Lyell nevertheless saw the history of mankind as “militantly Whiggish, developmental, and progressive.” Interestingly, many of his contemporaries claimed that the stratigraphic record did show progress in nature. Clerical geologists, such as Buckland and Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873) gladly connected their geological findings with biblical history and Christian eschatology.

Whewell’s label for Lyell was not entirely fair. In public statements, Lyell “no more advocated a steady-state, cyclical, or non-progressionist cosmology than he did progression itself.” Indeed, no narrative was possible, for “too much of the record had been lost.” Nevertheless, he saw uniformity as the guiding principle of geologists, and science in general.

Lyell’s Principles were well-received, even among religious reviewers. But this should come as no surprise. By the mid-nineteenth century, most clergy geologists acknowledged that the earth was a great deal older than the 6,000 years of Ussher’s “biblical” chronology. Nevertheless, Lyell’s attempt to completely free geology from Moses remained controversial. Indeed, in his polemical “historical sketch of the progress of geology,” Lyell considered the clergy as the chief obstacle of geology. He writes, “the progress of geology is the history of a constant and violent struggle between new opinions and ancient doctrines, sanctioned by the implicit faith of many generations, and supposed to rest on scriptural authority.”

Temple of Serapis

The Temple of Serapis, frontispiece to Lyell’s Principles of Geology (London: Murray, 1830)

At the same time, Lyell was not trying to undermine the clergy. In fact, he wanted to show that change did not mean complete destruction, as the frontispiece of the Principles demonstrates. All of this appealed to more liberal-minded clergy and readers. Lyell felt confident that his book “will be thought quite orthodox and would only offend the ultras.”

But as Secord points out, the new geology had unintended consequences. Both atheists and deists used geology to “give the stamp of authority to unbelief.” There were particularly dangers in questions of human species. In his Philosophie zoologique (1809), for instance, Lamarck had argued for the evolution of one species to another, that is, “transmutation.” When Lyell visited Paris, Secord tells us, he was “shocked to discover that transmutation has met with some degree of favor from many naturalists.” But in his Principles, Lyell argued transmutations as “untenable.” This rejection was part and parcel of his uniformity principle. Since there is no progressive history of life, no progress was possible, and therefore no evolutionary transmutation. Moreover, his readers “needed to be shown that geology was safe,” and thus French ideas of transmutation needed to be crushed. But more than this, Lyell himself was religiously appalled by the doctrine of transmutation. As Secord notes, his private notebooks revealed a deep-seated contempt for transmutation. Secord writes:

If transmutation was true, these notebook entries suggested, no divinely implanted reason, spirit, or soul would set human beings apart; they would be nothing but an improved form of apes that he watched, fascinated, at the newly opened London Zoo. Transmutation was a dirty, disgusting doctrine, which raised fears of miscegenation and sexual corruption. Not only did transmutation repel Lyell’s refined aesthetic sense, it undermined his lofty conception of science as the search for laws governing a perfectly adapted divine creation. With humans no more than better beasts and religion exposed as a fable, the foundations of civil society would crumble, just as they had done in revolutionary France.

It was his reading of Lamarck’s Philosophie zoologique in 1827 that motivated Lyell to deny all grand narratives of progress.

Visions of Science: Mary Somerville

Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his remarkable Inventing the Flat Earth (1991), wrote that the “Flat Error,” the myth that medieval thinkers insisted that the earth was flat, continues to survive because, firstly, we wittingly or unwittingly “repeat and propagate errors of fact or interpretation”; secondly, we are often led by our “biases more than by the evidence”; thirdly, we blindly privilege certain systems over others; fourthly, our assumptions about “progress” leads us to “devalue the past in order to convince ourselves of the superiority of the present”; and finally, such “myths” take on a “life of their own, creating a ‘cycle of myths’ reinforcing one another.” Most recently, Maria Popova, the author of the usually excellent Brainpickings blog, in celebrating the life of Mary Somerville (1780-1872), has fallen into such blunders. On her Twitter account, Popova claimed that the word “scientist” was coined for a woman, that being Somerville. She then links the tweet to a specious article with an entirely misleading hook:

Not only did Scottish mathematician, science writer, and polymath Mary Fairfax Somerville (December 26, 1780—November 28, 1872) defy the era’s deep-seated bias against women in science, she was the very reason the word “scientist” was coined: When reviewing her seminal second book, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences, which Somerville wrote at the age of 54, English polymath and Trinity College master William Whewell was so impressed that he thought it rendered the term “men of science” obsolete and warranted a new, more inclusive descriptor to honor Somerville’s contribution to the field.

Thony Christie, at The Renaissance Mathematicus, has done a fine job debunking Popova’s claim, and has himself written some insightful comments about Somerville. In brief, Whewell did not coin the word “scientist” on Somerville’s behalf. Besides, according to Sydney Ross’ excellent article, “Scientist: The Story of a Word” (1962), British men of science detested the word. “To them,” Ross wrote, “the word scientist implied making a business of science; it degraded their labours of love to a drudgery for profits or salary.” The Duke of Argyll regarded the word with “great dislike,” as did Grant Allen and Lord Rayleigh. John Lubbock had never used it himself, and preferred the old word “philosopher.” And Thomas Henry Huxley was quite unequivocal: “To any one who respects the English language, I think ‘Scientist’ must be about as pleasing a word as ‘Electrocution.'”

Mary Somerville

The Brilliant Mary Somerville

At any event, another insightful guide is, of course, James Secord’s Visions of Science (2014), particularly his fourth chapter, which is dedicated to Mary Somerville. Since my knowledge of Somerville was very limited, after reading Secord’s chapter I spent most of the day reading various articles and works on Somerville, some already cited in Secord, and some not. Besides the ones cited in Secord, which I will mention below, I have found useful Elizabeth C. Patterson’s “Mary Somerville,” The British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 4, no. 4 (1969); Claire Brock’s “The Public Worth of Mary Somerville,” British Society for the History of Science, vol. 39, no. 2 (2006); and Patricia Fara’s “Mary Somerville: A Scientist and her Ship,” vol. 32, no. 3 (2008). In addition, some contemporary sources, for example, “Mrs. Mary Somerville, The Leisure Hour (Oct 7, 1871); “Mrs. Somerville,” The Illustrated Review (Dec 1872); The Morning Post (Dec 2, 1872); The Times (Dec 2, 1872); “Mrs. Somerville,” The Saturday Review (Dec 7, 1872); The Athenaeum (Dec 13, 1873); The British Quarterly Review (Jan, 1874); “Mary Somerville,” The Quarterly Review (Jan, 1874);The Academy (Jan 3, 1874); “Mary Somerville,” Chambers’s Journal (Jan 17, 1874); “Mary Somerville,” Good Words (Dec, 1875); “Mary Somerville,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (Jun, 1888); and finally “An Evening with Mrs. Somerville,” The Leisure Hour (Nov, 1892), have also increased my understanding of Mary Somerville’s life and work.

Secord is an authority on Somerville. In addition to this chapter, Secord is the editor of a nine-volume Collected Works of Mary Somerville, published by Thoemmes Continuum Press (2004). Of course, her most well-known works were The Mechanism of the Heavens (1831) and On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834). “Connexion” is the operative word. After the discovery of the relation between electricity and magnetism in the 1820s, Secord tells us, “there were tantalizing indications of a unity underlying all physical phenomena.” The prospects of a “theory of everything” loomed large mid-century. The great physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79), in his article “The Correlation of Physical Forces, Nature (1874), recognized this as Somerville’s aim, writing: “Mrs. Somerville’s book on the ‘Connection of the Physical Sciences’ was published in 1834 and had reached its eight edition in 1849. This fact is enough to show that there already existed a widespread desire to be able to form some notion of physical science as a whole.” According to Somerville, mathematics was the “most promising source of ultimate unity.”

Henry Brougham had approached Somerville in 1827 to write an accessible version of Pierre-Simon Laplace’s massive five-volume Traité de mécanique céleste (1798-1827) for English readers. Brougham, as we have seen, had an “almost unlimited hope for the possibilities of readers achieving enlightenment through self-education.” How best to make such a complex text accessible, he had no doubt that Somerville was up to the task. Brougham saw her as “someone who exemplified in her person the virtues of self-help that would be required more widely in the population if the proposed work was to succeed.”

Secord goes on to give a brief biography of Somerville, drawn from her own Personal Recollections, from Early Life to Old Age of Mary Somerville, edited by her daughter Martha Somerville and published by John Murray in 1874. She was the only daughter of Admiral Sir William Fairfax, who initially opposed her natural curiosity. According to Patterson, she “grew up in the freedom of a hearty outdoor life, which fostered a robust constitution and an abiding interest in and love of plants and animals, but with so little formal education.” All together, Somerville had only twelve months of formal schooling. But she was an “Edinburgh belle,” attracting the best circles of Edinburgh society. Her first husband had a “low opinion of the capacity of…[the female] sex,” but “had neither knowledge of nor interest in science of any kind.” He died in 1807. As a widow, she developed genial relationships with leading intellectuals. In 1812 she married again, this time to the more liberal-minded William Somerville, an army doctor and later physician to the Royal Hospital. William and Mary were enthusiastic travelers, making frequent Continental tours, where they both enjoyed the company of many European savants.

When Brougham approached Somerville, many other women had become well-known popularizers of science. Maria Edgeworth, Sarah Trimmer, Priscilla Wakefield, Jane Marcet, and Margaret Bryan were active popularizers during the first half of the nineteenth century. Bernard Lightman, in his erudite Victorian Popularizers of Science (2007) has called this group of female popularizers the “maternal tradition,” for they addressed themselves to an audience of uninformed women and children. Later, mid-century, the “maternal tradition” was redefined by a “golden age” of female popularizers of science, such as Arabella Buckley, Phebe Lankester, Sarah Bowdich Lee, Mary Ward, Anne Pratt, Anne Wright, Margaret Gatty, Rosina Zornlin, Mary Roberts, Jane Loudon, Elizabeth Twining, Lydia Becker, Mary Kirby, and others still. But as both Lightman and Secord point out, Somerville did not belong to the “maternal tradition.” She was atypical, writes Lightman, in the sense that she “addressed knowledgeable adults, including men.”

Indeed, her original publisher, Brougham’s Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, refused to publish her Mechanism because they feared it was too technical and voluminous. John Murray, who was a cordial friend of the Somervilles, published it in 1831, including her later Connexion in 1834. Both texts are made for drudgery reading, however. Dense, abstruse, and full of technical terms such as “apsides,” “ellipse,” “cosine,” “isogeothermal,” “perturbations,” “eccentricities,” leading to an extensive glossary, they are demanding reading. Somerville, moreover, continually revised her Connexion, later editions becoming “longer, more authoritative, didactic, and ponderous.” But as Secord points out, “the value of Somerville’s labours would not be in making French celestial mechanics accessible to the millions, but as a symbol.”

She had a “reforming zeal,” and was liberal minded both in politics and religion. She stressed the interconnections and interdependences found in nature. In some editions of her Connexion, a quotation from Francis Bacon appears on the title page, “No natural phenomenon can be adequately studied in itself alone—but, to be understood, it must be considered as it stands connected with all Nature.”

But the “most obvious and immediate significance of Connexion,” Secord tells us, “was theological.” Somerville had shown that the mathematical laws of French celestial mechanics need not lead to atheism or materialism. As Secord puts it, “the connected explanation of these laws provided by science is not seen as support for a thorough-going materialism, as it had been by Laplace, but rather as evidence of God’s all-knowing foresight.” Indeed, the Connexion closes with a profound declaration that mathematics is the highest form of theology:

These formulae, emblematic of Omniscience, condense into a few symbols the immutable laws of the universe. This mighty instrument of human power itself originates in the primitive constitution of the human mind, and rests upon a few fundamental axioms which have eternally existed in Him who implanted them in the breast of man when He created him after His own image.

Somerville had been raised within a Scottish Presbyterian tradition, but she “never could find God in formal church-going.” Rather, she found the “divine transcendence of God’s power” in the language of mathematics. Later in life she would became sympathetic toward the rational religion of the Unitarians. As Secord aptly puts it, “Somerville may have abandoned traditional Christianity, but she had replaced this by a passionate faith in a God who could be best understood through mathematics.” One final interesting element of Somerville’s thought that Secord draws our attention to is her ready acceptance of commercial progress and imperial expansion. As Fara also shows, “Somerville gave her name to a ship that carried British products around the world, and portrayed herself as an ideal role model for women and also an exemplar of European civilization.” Her Whig political leanings, her transcendent theology, and her rejection of the divinity of Christ, were combined with an English imperial ideology that viewed English society as civilization, progress, and the future of mankind.

Visions of Science: John Herschel

In his Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), Charles Babbage ushered in the authority of astronomer John F.W. Herschel (1792-1871) as testimony that science in England was in decline. In a footnote to his article on “Sound” in the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana (1817-45), Herschel lamented about the “crude and undigested scientific matter” found in English scientific journals. He complained that there were “whole branches of continental discovery” that remained “unstudied, and indeed almost unknown, even by name” among English scientists. Babbage had sent a draft manuscript to Herschel of his Decline of Science in 1830. And although he agreed with Babbage’s reforming goals, he nevertheless recommended that he “burn it, or rewrite it.” According to Secord, Babbage had “blazoned” Herschel’s footnote, “as testimony that science was in a bad way.” But Herschel so deeply regretted this association to the declinist position that, after reading the draft, he told Babbage that “if I were near you and could do it without hurting your and thought you would not return it with interest I would give you a good slap in the face.”

John Herschel

A wild-eyed John Herschel late in life

John Herschel is the next key figure in Secord’s Visions of Science (2014). Herschel wanted to see science reformed just as much as Babbage did, “but feared the execution in Decline a disaster from which it would be difficult for science to recover any shred of reputation.” This was not simply because he hated public controversy; rather, he saw science as a “conduct to everyday life.” In this sense, Babbage’s polemical writing lacked the qualities and character of the true man of science.

Secord begins by pointing out that Herschel’s most well-known work, Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1831) was unlike any other philosophical treatise published at the time. “Given its low price and large sales,” he says, “readers of the Preliminary Discourse were far more likely to have used it as a conduct manual” (my emphasis). According to Secord, “conduct manuals gave instructions, not only about table etiquette and topics for conservation, but also about good character and appropriate mode of thinking.” As Herschel and many others saw it, “science was pervasively bound up with defining and maintaining canons of behaviour, from cultivating appropriate modes for discussion to encouraging the avoidance of outright fraud.” Indeed, science could “now provide a foundation for good character across the social spectrum.”

The book’s “material form,” as Secord puts it, supports his claim. The Preliminary Discourse was published by Longman for Dionysius Lardner’s “Cabinet Cyclopaedia,” and modeled from other encyclopedic “preliminary discourses,” such as Jean le Rond d’Alembert’s (1717-83) Encyclopédie of the eighteenth century, the Britannica (1771), Ree’s Cyclopaedia (1802), the Edinburg Encyclopaedia (1808), and the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana (1817). Further, it was a small book: machine printed, on lower quality paper, with stereotyping, bounded with glazed pink calico cloth over boards made of card, and sold for six shillings. Further still, Herschel modestly presented himself on the title pages as simply “John Frederick William Herschel, Esp., A.M., Late Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, &c. &C &c,” without, as Secord aptly puts it, “an ‘ostentatious parade’ of honours and societies trailing in its wake.” The Preliminary Discourse sold well and was translated into French, German, Italian, Swedish, and Russian.

Secord argues that the Preliminary Discourse emerged from the debates surrounding the decline of science, particularly in regards to the Royal Society. For Herschel conduct was central. “If Decline, with its polemical tone and political edge, was an example of how not to behave, the Preliminary Discourse could offer a model for the actions of the ideal seeker of after truth.” Indeed, as Secord perceptively points out, Herschel had accepted Lardner’s commission in February 1830; Babbage sent his daft manuscript in March 1830; and Herschel wrote most of the book in the summer of 1830, “immediately after the clashes over Babbage’s book.” In short, the Preliminary Discourse was a “quietly utopian vision of science and its public uses.”

The Preliminary Discourse wasn’t simply a philosophical treatise on observation, experiment, and induction. Because of its unimposing style, ordered structure, and humble tone, readers found it inclusive. It gave readers the impression, writes Secord, “that in understanding the Preliminary Discourse, they are engaged in the first steps of scientific study.” The text is grounded in the belief that “reading has the power to transform the human condition.” In reading, one can “vicariously” live through the scientist in “the act of discovery and an appreciation of natural truth.” As a result, humanity is “brought to the frontiers of human knowledge and ‘nearer to their Creator.'”

Indeed, this was Herschel’s chief aim in the Preliminary Discourse: to develop these “habits of the mind.” He wanted to distinguish between necessary and contingent truths. In mathematics we have what is necessary. The properties of a circle or square remain the same whether we are in broad daylight or the darkness of a cell. But the senses can be “tricksters or magicians.” Because we are often misled by our senses, “nature and its laws” are always contingent. Science, in short, must be modest.

This modesty in science has great moral and practical benefits. What Herschel offered was “a wider rational foundation for how to behave in everyday life.” As Secord notes, Herschel drew on a “tradition of the scientific pastoral, in which the contemplation of nature leads to an inner repose and the erasure of selfish, individual feelings.” Science would not only revitalize political life, it would ultimately lead us to “appreciate the need for a higher power, and avoid the brazen certainty of unbelief.”

Herschel’s book became so popular that newspapers, magazines, journals, and pamphlets mined it for quotations, “becoming set-pieces to be learned by heart.” And this “serial anthologizing,” particularly in cheap weeklies, afforded readers who could not afford to read Preliminary Discourse, whether for economic reasons or time constraints, to learn from its sagacious author. Scientific thinking was presented as a higher calling that almost anyone could now pursue.

Visions of Science: Charles Babbage

Charles Babbage Brain

Charles Babbage’s brain in a vat at the Hunterian Museum

When he died, Charles Babbage (1791-1871), English polymath, mathematician, philosopher, engineer, and the “father of the computer,” donated one half of his brain to the Royal College of Surgeons, where it still sits in display today in the Hunterian Museum. The other half resides in the computing galleries of the Science Museum in London.

Fittingly, Babbage is the subject of Secord’s next chapter in Visions of Science (2014), and particularly his Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), including his later Economy of Machinery and Manufactures (1832). With the death of Davy in 1829, “the loss of such a celebrated discoverer led to fears that the momentum achieved early in the century was petering out.” The most well-known, if not notorious, lament came from the pen of Babbage. According to Secord, the Decline of Science “portrayed English science as moribund and corrupt, and looked to the Continent, especially France, for models of scientific reform.”

Charles Babbage Computing Machine

The ‘Calculating Engine’ by Babbage

Known for his magnificent calculating engine, Babbage “believed that machines would ultimately reshape intellectual labor as fully as they were transforming the craft trades and manual work.” The relationship between science and technology was a much contested issue during the early decades of the century. From our own vantage point, science and technology is often represented as inextricably connected, closely intertwined, and coterminous. This is a view presented to us largely by the media and Hollywood. But this commonplace ignores the immense complexity of  a long historical debate. Not only has the historical relationship between science and technology been in constant flux, but historical figures themselves have held conflicting views. Those who argued for a close relationship between science and technology associated both with state funding and the economy. But this is a historically situated argument. During the revolutionary Napoleonic era, for instance, “science” was harnessed for national benefit. But was this knowledge, pursued for the welfare of the state, “science”?

In the early twentieth century, historians of science such as George Sarton, Alexandre Koyré, Herbert Butterfield and others, would have said no. “Science,” Sarton said, “was about the production of truths, not technologies.” Koyré maintained that the great minds of the past, such as Galileo or Newton, were not engineers or craftsmen. Technological improvement was incidental, a mere by-product of the progress of science.

This view, it has been claimed, was a reaction against Marxist histories, which portrayed science as the offspring of economic and technological development. Marxist historians Boris Hessen, Edgar Zilsel and others, argued that the impetus behind modern science was its economic utility. This, in a qualified sense, was none other than Francis Bacon’s (1561-1626) view. Indeed, Bacon insisted that natural philosophy should be cultivated and put into the service of the commonwealth. Likewise, the founding of the Royal Society of London fostered a utilitarian view of science.

By the eighteenth century, France in particular sought to harness the technological potency of the sciences. New institutions such as the École Polytechnique, for example, were designed, write Peter J. Bowler and Iwan Rhys Morus in a different work, “to deliver an education in natural philosophy (to army cadets in particular) that was fully expected to result in technological and engineering expertise” advantageous to the state.

And here is where Charles Babbage enters the stage. His Decline of Science was an invective against the Royal Society for not pursuing science as the French and Germans had done. There was something “rotten in the [English] system.” Babbage was not alone in his critique, however. A number of newspapers, magazines, reviews, and pamphlets, including the Morning Chronicle, Lancet, and The Times, took note of the mismanagement of the Royal Society. Many saw it as a “bloated monopoly,” and called for the formation of new scientific societies, such as the Astronomical Society and Geological Society, a more “reformed, mathematically refined, and secure version of the subject.”

To this end, Babbage felt justified in naming names. That is, he sought a “public accounting” of the failures of specific members of the Royal Society. For example, in his Decline of Science he attacked specifically astronomer Edward Sabine as a charlatan. He justified his public character assassinations by arguing that “a true philosopher, faced by accusation of corruption and forgery, would remain calm. Only those with something to hid would react badly; openness was a sign of honesty.” This was polemic at its finest.

But Babbage, by attacking the of governance, leadership, and organization of the Royal Society, aimed at something bigger. As Secord writes, “reform of the Royal Society served as a model of what needed to be done more generally in politics and the emerging industrial economy.” Observation is relative. Thus Babbage called for a mechanism that would “calibrate observations.” More importantly, there was the problem of fraud. This included, says Secord, “hoaxes, forging, trimming, and cooking.” How does one ameliorate such a disease? By making science completely open. It must be open to adepts and experts alike. It must be, in short, public. And finally, moral character must be essential. “Freed of human subjectivity and foibles, the pursuit of knowledge would be manly ans secure, a suitable model for political action.”

In his next book, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, Babbage targeted the dirty secrets of the book trade, and, in much the same way he did with members of the Royal Society, he very publicly attacked specific publishers and printers for their moral shortcomings. But all this came at a cost. In 1832 he accepted the nomination as a Whig parliamentary candidate for Finsbury. He lost to the Tories. “Many readers,” writes Secord, “were uncomfortable with the praise Decline heaped on foreign governments that gave honours, money, and status to scientific men.” Men such as William Robert Grove (1811-96), William Whewell (1794-1866), and George Bidell Airy (1801-92) were not as enthusiastic as Babbage was for the Napoleonic regime. Whewell and Airy, for example, saw “no merit in Babbage’s argument that state funding for science was essential to ensure continued technological progress.” Babbage seemed to bestow too much power to the state.

Even more disconcerting, however, Babbage seemed to invoke the trope of conflict between science and religion. As Secord notes, “the promotion of the use of knowledge for human needs, would best be served by secular—not religious—education; for among the unenlightened, even true religion was tinged by ‘superstition’ and developed irrational habits of thought.” Indeed, it seemed that Babbage maintained that science and the state would solve all problems: “Ministers of the state, with minds shaped by reason rather than tradition, would then be in a position to give scientific men the opportunities they needed for the research that would reshape the economy.”

Secord concludes this chapter with some comments that beg further explanation. For example, Babbage seemed to think that although mankind was the masterpiece of “divine power,” “other planets still loftier forms of intelligence will have appeared, the product of the same laws of nature.” For this “Almighty architect” had created the universe by a process akin to a calculating engine. And what “looked to ordinary observers like miracles of creation could be understood by the man of science as the intelligent actions of a divine machine.” Secord says no more than this about Babbage, thus leaving his reader wondering what, then, was Babbage’s religious views?

Visions of Science: Humphry Davy

Secord - Visions of ScienceMy Christmas gift this year was James A. Secord’s recent Visions of Science: Books and Readers at the Dawn of the Victorian Age (2014). After reading Secord’s magisterial Victorian Sensation: The Extraordinary Publication, Reception, and Secret Authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (2000) earlier in the year, I have looked forward to Secord’s next big book. And Visions is a big book, not so much in page number (a mere 306, including endnotes, whereas Victorian Sensation was a massive 624) as in topic. Secord focuses on a series of remarkable books published in the early decades of nineteenth-century Britain. He discusses seven in total: Humphry Davy’s (1778-1829) Consolations in Travel (1830), Charles Babbage’s (1791-1871) Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830), John Herschel’s (1792-1871) Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1831), Mary Somerville’s (1780-1872) On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834), Charles Lyell’s (1797-1875) Principles of Geology (1830-33), George Combe’s (1788-1858) Constitution of Man (1828), and Thomas Carlye’s (1795-1881) Sartor Resartus (1836). I have read all but Somerville’s On the Connexion this past year in my research, so Secord’s insights on these works is a much welcomed aid.

Initially, the selection may appear odd. But Secord is interested in the great transformation of the sciences during this period. “Science,” he says, “was changing from a relatively esoteric pursuit into one known to have profound consequences for the everyday life of all men and women.” Each of the above authors, in this respect, had something profound to say about the future of science. Each author, in his and her own way, had stressed the need of science “as a remedy for the country’s social, political, and religious malaise.” More importantly, each author “projected a vision of the future.”

Secord sets up his project with a short introduction. Modern science emerged in Britain within a Christian atmosphere of apocalyptic and millennial ideas and hopes. But at the same time, Secord writes, “there was a sense of limitless possibility through projections of the future economy based on machines.” These utopian hopes were of course embodied within the new science. There was a danger in the new science, however. As Secord notes, “Paris was the scientific capital of the world in the 1820s.” But in the British mind, French science was associated with the naturalism or materialism of the philosophes. More importantly, concerns over the new science was directly associated with the shock of the French Revolution. Science had to be domesticated and disassociated from anything that smacked of the French, both from its “godless libertarianism” and its guillotines.

This was achieved by some of the authors that Secord discusses. They constructed an image of science as offering a way forward, as mending the current political tensions between the Tories, Ultras, and Whigs. This was a push toward reform, but not simply a reform in politics. It was an attempt to reform all aspects of society, knowledge, science, and religion. And this could only be achieved with what Secord calls “the mechanisms of intellect”; that is, the transformation of the production and availability of knowledge. The steam-powered printing press played a central role in the diffusion of the new knowledge. But so did the creation of new institutions, clubs, and societies, such as the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK) in 1826. According to Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham (1778-1867), one of the founding members of the SDUK, the new science could be used as a route to political reform. In his short 1825 tract, Practical Observations upon the Education of the People trumpeted the new science as “nothing less than the complete reformation of society through knowledge.” Obstacles to self-improvement, says Brougham, are chiefly “want of money, and want of time.” He therefore promoted “cheap publications.” But more than that, he called for the publication of “our best authors upon ethics, politics, and history, and promote cheap editions of them in Numbers, without waiting until the demand was such as to make the sale a matter of perfect certainty.” To this end, new ambitious publishers emerged with the goal of diffusing the new knowledge to all classes of society, such as Archibald Constable, John Murry, the well-known Longman company, and most recently the enterprising brothers William and Robert Chambers. In short, these new books popularized science by using philosophy, religion, and history, thus rousing “metascientific” discourse. For “happily the time is past and gone,” writes Brougham in his Practical Observations, “when bigots could persuade mankind that the lights of philosophy were to be extinguished as dangerous to religion; when tyrants could proscribe the instructors of the people as enemies to their power.” Indeed, “it is preposterous to imagine that the enlargement of our acquaintance with the laws which regulate the universe, can dispose to unbelief.”

Humphry Davy

A young Humphry Davy (1778-1829)

Secord’s first chapter deals with Davy’s interesting Consolations in Travel. Davy was a well-known and well-regarded Cornish chemist, inventor, and president of the Royal Society. Davy’s book is constructed as a dialogue between Onuphrio (a liberal aristocrat), Ambrosio (a liberal Roman Catholic), Eubathes (a physiologist and naturalist), Philaethes (the narrator), and a “Unknown” stranger. The dialogue partners discuss the laws of history, divine progression, happiness, and the enlightenment of society.

According to Secord, Davy’s Consolations in Travel was modeled off of Boethius’ classic Consolation of Philosophy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (a close friend of Davy) Consolations and Comforts from the Exercise of and Right Application of the Reason, the Imagination, and the Moral Feelings, and, perhaps more covertly, French philosopher Comte de Volney’s The Ruins: A Survey of the Revolutions of Empires. Boethius and Coleridge were safe, but Volney was dangerous grounds. Davy thus takes Volney’s narrative and transforms it for English conservatism. Whereas Volney sees “kingcraft and priestcraft” as passing away, “to be replaced by a faith unified around a God known not through Scripture or dogma, but the laws of nature,” Davy has each character in his dialogue acknowledge the value in religion, including Christianity. The skeptical aristocrat Onuphrio, for example, declares: “I consider religion as essential to man, and belonging to the human mind in the same manner as instincts belong to the brute creation, a light, if you please, of revelation to guide him through the darkness of this life, and to keep alive his undying hope of immortality.” But this is a new kind of Christianity. Onuphrio, for example, does not see Christianity as occupying a more privileged place than other religious traditions. Even Ambrosio, the Catholic in the dialogue, envisions a “creed fitted for the most enlightened state of the human mind and equally adapted to every climate and every people.”

After the men retire, Philaethes, the narrator, experiences a vision. In the vision Philaethes is guided by “Genius” through a journey on the history of humanity. Genius explains to him how civilization has progressed from the barbarous to higher states of being. This has been achieved in two ways. First, and most recently, by the invention of the printing press. “I looked, and saw,” says Philaethes, “that in the place of the rolls of papyrus libraries were no filled with books. ‘Behold,’ the Genius said, ‘the printing press; by the invention of Faust the productions of genius are, as it were, made imperishable, capable of indefinite multiplication, and rendered an inalienable heritage of the human mind. By this art, apparently so humble, the progress of society is secured.” Second, the progress of civilization has been accomplished by great men. “It sometimes happens,” Genius discloses to Philaethes, “that a gigantic mind possess supreme power and rises superior to the age in which he is born…but such instances are very rare; and, in general, it is neither amongst sovereigns nor the higher classes of society, that the great improvers or benefactors of mankind are to be found.” Davy than adumbrates a list of such men: “Anaxagoras, Archimedes, Roger Bacon, Galileo Gallilei, in their deaths or their imprisonments, offer instances of this kind, and nothing can be more striking than what appears to have been the ingratitude of men towards their greatest benefactors.” Genius goes on to reveal the laws of history, society, and spiritual natures to Philaethes.

In another dialogue, while the characters are exploring the ruins of the temples of Paestum, they encounter an “Unknown” stranger who introduces the topic of geology to their discussions, a touchy subject for both British scientists and religious believers at the time. Ambrosio believes in a single creation, but is not a scriptural literalist. Onuphrio promotes the cyclical geological theory of James Hutton. What all speakers agree on, however, is that there is no evidence for the transmutation of species, a position advocated by more radical thinkers Erasmus Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Philalethes argues that “all philosophy must begin from a foundation of faith, and that this can be validated not only by studying God’s works, but also by drawing parallels between the infinite mind of the divine and the mind of man.” It is interesting how the revelation of Scripture is replaced by a revelation of nature, or natural theology, in Davy’s dialogue.

Secord notes how some early reviews of Davy’s Consolations in Travel were highly critical. In general, however, Davy’s short book was well received. And what these more charitable reviewers focused on, from the Literary Gazette to La Belle Assemblée, was Davy’s spirit of progress. What is interesting about Davy, however, is that he was not at all enthusiastic about the spread or diffusion of scientific knowledge. In a letter to his wife, for example, he wrote:

I become, however, every day more sceptical as to the use of making or endeavoring to make the people philosophers. Happiness is the great object of existence, and knowledge is a good only so far as it promotes happiness; few persons ever attain the Socratic degree of knowledge to know their entire ignorance, and scepticism and discontent are the usual unripe fruits of this tree—the only fruits which the people can gather; but I will say no more, knowing how unpopular my arguments will be; yet I could say much.

According to Secord, Davy’s vision of universal history and the progress of European civilization “become a commonplace, moving from speculation to assumption as the century progressed.” The scientific sage of the philosophes had become a “scientific, Christian philosopher” in Davy. But this philosopher was not a philosophy of the people. Rather, he was the provincial, aristocratic gentlemen of science. According to Davy, with the help of “great men in history and in science” civilization will be reborn, “rising towards infinite wisdom.”

History, Humanity, and Evolution

0521524784cvr.qxd (Page 1)In a festschrift honoring John C. Greene, most well-known for his seminal volumes, The Death of Adam: Evolution and its Impact on Western Thought (1959) and Science, Ideology and World View: Essays in the History of evolutionary Ideas (1981), James R. Moore (ed.) has collected thirteen essays in History, Humanity and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene (1989) that share Greene’s interest in the intellectual, cultural, and social history of evolution; and, in particular, the recurring interdependence of science and religion in the history of science. Beginning with a wonderful introductory interview with Moore, Greene describes his general approach to relating these two most powerful forces in history:

“Religion apart from science tends to become obscurantist, dogmatic and bigoted; science apart from some general view of human nature in its total context becomes meaningless and destructive. Unless science is practiced on the basis of a conception of human nature that does justice to our highest aspirations, the prospect for the future is bleak indeed.”

Although the essays range in quality, they collectively represent the growing trend of social constructivism among historians of science in the last decade of the twentieth century. Roy Porter begins with an intellectual portrait of Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) and his concern “to rescue ‘man’ from the aspersions of being just a machine.” Erasmus’ biomedical background was “informed by the evidence of change, both in degree and in kind, running ubiquitously through Nature.” But as an interpreter of nature, Erasmus’ attention was drawn to “features indicative of unity, integration and interdependence.” He would eventually develop a “hylozoic vision of natural continuity,” where living bodies were “capable of entering into dialectical interplay with their external environment.” In explaining this adaptive behavior, Erasmus had in mind “something close to the classic conception of the association of ideas as spelt out in empiricist epistemology from Locke through Hartley and Hume.” But Erasmus’ vision of human nature was not the l’homme machine of the Enlightenment. According to Porter, “his physician’s vision was dominated by the living organisms he saw fighting disease, changing over time, involved in subtle interplay with the personalities they housed…it is a vision of man for the machine age, but it is not a vision of man the machine.”

Ludmilla Jordanova examines Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s (1744-1829) separation of God from nature, “creation from production.” Lamarck repudiated disorder in nature, but rather than adhering to a God who is in sovereign control over nature, he appealed to universal natural laws. Also interesting is Jordanova’s observation that “Lamarck’s ‘psychology’ was central to his philosophy of nature.” Lamarck shared many interests with the Parisian idéologues, a loosely affiliated group of self-styled social scientists such as Antoine-Louis-Claude Destutte de Tracy (1754-1836), Pierre-Jean-Georges Cabanis (1757-1808), Jean-Baptiste Say (1767-1832), among others. “Lamarck’s commitment to this position is clearly vital,” writes Jordanova, “as it spurred him to think through a naturalistic account of the nervous system, and to reject any mental faculties, such as will and imagination, not strictly compatible with such an account.” By  redefining terms such as creation, production, life and nature, “Lamarck tried to generate a language purged of unwelcome theological associations, to set himself apart from natural philosophical traditions that could not sustain a science of life rooted in change over time, that is, production.”

Adrian Desmond argues that “the doctrines of scientific naturalism, in comparative anatomy at least, originated in republican Paris, and were actively imported into London and incorporated into Benthemite and radical dissenting strategies at the time of the Reform and Municipal Corporations Acts” of 1835, long before the “scientific naturalism” of the Huxleys and Tyndalls of the 1860s. When these radical dissenters stripped nature of its supernatural content, it “served a powerful religious and political purpose.” That is, “it vitiated the clergy’s claim to moral authority based on their mediating role in natural theology, and was in line with the dissenters’ belief in the priesthood of all believers and the right to private interpretation of the Bible.” The “new naturalism,” as Desmond phrases it, “appealed most strongly to younger reformers, many socially handicapped nonconformists and secularists, who were attempting to break the traditional power of the old corporation and Oxbridge oligarchs.”

Simon Schaffer focuses the “nebular hypothesis” of Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) and how it gained greater currency in the 1830s through the work of John Pringle Nichol (1804-1859), becoming an “important site at which the Victorians worked out their differing views of the progress of their world.” The nebular hypothesis pretends to give an astronomical account of the origins of the solar system through natural laws. Both Robert Chambers and Herbert Spencer “gave the nebular cosmogony pride of place in their respective accounts of development in the world.” Indeed, Spencer said it exemplified “the law of all progress.”But as Schaffer argues, the nebular hypothesis was not imported from astronomy. It came to Britain through the writings of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and William Herschel (1738-1822), as reported by David Brewster (1781-1868) and J.S. Mill (1806-1873). It was William Whewell (1794-1866), however, who first coined the term “nebular hypothesis” in his 1833 Bridgewater Treatise. Indeed, “Whewell baptized the nebular hypothesis by claiming that it still demanded ‘an intelligent Author, an origin proceeding from free volition not from material necessity.'” But Nichol and his allies, according to Schaffer, “made their nebular hypothesis an object of a moral and a natural science. Stellar progress was pressed into the service of political reform.” Astronomical data was malleable; its “message was always interpreted to fit the local interests of protagonists in the contests about progress in the Universe and in Society.” In this sense, astronomy was the “science of progress.” According to Charles Lyell (1797-1875), astronomy “gave the most violent shock to the prejudices and long-received opinions of men.” This “science of progress appeared in government offices, lecture theatres, journals and popular texts of the reform movement in politics and education that developed during the 1820s and 1830s.” These reformers stressed the inevitability and certainty of natural laws, and therefore progress. Nichol’s impact on Darwin, Chambers, Mill, and others is well attested. According to Schaffer, Nichol’s “version of the nebular hypothesis was not an isolated statement of an astronomical truth. It appeared alongside reflections on the origin of life, the progress of humanity and the future of society. His cosmogony was part of a sectarian view of history and it had stiff competition.”

James A. Secord provides an early essay on Robert Chambers (1802-1871) and his Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844), which would be developed in full in his Victorian Sensation (2000). Secord wants to present a “new view of the Vestiges and how it came to be written.” Chambers publicly delineated his ideas on the development of the cosmos and life on earth in the Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal, a weekly periodical founded by William and Robert Chambers in 1832. “The tone of the Journal,” writes Secord, “is unmistakeable: self-improvement, the progress of society, and rational, non-sectarian entertainment.” The Vestiges can be seen as a consequence of the “progressive development” of the author himself. Initially, Chambers was a staunch Tory, but eventually shifting to liberal Whig in the 1830s. Religiously, Chambers was a moderate deist who disliked “evangelical enthusiasm and doctrinal controversy.” According Secord, the “explicitly religious aspects of the Vestiges were tacked on to placate those evangelicals he contemptuously referred to as ‘the saints.'” Further, his interest in natural science emerged from “a phrenologically inspired educational programme in publishing,” accepting the “essential tenets of phrenology and their significance for his growing interest in natural law.” It was Scottish phrenologist George Combe (1788-1858) and his Constitution of Man (1828) that came to influence Chambers the most in this regard. He was also influenced by Nichol’s Views of the Architecture of the Heavens (1837), which described the evolution of the universe and the formation of galaxies and stars. Nichol’s version of the nebular hypothesis compelled Chambers to apply the “law of progress to the whole realm of nature.” Much of these developing ideas, according to Secord, are present in Chambers’ Journal.

But how, exactly, did Chambers come to replace divine intervention with law-like regularities? “In the late 1830s,” Secord observes, “naturalistic physiological and anatomical doctrines were common currency among nonconformist medical men.” During this time, Chambers came under the influence of Perceval Lord’s Popular Physiology (1834) and John Fletcher’s Rudiments of Physiology (1835-7), and it appears that the “transmutation theory of Vestiges was initially constructed around the traditional concept of recapitulation available in the works of Lord and Fletcher.” At the time, of course, transmutation was a radical doctrine. But when Chambers composed Vestiges in the early 1840s, he utilized analogies of domesticity and human growth to disarm criticism. “Images of pregnancy, birth, childhood and the family were deeply embedded in the structure and language of the book.” Chambers used “generative images to bring the frightening notion of transmutation within the realm of the familiar.” The Vestiges was successful because Chambers employed such generative models of domestic virtues, which minimized or completely neutralized the fears of his audience.

In his own extraordinary and moving study, Moore traces Darwin’s gradual loss of faith to moral reasons rather than intellectual ones. He claims that the “prevailing view of Darwin’s loss of faith to be wrong.” This view holds that Darwin’s misgivings and eventual eschewal of the Christian faith are for the most part intellectual. Evidential considerations surely played some role, but the fact that this process was for so long protracted suggests that Darwin “was frankly reluctant to give up on Christianity.” In a 1879 letter to John Fordyce, author of Aspects of Scepticism: With Special Reference to the Present Time (1883), for example, Darwin writes

It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist.— You are right about Kingsley. Asa Gray, the eminent botanist, is another case in point— What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one except myself.— But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.

According to Moore, the most well-known account of Darwin’s loss of Christian faith comes from his Autobiography, written between 1876 and 1881. And it is here where we find a “different interpretation of Darwin’s loss of faith.” The Autobiography was written for no one but his family. There Darwin reveals that he had “gradually” come to distrust the Old Testament on empirical and moral grounds. Likewise, he “gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.” Here the reasons given “pertain chiefly to defects in historical evidence.” But Darwin also found the “damnable doctrine” of everlasting punishment to be morally repugnant as well. At any rate, he hastens to add, “I was very unwilling to give up my belief…disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate.”

Moore focuses on a section in the Autobiography entitled “Religious Belief,” which includes discussions on Christianity, natural religion, the existence of God and personal immortality, and the moral life of an agnostic. Theses sections were likely written sometime between 1876 and 1879. In 1879 Darwin also gave his full attention to “a biographical sketch of his grandfather, Erasmus Darwin.” As Moore writes, “the ‘constant inculcation’ of disbelief in the Darwin family, from his grandfather down to grandson, had produced neither moral obliquity nor guilt.”

Moore also makes the interesting observation that the life of Darwin’s wife, Emma, was marked full of death (her sister, Fanny, died in 1832; her infant and both parents died in the 1840s; two additional children and two aunts died in the 1850s; another sister, aunt, and nephew died in the 1860s; and yet another sister, brother, and a remaining aunt died in the 1880s), whereas Darwin “lost no one near and dear to him until his father’s death in 1848.” When his father died, Darwin entered a deep depression: “All the autumn & winter I have been much dispirited and inclined to do nothing but what I was forced to.”

It was also during this time that Darwin began reading some works on apologetics. According to his reading notebook, for example, Darwin read Andrews Norton’s The Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels (1837), Julius Hare’s Essays and Tales by John Sterling (1848), three books by Francis Newman, the younger brother of John Henry, including The Soul, Her Sorrows and Her Aspirations: An Essay towards the Natural History of the Soul, as the True Basis of Theology (1849), A History of the Hebrew Monarchy from the Adminstration of Samuel to the Babylonish Captivity (1847), and Phases of Faith; or, Passages from the History of My Creed (1850). Darwin recorded his highest accolade, “excellent,” for this last publication. The Phases of Faith “was a model of spiritual autobiography conceived as the outgrowth of one ‘phase’ of faith from another, forming a natural progression in which the abandonment of Christianity appears at the end of a plausible, grandualistic narrative.” Darwin followed a similar technique in his own Autobiography.

Moore then tells the emotional story of the death of Annie in 1851, “Darwin’s favourite child.” At only ten years old, Annie’s death shook him to his core. According to Darwin, “Annie did not deserve to die; she did not even deserve to be punished—in this world, let alone the next.” But “nature’s check fell upon her, crushing her remorsefully.” As Moore aptly puts it, “If contemplation of Dr. Darwin eternal destiny had spiked Christianity—Emma’s Christianity, the only living faith he really knew—Annie’s death clinched the matter a fortiori.” In conclusion, “the circumstances under which Darwin came at last to reject Christianity were full of pain…and his decisive objection was [ultimately] moral.”

Martin Rudwick discusses “nineteenth-century visual representations of the deep past.” He begins with some brief remarks on dioramas of natural history, found in our modern museums. The dinosaurs of the Cretaceous period; the ichthyosaurs of the Jurassic seas; the swamps of the Carboniferous; the trilobites and the nautiloids among the coral reefs. “Evolution,” he writes, has “replaced ‘elohim.” Our dioramas of natural history are “reconstructed scenes.” They are anschaulichkeit, that is, “clear,” “graphic,” “vivid” representations of “the prehuman and barely-human past,” reconstructed as “ideal views,” familiar, conceivable, and, most importantly, imaginable. They help make evolutionary interpretation plausible and persuasive, better than any scientific theory can.

Modern dioramas have a history, most conspicuously in illustrations in nineteenth-century books. These artists “visualized the long aeons of ‘deep time’ that lie beyond human history or even the origins of our humanity.” Rudwick works backgrounds, starting with Guillaume Louis Figuier (1819-94) and Edouard Riou’s (1833-1900) “profusely illustrated works, particularly their The World before the Deluge (1863). Figuier had borrowed many of the images from the work of a predecessor, Alcide d’Orbigny (1802-57), professor of palaeontology at the National History Museum in Paris. But according to Rudwick, “Figuier’s human beings, although primitive in time, and simple in tools, clothing and shelter, were no primitives in any other sense: they were unmistakably white and European, and wholly modern in physical appearance.”

Before Figuier there was Austrian palaeobotanist Franz Unger (1800-70) and his illustrator Josef Kuwasseg (1799-1859) in The Primitive World in Its Different Periods of Formation (1847). Their images of the Ice Age in Europe and the origins of humankind were obviously “imaginative achievements.” Other contributors to this genre include August Wilhelm von Klipstein (1801-94), Johann Jakob Kaup (1803-73), Oxford geologist William Buckland (1784-1856), and Henry De la Beche (1796-1855). What is important here is that among these early contributors, “the idea of constructing a whole sequence of scenes from the deep past” was readily available.

Why? Where did this fascination originate? According to Rudwick, when Buckland had asked De la Beche to draw scenes from the deep past, he asked for caricatures of scientific research. De la Beche’s Duria Antiquior (c. 1830) is a prime example. In this “half-humorous” lithograph of ichthyosaurs, pleisiosaurs, and other creatures found as fossils in the Liassic strata of Dorset, “almost every animal was shown eating, of being eaten by, another.” Such caricatures were initially privately and widely circulated among gentlemen geologists of London. Another example is William Conybeare’s (1787-1857) “The Hyaena’s Den at Kirkdale,” which celebrated Buckland’s analysis of the bone relics in a cave in Kirkdale in Yorkshire. In this lithograph Buckland emerges from the cave passage, candle in hand, with a “surprise” expression on his face. “The geologist became in caricature a participant in the scene he had soberly reconstructed in words.” The visual form had obviously been exaggerated for poetic effect.

Thus by the time we reach Darwin, says Rudwick, a “principle had been established.” By making “deep time” anschaulichkeit, “clear,” “graphic,” “vivid,” and, in the end, “entertaining” by visual representation, evolutionary theory seemed more plausible.

I have reserved an special post for Bernard Lightman’s essay on “Ideology, Evolution and Late-Victorian Agnostic Popularizers,” and therefore will pass over it here.

Paul Weindling discusses Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) and the “secularization of nature,” connecting Haeckel’s acceptance of Darwinism to his views on German politics and social development.

According to Weindling, “Darwinism in Germany was a movement promoting liberal, rational and secular values in perceptions of nature and society.” These German Darwinists were less materialistic and more idealistic and pantheistic. It was, as Weindling puts it, a “secular religion.” In this sense, German Darwinism, or “Darwinismus,” was not “categorically hostile to religion.” By focusing on the career of Haeckel, Weindling wants to track how “Darwinisums moved from its early alliance with political liberalism to perform [a] corporatist and integrative social function.” The life of Haeckel thus “provides valuable insight into German culture and public opinion at the end of the nineteenth century.”

“It is a commonplace that Darwin’s theory of natural selection replaced a harmonious view of nature with one based on chance and struggle,” writes Weindling. But in Germany, Darwin’s theory was, he claims, viewed differently. In Darwinismus, “the theory did not entail a pessimistic philosophy of purposeless conflict.” In Haeckel’s thought, for instance, the view “emerged in which even the most minute beings reveal beauty, harmonious order and the germs of intellectual and social life.” Haeckel is often remembered for “having inspired a love of nature in a generation of biologists,” and indeed he “possessed a deep sensitivity for natural beauties.” As such during his career he “surrounded himself with patriotic and nature-loving cohorts.”

During Haeckel’s lifetime, Germany transformed from a “predominately agrarian and politically fragmented society to an industrial and imperial power.” Such technological and political advancements whetted an appetite “for more optimistic and relevant explanation of the world than that of traditional theology, which was promulgated by churches tied closely to archaic and repressive social forms.”

Though a leader with a following, Haeckel had a need for paternal guidance, thus gathering a series of father-figures. The first was physiologist and comparative anatomist Johannes Müller (1801-1858). Interestingly enough, Müller had nothing but contempt for materialism and its supporters, such as Carl Vogt (1817-1895) and Ludwig Büchner (1824-1899). Initially, Haeckel shared this contempt. Once Müller died Haeckel found another mentor and father-figure, Max Schultze (1825-1874). The influence of Schultze lead Haeckel to Darwin’s Origin of Species.

A major transformation occurred after the death of his wife in 1864. According to Weindling, “it was a traumatic shock, and Haeckel began to feel his character hardening.” Soon after Haeckel began work on Generelle Morphologie (1866), which presented a revolutionary synthesis of Darwin’s ideas with the German tradition of Naturphilosophie. After its publication Haeckel traveled to Darwin’s residence at Down House. After this visit Darwin became Haeckel new mentor and father-figure. Although Darwin warned him that “you have in part taken what I said much stronger than what I intended,” Haeckel thereafter regarded himself a committed Darwinist.

But for Haeckel Darwinism “functioned as an ideology of human progress” rather than a theory of organic evolution. His enthusiasm and obvious emotional character made him “vulnerable to scientific criticisms, and when these came,” Weindling tells us, “old friendships were broken, to be replaced with enmity and bitterness.” He broke ties with cellular pathologist Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) over the politics of Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898); Karl Gegenbaur (1826-1903), a colleague from the University of Jena, doubted Haeckel’s evolutionary synthesis, as did evolutionary biologist August Weismann (1834-1914). His own students began questioning and criticizing his “biogenetic law and monophyletic theory.” According to Weindling, Haeckel is clearly a “tragic [King] Lear-figure.”

Fortunate for Haeckel, some students remained attached to him, and his “chief compensation for his personal losses was increasing popular success.” During the late 1870s, Haeckel embarked on a campaign of determined propaganda, publicizing “Darwinismus as never before, first by issuing a popular edition of his lectures, then by advertising ‘Monism’ as a link between science and religion.” According to Weindling, the “rational and empirical features in evolutionary theory now gradually gave way to mystic idealism,” as particularly expressed in his Die Welträtsel (1895-1899), “the riddle of the universe.” These ideas were immensely popular, appealing not only to a general audience, but also to disciplines of psychology, sociology, and psychoanalysis. Haeckel’s ideas were also “avidly read across the political spectrum, among socialists and extreme nationalists alike, and they inspired new evolutionary ethics.”

Darwinismus gradually became the basis of Social Darwinism, promoting national unity and creating a “more sympathetic attitude to welfare reforms both within the state and among landowners, industrialists and the middle classes.” Weindling rejects the idea that Nazi racism stems from Haeckel. Although he used concepts of human hierarchy, of “lower” and “higher” races, and occasionally made anti-Semitic remarks, his ideas were too complex and ambiguous to be seen as the standard-bearer for national socialism. Haeckel was “deeply ambivalent.” As Weindling argues, “Haeckel used biology to shore up a form of corporatist social thought that differed fundamentally from the hereditarian social pathologies current under the Nazis.”

Evolutionary theory was undoubtedly threatening, for it seemed to make mankind the “byproduct of a meaningless natural process.” It was less threatening, however, if it was “portrayed as a process leading inexorably towards moral and intellectual improvement, with the human race at the forefront of the advance.” Thus in the nineteenth century ideas of progress came attached to theories of evolution. But by the following century, the notion of progress came under heavy scrutiny. At the same time, in the late nineteenth century, many became obsessed with the “threat of cultural degeneration.” In his essay, Peter J. Bowler argues that both “progressionists” and “degenerationists” exploited all available theories of evolution, including Darwinism, Lamarckism, and orthogenesis.

The idea of degeneration has its roots in the Christian tradition. Christianity portrays humanity as fallen, as “degenerated from an original state of moral perfection.” This was certainly not the only view within the Christian tradition, but the fall of mankind and its subsequent corruption and degeneration is clearly a predominant theme in western culture. But among mid-nineteenth-century evolutionists, human history was viewed quite differently. Banker, politician, and scientist John Lubbock (1834-1913), for instance, argued that “the progress of civilization” was a “continuation of the progress inherent in biological evolution” (my emphasis). Yet as Bowler points out, by the end of the century, some writers were beginning to doubt that the “triumphal development of Western culture could be maintained.”

What “facts” were causing these doubts? As early as 1857, French psychiatrist Bénédict Augustin Morel (1809-1873) had argued that certain environmental factors could lead to degeneration. In 1875, Italian criminologist and founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) posited that the criminal was a “degenerate throwback to an earlier stage of evolution.” And in 1895, German sociologist Max Simon Nordau (1849-1923) stressed that the artist and the criminal were “equivalent cases of arrested development.” These men, and Lombroso in particular, believed that the “environment caused the arrest of development that produced the subhuman criminal type.” Moreover, these men also “identified certain races as more inclined to degeneracy than others.” According to Bowler, “the growing strength of the eugenics movement in the early twentieth century indicates that many social thinkers had begun to doubt the inevitability of progress.”

Darwin had also stressed the role of environment in determining evolution. But Bowler claims that the notion of progress was not a “universal phenomenon in Darwin’s view.” That is debatable. Regardless of his actual views, Darwin “had never been the undisputed leader of the evolutionists, and his theory of natural selection was being challenged by a number of alternatives.” And these alternative theories were generally linked to theories of social degeneration. Lamarck’s theory of inheritance offered a ready explanation for degeneration: the cumulative effects of disuse. American “neo-Lamarckians” Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) and Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902) claimed that progressive evolution consisted of “successive addition of stages to the growth process, produced by the inheritance of acquired characters as each generation became more specialized for the species’ chosen way of life.” According to Bowler, the analogy of “growth” allowed Lamarckian evolutionists to “treat evolution as a highly directed process, moving inexorably toward a predetermined goal.” Hyatt even advocated the notion of “racial senility,” in which the individual “degenerated toward simpler characters and ultimate extinction.” Hyatt also argued against female emancipation, claiming that “to give women equal political rights would diminish the psychological difference between the sexes and would thus encourage a degenerate trend in the species.” More broadly, some evolutionists, such as E. Ray Lankester (1847-1929), used analogies of human affairs to buttress their biological arguments. Whereas “Lubbock tended to assume that ‘primitive societies were relics of earlier stages in human progress…Lankester argued that ‘savages’ such as the bushmen and the Australian aborigines might be descendants of once-civilized peoples.” Lankester, in order words, viewed the contemporary “savage” as culturally degenerate. And according to Lankester, white man faces a similar fate. How does he prevent such a threatening state? By the cultivation of science.

In any event, both Darwinism and Lamarckianism were used to “stress the possibility of degeneration brought on by the adoption of a passive life-style.”An alternative theory was that of orthogenesis, “or evolution directed by internally programmed trends that would force variation inexorably in a certain direction, even when the results were non-adaptive.” What pieces of evidence convinced scientists of orthogenesis? For starters, the fossil record “seemed to reveal consistent trends in the development of certain structures,” such as the horn size on the “Irish elk.” But orthogenesis was also applied to human evolution, in the case of the trend towards increasing brain size. The human brain was seen as the “inevitable product of a longstanding evolutionary trend.” This was, of course, not Darwin’s view. Nevertheless, according to Bowler, orthogentic views became increasingly popular in the early twentieth century, advocated by such men as physical anthropologist Earnest A. Hooton (1887-1954), palaeoanthropologist Wilfrid Le Gros Clark (1895-1971), and palaeontologist Arthur Smith Woodward (1864-1944). Woodward even supported the view that “evolution was driven by forces somehow built into the germ plasm of the species.” Orthogenesis was essentially a degenerative theory, but most supporters turned it into “a progressive explanation of human origins.”

It is in this sense, as Bowler puts, “degeneration and progress went hand in hand,” or, as he puts it another way, “degeneration was indeed no more than an attempt to reassess the conceptual foundations of progressionism.” Thus the degeneration of the late-nineteenth century was only “skin deep.” Those scientists who studied the origins of the human race “automatically made progressionist assumptions.” Not until the mid-twentieth century was Darwin’s theory of natural selection fully embraced. No one wanted a totally undirected “evolution governed by ‘chance.'” According to Bowler, the “simplest ways of guaranteeing that evolution worked in an orderly, predictable manner, were to compare it with the growth of the embryo…or to postulate rigid variation trends.” In the end, “each theory was capable of being exploited by either side of the debate.”

As each essay in this festschrift honoring the scholarship of John C. Greene demonstrates, scientists are “constrained by professional as well as political interests, and if they make their decision first on professional grounds, they will always be able to find a way of adapting the theory of their choice to their wider beliefs.” As Bowler concludes, “any complex [scientific] theory can be turned into a panacea or a nightmare.”

From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences: Writing the History of Nineteenth-Century Science

Cahan - From Natural Philosophy to the SciencesDavid Cahan’s (ed.) From Natural Philosophy to the Sciences (2003) takes stock of current historiography of the sciences in the “long nineteenth century.” In his Introduction, “looking at nineteenth-century science,” Cahan declares that “the study of nineteenth century science is flourishing.” During the nineteenth century, “the scientific enterprise underwent enormous and unprecedented intellectual and social changes.” These developments equaled or exceeded, Cahan argues, those in natural philosophy during the so-called “scientific revolution” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the eighteenth century “science” still meant natural philosophy. It was only during the nineteenth century that “science” gained its modern connotations. This period was marked by redefinitions and significant reconceptualizations of scientific knowledge, ushering in new institutional and social structures, new practices, incredible advances in technology and industry, transforming culture, religion, and literature.

The contributors of this volume are unanimous: during the nineteenth century, “the modern disciplines of chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology, and the earth sciences, as well as the social sciences, assume there more or less contemporary form.” New labels such as “biologist,” “physicist,” “mathematician,” “astronomer,” and “chemist” also emerged. “These new labels and categories,” writes Cahan, “reflected the fact that science had both delimited itself more fully from philosophy, theology, and other types of traditional learning and culture in differentiated itself internally into increasingly specialized regions of knowledge.”

Scholars and historians of science have offered different interpretations of the overall pattern of nineteenth-century science. John Theodore Merz, for instance, in his four-volume A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century (1904-12) saw a “unity both within nineteenth-century science proper and in its relationship to nineteenth-century thought in general.” In another assessment, John Desmond Bernal’s Science in History (1950) argued that the “development of science in the nineteenth century correlated closely with developments in the social and economic worlds.” And Joseph Ben-David’s The Scientist’s Role in Society: A Comparative Study (1970), saw “science’s development, including that during the nineteenth century, largely in terms of ‘the scientific role’ and competition among scientists and their potential state patrons.”

Whatever the shortcomings of Merz, Bernal, and Ben-David, the fact remains that all “sought to provide a sense of the unity of nineteenth-century science.” The current volume under inspection encourages scholars “to consider attempting a new, broad, and synthetic interpretation of the development of nineteenth-century science as a whole.” According to Cahan, its objective is twofold: first “to present historiographical analyses of work done by scholars of nineteenth-century science”; second, “to pose questions for future scholarship that will lead to a broader understanding of nineteenth-century science as a whole.” To this end, each essay provides a “thematic historiographical analysis of the most important problems, intellectual traditions, literature, methods, modes of explanation, and so on in a given field of scholarship.” Cahan’s volume also aims to follow the bellwether works of its predecessors, such as David Lindberg and Robert S. Westman’s reassessment of the early modern period in Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution (1990) or H. Floris Cohen’s The Scientific Revolution: A Historiographical Inquiry (1994), or for Enlightenment science, G.S. Rousseau and Roy Porter’s The Ferment of Knowledge: Studies in the Historiography of Eighteenth-Century Science (1980). Thus Cahan intends “to fill an essential gap in the historiography of the history of science” by encapsulating the current state of scholarship on nineteenth-century science and encouraging future research in the field.

There are eleven chapters total, beginning with “biology” (Robert J. Richards), “scientific medicine” (Michael Hagner), the “earth sciences” (David R. Oldroyd), “mathematics” (Joseph Dauben), “physics” (Jed Z. Buchwald and Sungook Hong), and “chemistry” (Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent), transitioning to applied sciences in “science, technology, and industry” (Ulrich Wengenroth), the “social sciences” (Theodore M. Porter), “institutions and communities” (David Cahan), concluding with a chapter on “science and religion” (Frederick Gregory). Each chapter contains a wealth of secondary literature, enough to overwhelm  undergrads and humble graduates and postgrads alike. Here I address only the chapter on “Biology” by Robert J. Richards.

Richards observes that “biology came to linguistic and conceptual birth” at the very outset of the nineteenth century. In 1800, romantic naturalist Karl Friedrich Burdach (1776-1847) coined biologie and used it “to indicate the study of human beings form a morphological, physiological, and psychological perspective.” Two years later, Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus (1776-1837) and Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829) “employed the term with comparable intention.”

It was indeed the German Romantic movement, “which organized thought in biology, literature, and personal culture,” that “readied the soil in Germany for the reception of evolutionary seeds blown over from France in the early part of the nineteenth century and the more fruitful germinations from England in the later years.” This was largely achieved by  Friedrich (1772-1829) and Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1865), Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1801), Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854), and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832). The work of these men, Cahan writes, “provided philosophical guidance for numerous works of biological importance that would penetrate far into the decades” of the nineteenth century. The romantic movement gave impetus to works of physiology, zoology, morphology, geology and so on. It gave particular focus to Alexander von Humboldt’s (1769-1859) geography and naturalistic explorations recounted in his Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of the New Continent (1818-29). This work would inspire Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919).

These introductory remarks are intended to show (or perhaps provoke) the cultural context of biology. Traditional histories of biology have usually focused on its intellectual history; but a cultural history of biology demonstrates that the theories of Darwin, Mendal, Haeckel, Galton, Pasteur, and others, are best understood “as products of multiple forces.” In the reminder of his essay, Richards adumbrates a historiography of nineteenth-century histories of biology and concludes with a discussion on the ideals of cultural history.

Starting with the centenary celebration of Darwin’s Origin of Species, historians of science, and historians of biology in particular, began spurning a previous generation of scholarship on evolutionary biology. For example, Loren Eiseley’s Darwin’s Century (1958) refuted, with historical argument, what he saw as the biological determinism in Darwin’s theory. In a later book, Darwin and the Mysterious Mr. X (1979), Eiseley reveals Darwin as a deeply flawed and basically dishonest seeker of self-aggrandizement. Eiseley “maintained that Edward Blyth, an obscure naturalist, had formulated the fundamental Darwinian concepts—variation, struggle for existence, natural and sexual selection—already in 1835, and that Darwin had tacitly appropriated them as his own.” John Greene’s Death of Adam (1959) likewise “dissolved Darwin’s genius into the musings of his predecessors.” In a collection of essays on Science, Ideology, and World View (1981), Greene also shows how Darwinism embodied a particular metaphysical worldview.

The metaphysical aspect of Darwinism was also emphasized in the early work of Gertrude Himmelfarb, in Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (1959), but also more recently by Robert Young, Adrian Desmond, and Karl Popper, the latter arguing that the theory “failed as science but thrived happily as metaphysics.” Young’s Darwin’s Metaphor (1985) and his essay “Darwinism is Social,” published in David Kohn’s (ed.) The Darwinian Heritage (1988), argues that

once it is granted natural and theological conceptions are, in significant ways, projections of social ones, then important aspects of all of the Darwinian debate are social ones, and the distinction between Darwinism and Social Darwinism is one of level and scope, not of what is social and what is asocial…The point I [am] making is that biological ideas have to be seen as constituted by, evoked by, and following an agenda set by, larger social forces that determine the tempo, the mode, the mood, and the meaning of nature.

Desmond’s Archetypes and Ancestors (1985) examined the Huxley-Owen debates and “detected beneath the scientific surface…an ideological divide separating the rising professionals of strong materialistic bent from the establishment and church-supported idealists.” In his later The Politics of Evolution (1989), Desmond shows that Darwin himself knew the political ramifications of this theory, thus explaining why he delayed its publication for some twenty years.

This kind of scholarship led to counterreactions from “historically minded biologists,” such as Ernst Mayr, Michael Ghiselin, and Stephen Jay Gould—but their work read more like hagiography than history. As Richards puts it, “in their hands Darwin’s theory has been molded to late-twentieth-century specifications. They implicitly regard scientific theories as abstract entities that can be differently instantiated in the nineteenth century or today, while exhibiting the same essential features.”

More measured accounts appeared with the work of David Hull and Michael Ruse. Hull’s Darwin and His Critics (1973) and Ruse, in a series of books, The Darwinian Revolution (1879), Taking Darwin Seriously (1986), Evolutionary Naturalism (1995), and Monad to Man (1996), provide a clearer context to Darwin’s theory and its reception. In particular, Ruse shows in Monad to Man that “notions of progress clung to Darwin’s theory like barnacles to a ship.”

With the renewed archival mining of the 1970s, a new set of scholarly works emerged. Howard Gruber’s Darwin on Man (1974), Edward Manier’s The Young Darwin and His Cultural Circle (1978), David Kohn’s “Theories to Work By” (1980), and Dov Ospovat’s Development of Darwin’s Theory (1981) all show—by careful study of his notebooks, unpublished papers and letters—that Darwin came to his theory only gradually (and sometimes painfully), through correspondence with contemporaries, yes, but also with “virtual” dialogues with social, political, and philosophical writers.

In his own work, Darwin and the Emergence of Evolutionary Theories of Mind and Behavior (1987) and The Meaning of Evolution (1992), Richards maintained that “Darwin’s theory, from its inception through its mature development, beat precisely to progressivist and recapitulationist rhythms.” Thus Richards situates his work with Desmond, Young, and Himmelfarb, all emphasizing that Darwin’s theory must be understood as “saturated with social and political features, stains that sink right to the core of Darwinian thought.” But unlike Desmond and Young, who “examined the external context of ideas first, then moved inward to characterize the mind of the scientist,” Richards has endeavored to begin “with the individual mind—working out the formative experiences, examining the books read, assessing the interests that moved the soul…” and then determined “what features of the external environment had the most purchase on the scientist.”

Other authors were reconsidered as well. Richard Burkhardt’s The Spirit of System: Lamarck and Evolutionary Biology (1977) and Pietro Corsi’s The Age of Lamarck (1989) sought to contextualize Lamarck’s thought and theories. James Secord’s Victorian Sensation (2001) shows that Robert Chambers’ (1802-1871) “conceptions were sands reshaped by the tides of readers’ political, social, and religious concerns.”

After a brief section on “social Darwinism and evolutionary ethics,” Richards spends a couple of illuminating pages on “biology and religion.” “Prior to Darwin’s Origin of Species,” he writes, “a biological scientist did not need to segregate his religious from his scientific beliefs.” But by the time Haeckel had published his polemical works, many “preached the sheer incompatibility of religious superstition and scientific reason.”

In the mid-twentieth century, however, scholars were beginning to reexamine the theological context of biology. Neal Gillespie’s Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation (1979), for example, argues that while Darwin gave up on dogmatic religion, he nevertheless retained theism for most of his life, and only much later subscribed to Huxley’s “agnositicism.” James R. Moore’s magnificent Post-Darwinian Controversies (1979) defends the thesis that “more religiously orthodox individuals could adjust to Darwin’s theory, since their views were more consonant with those of the Darwin who once studied for the ministry, while the more liberal thinkers were likely to succumb to non-Darwinian evolutionary theory.” Jon Roberts’ Darwinism and the Divine in America (1988) also maintains the surprising proposition that many American Protestants did not perceive Darwinism as a great threat.

Other recent work has looked at the literary value of Darwin’s work. Gillian Beer’s Darwin’s Plots (1983) and George Levine’s Darwin and the Novelists (1988) “explore in fine detail the metaphorical structure of the Origin, as well as the resonance of Darwin’s ideas in the fiction of Eliot, Dickens, and other Victorian writers.” The effort of Beer and Levine are part of the larger concern with “the rhetoric of science” in recent decades.

With brief sections on “morphology and romantic biology,” “neurophysiology,” “genetics and cell theory,” and “biography in the history of biology,” Richards concludes with a stunning methodological guide to a “cultural history of science.” According to Richards, in the first stage of a cultural history of science, “the historian, of whatever kind, begins work with some central event or series of events that he or she wishes historically to understand, that is, to explain.” To this end, the historian, in the second stage, “collects and reads the relevant books, papers, letters, notebooks, etc.,” and assesses their “relevancy in light of the central event.” This follows with some kind of abstraction, where the historian formulates meaning and devises patterns from the sources. To stop here is to provide only an intellectual history of science and not a cultural one. But “scientists, even the most divine, do not live in Platonic, abstract space.” “They live in a world,” Richards continues, “streaked with social relationships, penetrating passions, and the contingencies of life.” A cultural history thus must move beyond the stages of event, collection, and abstraction. The fourth stage of “historical recovery” is the attempt to ascertain “the mental processes of actors…that led to the production of those patterns of meaning abstracted in stage three.” Here we find “religious beliefs, metaphysical commitments, passionate loves, consuming hates, and aesthetic needs, along with scattered scientific ideas, theories, and suspicions.” The historian thus attempts to “step into the mind of the actor without being fully aware that he or she is crossing a boundary.” In the fifth stage a synthetic reconstruction begins, a recovery of sources through developmental analysis, portraying a “series of mental developments the scientist went through to arrive at the point of producing.” This requires external evidences, stimulus from “newly encountered ideas, newly stimulated emotional states, new relationships with other individuals.” This becomes the sixth stage of analysis, seeking to demonstrate the connections between mental development and immediate, external stimuli in which the scientist lived and worked. “The cultural environment provides the source of new notions, and of those that rub against and reshape already established considerations: it includes…the immediate scientific terrain of established theories and practices, but also the aesthetic notions, metaphysical conceits, and theological beliefs that play upon the mind of the scientist.” Thus “ideas of an abstract Platonic sort are impotent; they lie limply in the fallow ridges of the mind.” And in the final stage, the historian attempts to “understand, grasp, and articulate the cultural and social patterns that shaped the mental and emotional development of the scientist.” The cultural historian “must recover and re-create the intellectual, cultural, and emotional community of which [the scientist] was an immediate member.”