Science and Periodicals

Reading the Magazine of Nature

Cantor and Dawson - Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical“For the Victorian reading public, periodicals played a far greater role than books in shaping their understanding of new discoveries and theories in science, technology, and medicine.” Indeed, not only were many notable nineteenth-century scientific texts first published in magazines and journals, the periodical press also provided an important source of income for many of its seminal practitioners. In a book edited by a host of scholars, Geoffrey Cantor, Gowan Dawson, Graeme Gooday, Richard Noakes, Sally Shuttleworth, and Jonathan R. Topham, Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical (2004) seeks the “common intellectual context” of nineteenth-century science in popular, religious, political, comic, juvenile, and monthly periodicals. As the editors write, “historians of science still often use periodicals as relatively transparent records of the opinions either of authors of individual articles or of particular publics, rather than considering periodicals as objects in themselves.” The editors thus refuse to consider the periodical as mere background. Their aim is to “reinterpret the place of science in nineteenth-century British culture by combining insights from the history of popular science, cultural and literary studies and periodical studies.” By locating science in more unlikely textual spaces, the editors map a much more complex and diffused science than would otherwise be encountered in highbrow quarterlies, such as Edinburgh Review, Quarterly, Blackwood’s, and Westminster Review.

Cantor and Dawson - Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century MediaThis title, in addition to two others, entitled Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media (2004) and Science Serialized: Representation of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century Periodicals (2004) were written by the SciPer team, directed by Geoffrey Cantor and Sally Shuttleworth, a project that ran from 1999 to 2007 and was jointly organized by the Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies in the Department of English Literature at the University of Sheffield and the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science at the University of Leeds.

Cantor and Dawson - Science Serialized Representation of the Sciences in Nineteenth-Century PeriodicalsAll three volumes substantially add to our knowledge about the role of science in a wide variety of magazines, journals, monthlies, and quarterlies.

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Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability

Gowan Dawson - Darwin Literature and Victorian RespectibilityWhen Richard Owen (1804-1892) denounced T.H. Huxley’s (1825-1895) paleontological methods at the Geological Society of London in 1856, he did so on peculiarly moralistic grounds. But this should come as no surprise, for Owen “drew upon a long, well-worn tradition connecting materialism and unbelief with moral corruption and debauchery, including the entwinement of pornography and materialist philosophies in the Enlightenment.” So writes Gowan Dawson in a striking study on Darwin, Literature and Victorian Respectability (2007). In this volume Dawson explores the curious relationship that Victorian reviewers and commentators drew between the ideas and advocates of scientific naturalism and the “Fleshly School of Poetry” of W. Morris(1834-1896), D.G. Rossettie (1828-1882), A.C. Swinburne (1837-1909), and their “coterie of licentious companions.” Darwin and other scientific writers were haunted by an anxiety that their ideas, theories, illustrative examples and subject matter in general, might be construed as violating the boundaries of Victorian sexual respectability. Indeed, Darwin, Huxley, Hooker, and others were at pains to protect evolutionary theory from attack by those who saw evolution as leading to dangerous political and social practices such as sexual immortality, birth control, and divorce. As Dawson points out, “those seeking to discredit the cultural authority of evolutionary science identified it with the alleged sensual indulgence of aestheticism, while those attempting to establish it as a respectable secular theodicy denied such as connection and instead emphasized links with more reputable literary writers.”

In his Introduction, Dawson notes that Darwin’s “particular conception of organic evolution…quickly became part of a wider political campaign” by the scientific naturalists to “wrest the last vestiges of intellectual and cultural authority away from the monopolistic Anglican Church establishment, as well as the gentlemanly amateurs who represented its interests in the scientific world.” Their goal was not the abolition of traditional religion, however; rather, the scientific naturalists sought to naturalize it, with “law and uniformity supplanting theology as the guarantors of order in both the natural world and human society.” To this end, scientific naturalism “had to be urgently sequestered from any hostile associations that might tarnish them in the eyes of the various audiences for science in Victorian Britain and consequently undermine the political aspirations of dissident secular intellectuals.” And more than any other vice, specific anxieties over sexual immortality emerged as the “most significant impediment to establishing a naturalistic worldview as a morally respectable alternative to earlier theological outlooks.”

Darwinian evolution was seen by many Victorians as unleashing a “torrent of immortality and corruption that would surpass the scandalous vices of even the pagan world.” Thus “in order to neutralize the charges of encouraging sexual immorality, the proponents of evolutionary theory, attempting to forge their own naturalistic social theodicy, had to shield Darwinism equally vigorously from any such invidious connections, in part by distinguishing a self-proclaimed ‘pure’ science—drawing on all senses of that overdetermined adjective—from the less reputable aspects of nineteenth-century general culture.”

Dawson also argues that while the scientific naturalists sought to publicly cultivate a reputation of unimpeachable respectability and character, in private correspondence, “sardonic and permissive attitude towards…profane topics…contravened conventional standards of middle-class respectability.” This was indeed a “masculine culture,” a “convivial fraternalist discourse” and “tolerant cosmopolitanism.” Of course, such “bawdy” anecdotes shared between scientific naturalists were not “generally divulged to wives or other female family members.”

The periodical of choice of scientific naturalists was John Morley’s (1838-1923) Fortnightly Review. Here Huxley, John Tyndall (1820-1893), and W.K. Clifford (1845-1879) and other leading exponents of evolution and scientific naturalism found a ready audience. And as Dawson points out, the magazine “encompassed both evolutionary science and aesthetic literature, and this shared mode of publication evidently emphasized the areas of potential similarity between them.”

Robert W. Buchanan (1841-1901) was one of the earliest to aver against the “fleshy” and materialistic poetry of Swinburne, Rossetti, Morris and others. Buchanan would also connect aesthetic poetry with the alleged materialism of contemporary science. In the 1876 issue of New Quarterly Magazine, for example, Buchanan contested the principles that Tyndall had advanced less than two years earlier in his Presidential Address to the BAAS at Belfast. For Buchanan, Tyndall’s materialistic science was “merely another version of the fleshy creed promulgated in the verse of Rossetti, Swinburne and their coterie of licentious companions.”

The scientific naturalists responded to such raucous accusations in two ways. First, they simply reiterated the “scrupulous standards of personal morality exhibited by scientific practitioners, as well as the strict discipline and moral propriety instilled—and indeed required—by empirical methods of experimentation and observation.” Another response, particularly and effectively employed by Tyndall, emphasized “the already existing connection between the leading advocates of scientific naturalism and older and more reputable literary writers, most notably the Poet Laureate Alfred Tennyson and the conservative Sage of Chelsea Thomas Carlyle.” But as Dawson suggests, Huxley, Tyndall, and other scientific naturalists might have deliberately misinterpreted the work of these literary figures for their own particular purposes.

In the remaining chapters of Dawson’s remarkable book, he examines and analyzes “sexualized responses to evolution,” “nineteenth-century revival of paganism,” “Victorian freethought and the Obscene Publications Act,” “the refashioning of William Kingdon Clifford’s posthumous reputation,” and “the pathologization of aestheticism” by Huxley and Henry Maudsley (1835-1913). Judiciously integrating “contextualist approaches to the history of science with recent work in nineteenth-century literary and cultural history,” Dawson exemplifies what research in both archival and manuscript sources should look like. He draws from a broad ranges of sources, including journalism, scientific books and lectures, sermons, radical pamphlets, aesthetic and comic verse, novels, law reports, illustrations and satirical cartoons, and private letters. Dawson provides a fascinating account of the reception of scientific ideas and further evidence that science is never neutral.

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Victorian Science in Context

Lightman - Victorian Science in Context“Victorians of every rank, at many sites, in many ways, defined knowledge, ordered nature, and practiced science.” This introductory remark, in Bernard Lightman’s Victorian Science in Context (1997), unveils the aim of the volume as a whole. Presented as a series of connected vignettes, it focuses on the local and the contingent. Situating a range of natural knowledge in their cultural milieu, Victorian Science in Context is a fascinating jaunt through nineteenth-century British science.

Lightman’s introduction is brief, lucid, and pertinent. According to Lightman, science was central to Victorian culture. And whether sensational, ceremonial, or mundane, Victorian science was always political. This is evident in the strong interest in science by literary figures, such as Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), George Eliot (1819-1880), Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), Charles Dickens (1812-1870), and John Ruskin (1819-1900), to name only a few. The political nature of Victorian science is also evident among British scientists themselves, who “were deeply involved with general culture.” The realization that Victorian science was inextricably linked to powerful social and cultural forces drove historians away from intellectual history to contextualism, which sees the local, the context, the situated, or the particularities of historical events and figures as crucially important. Whose “truth,” “rationality,” “science,” “religion,” “ethics,” and so on, are the principle questions asked by contextualist historians. Lightman goes on to chart the development of the contextualist approach, tracing a detailed genealogy beginning with early attempts by Susan Faye (Walter) Cannon, John Greene, and the more recent work of Frank Turner, Robert Young, Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray, Martin Rudwick, Adrien Desmond, James Moore, Nick Jardine, James Secord, Emma Spary, Robert Stafford, Crosbie Smith and M. Norton Wise, Cynthia Russett, Evellen Richards, Gillian Beer, and George Levine.

The contributors of Victorian Science in Context “examine the varied contexts of Victorian “biological thought, astronomy, field theory in physics, probability theory in mathematics, political economy, scientific nomenclature, instruments, laboratories, measurement, fieldwork, and the popularization of science,” including their “imperial, industrial, political, gendered, ideological, racist, literary, and religious nature.” Lightman provides an apt précis of their contents in his Introduction, tying a tremendously diverse collection of essays into a seamless argument—namely, that in defining knowledge, in ordering nature, and in practicing science “we not only find nature but also encounter ourselves as inquisitive, social, and political beings.”

Fittingly, the essays are grouped into three sections: Part 1 deals with “Defining Nature”; Part 2 with “Ordering Nature”; and Part 3 “Practicing Science.” This overview of Victorian Science in Context reflects my particular research interests.

Alison Winter’s essay on “The Construction of Orthodoxies and Heterodoxies in the Early Victorian Life Sciences” undermines the traditional image of early Victorian science. Science in the Victorian age was not made up of a homogeneous community; it was indeed “volatile” and “underdetermined,” indeed a “more fluid chaotic state of affairs” than traditionally reckoned. “We now know,” she writes, “that the practices, practitioners, contexts, and audiences that existed for early Victorian science were extremely diverse,” and that by the “late 1830s and 1840s there was a far wider range of specialist journals and societies, and a dizzying variety of other arenas in which science was practiced  and communicated.” This diversity is indicative of the multifarious definitions of “science” proposed during the era.

As already mentioned, recent research has overwhelmingly demonstrated the political significance attached to claims about nature. Winter notes, for example, how “radical artisans adapted evolutionary thought to give a blueprint in natural law for their socialist and cooperative projects.” Indeed, the “life science supplied pedigrees for the conservative, liberal, and radical” alike. What is more, “issues of place, practice, and audience have been central to the construction of scientific authority and orthodoxy.” In the second half of her essay, Winter concentrates on the case of William Benjamin Carpenter (181-1885), who personally sought “to demarcate the legitimate from the illegitimate experiments and phenomena.” His 1839 Principles of General and Comparative Physiology claimed that physiology should become as lawlike as the physical sciences, thus reducing “physiology to a set of naturalist laws.” This claim was just as controversial as what the radical artisans had advocated in their evolutionary project; but unlike the radicals, Winter argues, Carpenter solicited the support of specific elite scientists who were also religiously orthodox. And when his Principles did come under attack, he “took immediate and vigorous action to vindicate himself,” publishing an appendix “to one of the moderate progressive medical periodicals a personal defense of the spiritual respectability of his work.” In this defense Carpenter described a world “run by laws that had themselves been ushered into existence by a single divine act.” But more important than his own defense, Winter  explains, were the “letters of reference” from individuals who embodied orthodoxy in science and religion, defending Carpenter’s work as “theologically sound.” Carpenter’s act of “juxtaposing the names and statement of individually eminent personages” constructed them “as an authoritative and definitive community.” Thus the “specific work that was necessary to secure the status of orthodoxy for himself was the assertion of what counted as an authoritative community for him.” That is, by successfully soliciting the support of respected scientists of orthodox standing, Carpenter constructed his own definitions of what counted as heterodox or orthodox in his scientific work.

Martin Fichman’s “Biology and Politics: Defining the Boundaries” examines the rich interplay between biological and political speculation. Because “evolutionary biology was at an interface between the natural and social science, it was notoriously susceptible to sociopolitical influences and deductions.” T.H. Huxley and John Tyndall’s strategy for advancing the professional status of biologists, by isolating biology from politics and by proclaiming the ideological neutrality of science, failed. Evolutionary science become, unsurprisingly, “hostage to pervasive ideological manipulation by the scientific naturalists themselves.”  In this essay Fichman focuses on the work of Herbert Spencer, Francis Galton, Huxley, and Alfred Russel Wallace.

Spencer, although one of the “grandest systematizers of evolutionary thought,” never fully embraced Darwinism, his perspective being more principally aligned with Lamarckian views. Spencer’s evolutionary synthesis “lent itself to the most diverse political readings,” mainly because his philosophy was not so much materialistic as it was socially progressive. Galton, Darwin’s cousin, “simply subsumed politics under biology.” Coining the term “eugenics” in 1883, he advocated “societal programs to foster talent, health, and other ‘fit’ traits (positive eugenics) and to suppress feeblemindedness and other ‘unfit’ traits (negative eugenics). In Galton’s mind, eugenics was a scientific “repudiation of conservative, aristocratic privilege; politically, he reflected the middle-class outlook of much of the liberal intelligentsia.” According to Fichman, Galton’s eugenics was “an evolutionary science constructed upon a political infrastructure.”

By the 1870s, science had increasingly gained ascendancy and cultural autonomy, largely at the hands of an influential coterie made up of Huxley, Tyndall, Galton, J.D. Hooker, John Lubbock, and other members of the X-Club. “With a combination of research achievements, polemic wit, and literary eloquence…” this group “helped create a largely secular climate of opinion in which the theories and metaphors of modern science penetrated the institutions of education, industry, and government.” Their “metascientific strategy,” as Fichman phrases it, was the promotion of ideological neutrality. But as Fichman demonstrates, the scientific naturalists, “rather than limiting and depoliticizing the authority of evolutionary science, subtly invoked it to support [their] own political views.” In short, “scientific naturalism had never been ideologically neutral.”

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) attacked any pretext to ideological neutrality. Indeed, for Wallace, evolutionary biology necessitated an ideological context. In his “Human Selection” (1890) and “Human Progress: Past and Future” (1892), Wallace unabashedly declared his socialist convictions, particularly towards sexual selection. “Socialism, by removing inequalities of wealth and rank, would free females from the obligation to marry solely on the grounds of financial necessity.” And as Fichman points out, “Wallace’s social progressionism informed his biological progressionism and reinforced his position that science did not function as a neutral blueprint for political philosophy.” That is, Wallace’s scientific views merged seamlessly with his advocacy of socialism and feminism.

The thought provoking “Satire and Science in Victorian Culture” by James Paradis examines the formation of attitudes towards claims of science and scientists themselves by focusing on the ways in which irony and its “militant” form, satire, was mobilized as a strategy for making sense of new claims about the world. Drawing from Punch (1841-1992), Figaro in London (1831-38), the Comic Almanack (1835-53), as well as Victorian literary pieces such as Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1833-34), Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies (1863), Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869), and Huxley’s Lay Sermons, Adresses and Reviews (1870), Paradis argues that “literature became an important conduit for conveying scientific ideas of the day to the broad public.” What is more, the scientific elite themselves used cartoons, doodles, caricatures, and humor as “instruments of scientific infighting to contrast reform platforms with orthodox resistance.” This, of course, was stunningly reductive, to the point of irresponsible, incorrectly presenting figures and facts, often reinforcing crude prejudices, falsifying categories, and distorting significant truths. But as Huxley discovered, “irony and satire…could be used to privilege the emergent institutions of science.”

Perhaps more ominous, recent research suggests that at the same time as young adults are abandoning traditional news media, they are more likely to identify with late-night comedy programs, particularly Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert, or with humor websites such as and and others, as a destination for learning about current events. This trend towards news as entertainment was pointed out long ago by Neil Postman. According to Fichman, “one who laughs not only directs criticism at the object of his laughter, but also invites his companions to share his sentiments. Irony and satire from the 1840s to the 1860s had increasingly become tools in the scientific community for shaping a minority cultural vision.” Huxley, with his mordant witticism, used his gift “to turn the direction of the irony against received tradition and to seize the moral high ground for a progressive intellectual culture associated with the sciences.”

Bernard Lightman’s “‘The Voices of Nature’: Popularizing Victorian Science” is similar to his more recent essay in Wrestling with Nature (2011). According to Lightman, Huxley and Tyndall “account only for a small portion of the works of Victorian popularizers of science.” Indeed, the popularizers of science played a far greater role in “shaping the understanding of science in the minds of a reading public composed of children, teenagers, women, and nonscientific males” than any of the scientific naturalists. Yet their comparative neglect by historians until most recently is the result of the successful campaign forged by the scientific naturalists, who convinced “future generations that scientists were the authoritative guides to deciphering the meaning of natural things—that they alone gave voice to mute nature.”

It is the contextualist approach that offers a necessary antidote. Recent work by contextualist historians, Lightman notes, reveals the “rich interaction between Victorian science and culture.” The contextualist approach also shows how Victorian popularizers of science experimented with the narrative form and the implicit “storytelling quality of all science.” “Both popularizers and professionals,” writes Lightman, “have continued to tell stories about the ultimate meaning of things as revealed by science, though this characteristic of science has been concealed in the scientific reports and papers of professional scientists.” Lightman then offers an account of Margart Gatty’s (1809-73) The Parables of Nature (1855), which was a series of fictional short stories for children designed to teach them about the natural world; Eliza Brightwen’s (1830-1906) Wild Nature Won by Kindness (1890) and other stories sought to “foster ‘the love of animated nature’ in her audience, especially ‘in the minds of the young'”; and Arabella Buckley’s (1840-1929) The Fairyland of Science (1879), likewise aimed to “awaken ‘a love of nature and of the study of science’ in ‘young people’ who more than likely ‘look upon science as a bundle of dray facts.'” Interestingly, Buckely does not shy away from introducing the story of evolution in The Fairyland of Science. Rather, she “reinterprets the story of evolution in way that emphasizes the moral dimensions of the process. The purpose of evolution was not, as Darwin had argued, merely the preservation of life, it encompassed the development of mutuality as well.” And like Gatty and Brightwen, Buckley “believed that science offered the means for ascertaining the true meaning of God’s works.” According to Lightman, all three authors are “part of the natural theology tradition.”

In the late nineteenth-century, “thousands of members of the public were introduced to astronomy” by the writings of Anthony Proctor (1837-88). His most popular work, Other Worlds Than Ours (1870), cast science into a “teleological framework” and encouraged the reading public to become amateur astronomers—for the astronomer, “imbued with the sense of beauty and perfection which each fresh hour of world-study instills more deeply into his soul, reads a nobler lesson in the skies.” Astronomy, according to Proctor, leads to God. Similar sentiments were shared by the Reverend John George Wood (1827-89) and Agnes Mary Clerke (1842-1907) in their many writings, who both declared that the natural world testified “to the existence and wisdom of God.”  We may draw two important conclusions from the popularization of science during the Victorian era. The first is that “science continued to be contested territory in the latter half of the nineteenth century.” Second, the stories told about nature were also contested. Should stories about nature be told from a teleological, aesthetic, moral, or evolutionary perspective? The scientific naturalists fought for the hearts and minds of the reading public. But so did popularizers of science. Thus we may say that the professional scientist competed against the professional writer. Who won is still an open question, however.

Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science

Livingstone and Withers - Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science“Science,” writes Nicolaas Rupke, “is not just a collection of abstract theories and general truths but a concrete practice with spatial dimensions.” It is, indeed, “situated knowledge.” Rupke comes to this conclusion in an Afterword for David N. Livingstone and Charles W.J. Withers’ (eds.) Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science (2011). The essays in this volume “situate a range of scientific knowledge claims in civic, metropolitan, and even colonial island sites, and in such architectural spaces as museums and laboratories.” Its authors convincingly argue that “Nineteenth-century scientific knowledge…constituted a plurality of knowledges, each shaped by local customs and norms, dependent on locally generated authority and credibility, and serving partisan political purposes.”

Thinking geographically about nineteenth-century science, the editors argue, evinces a science practiced “in different ways in different places.” Accordingly, “scientific knowledge is differently spread across the surface of the earth, and moves from place to place through complex circulatory networks.” At the same time, “scientific institutions occupy distant locations in different settings.” A corollary to all this is that “scientific theories are shaped by the prevailing political, economic, religious, and social conditions, as well as a host of other cultural norms in different geographical localities, and…[thus] may bear the stamp of the environments within which they are constructed.”

Livingstone and Withers want to show how thinking geographically helps to disclose how “science—the sciences—became professional, popular, disciplined and discursively discrete, precisely institutionalized and widely instructive.” The volume contains 17 chapters and over 400 pages of text divided into three parts: “Sites and Scales,” “Practices and Performances,” and “Guides and Audiences.” All chapters work together in contributing to a continuing interdisciplinary debate about “the placed nature of science’s making and reception, about the processes that were adopted to make scientific knowledge mobile for whom and with what consequence…[revealing] that what has held to be science varied—but within institutions, at different scales, and for different audiences in different places.” Here I provide a synopsis of chapters I found particularly insightful.

Bernard Lightman’s “Refashioning the Spaces of London Science: Elite Epistemes in the Nineteenth Century,” turns to how space mattered. Following John Pickstone’s Foucauldian analysis of different “epistemes,” or ways of knowing, Lightman seeks to “identify broad epistemic patterns across disciplines and to see how they change over the course of time.”

Lightman begins by discussing sites of gentlemanly and utilitarian science. Under the helm of Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), a vast scientific network was constructed around the sites of the Royal Institution, Royal Society, and Kew Gardens. “All three were to play a significant role throughout the nineteenth century, but at that point they were spaces of the landed aristocracy and the upper class…” After Banks’ death, however, these scientific sites gradually began to shed their aristocratic layers. Whereas Banks and his supporters had exploited and reinforced relations of genteel patronage and obligation, a group of reformers—i.e., the “gentlemen of science” and the untilitarians—altered the politics of science. These were the “young Turks” of the nineteenth century, who pushed for reform of aristocratic spaces of science. For these reformers, science was a “professional tool to be used to create a body of knowledge useful in government and in the professions.” This vision of science was in embodied in the founding of the “Godless” University College London in 1827, “which was set up as a secular institution modeled on the universities of Berlin and Bonn, and, unlike Cambridge and Oxford, it opened up its doors to non-Anglicans.”

Banks’ network of scientific sites also underwent metamorphosis under the leadership of new men. At the Royal institution, for example, the chemist William Thomas Brande (1788-1866), who led the Institution from 1813 to 1831, embodied utilitiarian ideals, undertaking a series of activities that gave it the reputation of being a metropolitan powerhouse for the scientific management of social problems. Subsequently, Michael Faraday (1791-1867) had become an important figure by the end of the 1820s, and “Faraday and the Royal Institution were well suited to each other.” The establishment by Faraday in 1825 of the very successful Friday Evening Discourses gave the Royal Institution an even greater public presence. In 1840, the Kew Gardens was transferred to the British government, and thus by the time William Hooker (1785-1865) took charge of it, it was already a public institution. According to Lightman, “Hooker strived to transform it into a center for scientific research as well as a place for the amusement and edification of the nation.” Banks’ Royal Society was a bit more dogged, but by “1848 traditional loyalties to the Crown and Church were replaced by new contractual allegiances based on serve to knowledge and utility to the state.”

Refashioning aristocratic sites of science was only one part of a larger plan. Reformers also sought to create new sites of science. Along with the museum, which, according to Lightman, the “central institution of Victorian science, the “British Association for the Advancement of Science was created in 1831 as a peripatetic organization.” “Embracing natural theology, [members] pointed to a divine order behind both nature and society, and to the role of science as a neutral means for obtaining desirable ends.” And “like the Royal Institution and Kew Gardens, the BAAS reached out to the public.”

But as the founding of University College London makes clear, for some the “reformist inclinations of gentlemen and Utilitarians did not go nearly far enough.” Such thinkers were “enamored with French evolutionary theory,” using “radical Lamarckianism to challenge the Tory-Anglican establishment and argue for the [further] reform of aristocratic institutions.” Other thinkers thought the radicals went too far, particularly Henry Brougham (1778-1868), who attempted to counter radicals with establishing mechanics’ institutes and, more importantly, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (SDUK), which published inexpensive texts intended to adapt scientific material for a rapidly expanding reading public. The latter’s central aim, Lightman tells us, “was to undermine political radicalism with rational information.”

Apparently the radicals had been more effective, for after 1850, a new generation of practitioners arrived on the scene, their aim “included the secularization of nature, the professionalization of their discipline, and the promotion of expertise.” Lightman selects three man that epitomize this new aim: Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895), John Tyndall (1820-1893), and Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911). These “scientific naturalists” were “sensitive to the power of place,” and set out to reconfigure, once again, several sites of science. Under Hooker, for example, “a fundamental change took place in Kew’s identity as an institution,” refashioning it into a research space as defined by scientific naturalists. As the mantle of leadership passed from Faraday to Tyndall, the Royal Institution too came to be defined under the rubric of scientific naturalism. And in his biological laboratory in the Science Schools Building in South Kensington, “Huxley was free to teach his students to view nature through secular eyes.” Ironically, the agenda of scientific naturalism, Lightman writes, “emphasized training, expertise, and laboratory research,” and thus led to “an even greater split between the public and professional spaces of science.”

There were, of course, contested spaces and sites of resistance to scientific naturalism. Although Tyndall used his presidential address in Belfast in 1874 to aggressively challenge the authority of Christian clerics, several men—Rayleigh (1884), Salisbury (1894), and Arthur Balfour (1904)—used the BAAS as a platform to deliver their defense of theism and criticism of scientific naturalism. Interestingly, it was the museum, however, that became the key space for “resisting the aims of scientific naturalists.” For example, the Oxford University Museum (1860) was embedded with “the principles of the natural theology tradition in its architecture.” Other museums, including the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, the Hunterian Museum, and the British Museum emphasized the “harmonious relationship between science and religion.” Laboratories and print culture were also generally hostile toward the agenda of scientific naturals, particularly the labs of the North British physicists and British publishers George Routledge (1812-1888) and Thomas Jarrold (1770-1853), who published a “steady stream of books containing theologies of nature that challenged the scientific naturalists’ secularized perspective.”

Lightman inspection of the places of London science reveals how different scientific sites operated different epistemes. These sites, and many others, were not simply physical locations; they were, as Lightman shows, symbolic urban places whose occupants were aligned for or against aristocratic privilege, radical reform, or scientific naturalism.

Charles W.J. Withers’ “Scale and the Geographies of Civic Science: Practice and Experience in the Meetings of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Britain and in Ireland, c. 1845-1900” examines the geographical mobility of the BAAS, with a particular concern over what he calls “nineteenth-century civic science” in Britain. He asks, “how did the BAAS experience vary locally, by and perhaps even within, different towns?”

Withers begins by considering BAAS officers’ decision making process for choosing a host. This was a complex process that involved, among other things, apprehending “the scientific capacity of the location, the educational advantages for the local inhabitants, and the financial support that local civic bodies would give the association.” What is more, “hosting an annual meeting involved at least a three-year cycle of negotiations (often more) between BAAS General Committee officers and representatives of local civic and scientific bodies.”

The most interesting section of Withers’ chapter is his account of private responses to BAAS meetings, or how he terms it, “experiencing civic science.” According to Withers, “women formed a large part of BAAS audiences, especially from midcentury.” The diaries of Agnes Hudson, Caroline Fox, and Lady Caroline Howard are particularly instructive. Hudson attended the 1875 Bristol and 1879 Sheffield meetings, but complained about the intolerable heat because of the “insufficiently ventilated building” and the overcrowding. The Anthropological Section sessions in particular were so crowded that “several persons sat on the mantelpiece.”  According to Withers, “attendance at a BAAS meeting could be tiring, require a change of clothes (for a women perhaps more than for men), and last well into the evening.” Fox attended meetings in 1836, 1837, 1852, and 1857. She too recalls the crowds at certain meetings, succeeding in gaining admittance only “by most extraordinary muscular exertions.” She also recalls problems of audibility: “people made such a provoking noise, talking, coming in, and going out, opening and shutting boxes, that very little could we hear.” Howard likewise complained about her inability to hear the speakers at the geography session at the 1857 Dublin meeting, particularly famous African explorer David Livingstone, who spoke “in a whisper.”

The BAAS promoted what Withers calls “civic science”—science as a public good, a unifying, moral vision under the banner of scientific and political neutrality. But particulars of this mission were moderated by the different urban and institutional contexts where the BAAS convened. “Different practices in different setting—waiting for a lecture whose timetabling and audience behavior meant that hearing particular topics was a matter of luck, conversing with one’s fellows, viewing specimens without comprehension, going to lectures to seek sensation or instrumental mediation through lantern slides not understanding of scientific principles—were all elements in the making and reception of association science.”

Diarmid A. Finnegan shares a similar emphasis on the location of locution. As he writes in his “Placing Science in an Age of Oratory: Spaces of Scientific Speech in Mid-Victorian Edinburgh,” in the mid-Victorian period, “logic and location along with propositions and performances were tightly bound together in the delivery of science lectures.” He supports his claim with a close examination of the Edinburgh Philosophical Institution (EPI). According to Finnegan, in EPI meetings, “science no less than any other subject was knotted together with local conditions, politics, and protocols.” The cultural significance of public speech during the Victorian period necessitated that “science had to sound right as well as look right to retain its place as part of intellectual culture in mid-nineteenth-century urban Britain.”

Founded in 1846, the EPI attracted many eminent speakers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Ruskin, John Hutton Balfour, David Brewster, Samuel Brown, Hugh Miller, Edwin Lankester, Thomas Henry Huxley, John Tyndall, John Pringle Nichol, John Henry Pepper, John Lubbock, and Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. EPI lectures generally took place in Queen Street Hall, which was owned by the United Presbyterian Church. Much like the BAAS meetings, inadequate facilities, overcrowding, and poor acoustics were common maladies. But in addition to these “external” forces, internal forces pressed upon the lecturers. According to Finnegan, “tacit codes of behavior also applied to lecturers.” Indeed, “what could and could not be heard in the lecture hall was conditioned by the regulative ideals associated with the notion of a free platform.” Thus lecturers had to “position their scientific discourse” by taking in consideration “etiquette, aesthetics, and moral probity.”

This “positioning” is best seen in the 1850s popular lectures of Hugh Miller and George Wilson. Both Miller and Wilson “integrated literary charm and moral sobriety” into their scientific lectures. More importantly, both “held in common a commitment to creedal Christianity.” In his EPI lectures, Miller sought to “refute the charge that science lacked poetic power.” What is more, science affirmed theological orthodoxy: it was Miller’s belief, Finnegan writes, “that nature’s hieroglyphics, properly deciphered, would bring to light God’s own artistry and that the basis for the substantial harmony between geology and poetry was the identity between the aesthetic and musical sense in the mind of God and the mind of man.” This literary mode—modeled after Thomas Carlyle, albeit without his pantheism—appealed to the audience of the EPI. Similarly, Wilson’s lectures exhibited “a high strain of moral eloquence that linked every topic to man’s joys, and sorrows, and deep enduring interests.” As Finnegan puts it, “the earnest moral tone, the personal intensity of delivery, and the Carlylean tenor that characterized the scientific speech of Wilson and Miller resonated with the general intellectual and aesthetic sensibilities of members of the EPI.”

By the 1860s, however, there was a dramatic “change in the character of science lectures given to the EPI.” In the geology lectures by David Page, for example, he “actively opposed attempts to present science as a handmaiden to theology.” A more striking secular note were also delivered by Tyndall, Huxley, Lubbock, and Hawkins. Unsurprisingly, Huxley “caused the greatest stir both within and outside the institution…provoking the opprobrium of Edinburgh’s evangelical press.” All except for Hawkins, (who only spoke again in 1887) never returned to the EPI. The lectures of these men caused such a stir, that remaining science lectures of the decade had a decidedly more “combative and controversial tone.” There were even charges that the EPI had “contravened its own principles” of moral sobriety. These science lectures of the 1860s were “frequently suspected of instilling moral confusion and of severing the link between intellectual talk and moral culture.”

David N. Livingstone’s “Politics, Culture, and Human Origins: Geographies of Reading and Reputation in Nineteenth-Century Science” explores how “scientific meanings are imagined and reimagined through encounters with scientific texts and treatises,” drawing our attention particularly “to the cultural politics of origin narratives, whether creationist or evolutionary, throughout the nineteenth century.” Here the characterization of reputation become critical. Livingstone’s case study of Isaac La Peyrère (1596-1676), the father of anthropological polygenism, assessed as either heretic, hero, or harmonizer, demonstrates how persons, and their ideas, were made to stand for different things at different times and places.

Livingstone’s varieties La Peyrère, a “reputational geography,” is simply a prerequisite for his discussion of the varieties of Darwinism in the nineteenth century. In the final section of his chapter, Livingstone triangulates “a number of Irish readings of evolutionary theory,” namely Dublin, Belfast, and Londonderry. Presbyterian layman and distinguished Trinity College anatomist, Alexander Macalister, for example, although unconvinced about psychic, religious, moral evolution, he was nevertheless “enthusiastic about the power of natural selection to account for both animal and human physiological evolution,” and thus embraced Darwin’s Descent of Man. Yet another Presbyterian, professor of biblical criticism and later president of Queen’s College, Josiah L. Porter, “could find no empirical evidence in supper of the ‘essence’ of Darwin’s theory ‘that all forms of life, from the humblest zoophyte up to man, have evolved from one primordial germ.’” And yet another fellow Presbyterian, professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Presbyterian Magee College, John Robinson Leebody, praised Darwin’s theory as the “most complete attempt to prove with absolute continuity of the chain which connects man with the lower animals,” but that it also reveals its empirical dearth and therefore “we must decline, in the interests of science, to accept the Darwinian view of the origin of man’s body, until it is proved.”

More than personal predilection and professional preoccupation directed these judgments. According to Livingstone, the spaces these men occupied, in Dublin, Belfast, and Londonderry, “critically implicated both in the stances they assumed and the rhetorical tones they adopted in their public declarations.” Macalister, for instance, was not only a part of progressive set of scientists congregating around Trinity College, he was also part of a local Presbyterian community that fostered a particularly “secular” education in opposition to a Catholic “religious” one. Porter’s judgment was no doubt a reaction to Tyndall’s presidential “Belfast Address” in 1874. Indeed, Porter’s comments on Darwin were collected, along with others, into a single volume “intended to rebut the president’s attack.” And again, Leebody occupied a different rhetorical space. As president of Magee College, he too wanted to distance his institution from Catholic pedagogy, once quipping that “there is no Protestant Mathematics or Chemistry as distinguished from that taught in a Catholic college.” In conclusion, “the geography of Darwinism in Ireland,” Livingstone suggests, “was the compound product of long-standing feuds over who should control the curriculum, the iconic impact of Tyndall’s attack, the institutional spaces occupied by commentators, and the relative security local spokesmen felt in their own sense of cultural identity.”

And finally Jonathan R. Topham’s “Science, Print, and Crossing Borders: Importing French Science Books into Britain, 1789-1815” demonstrates the critical importance of print. There are a number of discrete, but nevertheless inextricably linked, geographies operating here, including publishers, booksellers, translators, and editors. Key figures in the Franco-British book trade were Arnaud Dulau (1762/3-1813), Thomas Boosey, who established his Boosey & Company in London in about 1792, and most important Joseph De Boffe (1749/50-1807). De Boffe himself was the son of a French bookseller based in Fribourg, Switzerland. De Boffe followed in his father’s footsteps, and soon after moving to London he became a “significant figure in the supply of French-language publications.” Topham notes that “a catalogue issued by De Boffe in 1794 listed more than twenty-five hundred French books, many relating to the arts, sciences, travels, and natural history.”

The “decisions and activities of” De Boffe and others, Topham argues, demonstrates how “technicians of print affected the availability of French science books in Britain.” This is most visible in periodicals. The Monthly Review, Critical Review, Anti-Jacobin Review, British Critic, Analytical Review, Edinburgh Review, and Quarterly Review all included a section of reviews and notices on foreign literature, some, such as the Monthly seeking to “provide a regular retrospect of French literature.”

After discussing booksellers and periodicals in general, Topham turns specifically to four case studies of imported French science books: (1) Antoine Lavoisier’s Traité élémentaire de chimie, présenté dans un ordre nouveau et d’après les découvertes modernes (1789); (2) Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Traité de mécanique celeste (1799-1805); (3) Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s Philosophie zooloqique (1809); and (4) Georges Cuvier’s Recherches sur les ossemens fossils (1812). In this section Topham introduces a cast of characters, including booksellers, translators, publishers, and reviewers. Despite the revolutionary war, and the subsequent mutual blockade between Britain and France, these events had little impact on the importation of French science books and their reading and reviewing in public periodicals. What becomes clear in these case studies, as Topham argues, “far from being automatic” the mechanism of publications “require the agency of a wide range of people, including not only scientific practitioners but also technicians of scientific print, often motivated by financial considerations.” It shows, in short, that all knowledge-making is a situated process, and thus “renders problematic any assumptions that scientific knowledge, either in its words or in its pictures, simply diffuses across the globe in a straightforward manner. Disruption of supply, translation between languages, selective reviewing of scientific literature, the local interpretations of meaning, all point to the salience of textual geography in the study of the forms of its representation in the movement of scientific knowledge.”

These essays and others in Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science convincingly show “the placed nature of science’s making and reception”—its “practices and forms of communicative action are always grounded in particular settings, and questions regarding site, institutional organization, and social relationship in place will for that reason always continue to matter to an explanation of science’s cognitive content and variable reception.”

Sites of Speech at the British Association for the Advancement of Science

Earlier this month I mentioned Ciaran Toal’s “Preaching at the British Association for the Advancement of Science,” which argued that there was a “vast homiletic literature preached during the British Association meetings throughout the nineteenth century.” Narrowing his focus, a more recent essay by Toal, “Science, Religion and the Geography of Speech at the British Association: William Henry Dallinger (1839-1909) under the microscope” (2013), investigates how the “separation of scientific and religious knowledge played out in practice by examining the speech of William Henry Dallinger, the prominent English microscopical researcher and Methodist preacher.”

Reverend William Henry Dallinger “carefully navigated the speech space of the Association.” The example Toal discusses is the Association’s Canadian meeting in Montreal in 1884. According to Toal, “on the BAAS platform Dallinger presented his science without any religious commitments, yet in other venues, and away from the Association’s constraints on speech, he presented science and religion as harmonious and inexorably tied.”

Raised an Anglican but converted to Methodism in his teen years, Dallinger “played an important role in popularising science among his fellow Methodists.” He worked with the Christian Evidences Society, an ecumenical Christian apologetic association founded in 1870 which aimed to address the problem of unbelief in Victorian society. Among its positions, the Society claimed that Christianity had nothing to fear from biblical criticism and that there was no conflict between science and religion. Indeed, in its 1889 report, T. Vincent Tymms spoke on behalf of the Society:

We ask for facts, not fancies, nor assumptions, nor dogmatic declarations of what must have been and what could not possibly have happened, because fatal to a theory of texts. We have no horror of Biblical criticism; we have no jealousy of geology, or biology, or archaeology, or any other science; we have no desire to live among illusions, however fair; no wish to live or die in the faith of anything which the future must destroy. But we have convinced ourselves that the Gospels are narratives of facts, that Christ is the central fact of history, that God is a fact, that revelation is a fact; and if these are facts, nothing in the universe, nothing in the past or present, or in things to come, can be at variance with them.

What is more, beside this enterprise, Dallinger was also a member of the Wesley Scientific Society and a regular contributor for the Wesleyan Magazine, reporting on “almost all British Association meetings in the 1870s and 1880s.

When the BAAS came to Montreal, McGill University acted as host, its Queen’s Hall the site of lectures and meetings. Here Dallinger delivered a talk on the “Modern microscope in the researches on the least and lowest forms of life,” subtitled, “the theory of spontaneous generation not proven.” Discussing the life of monads, the “lowest and least forms of life,” Dallinger asked:

how do they originate? Do they spring up de novo from the highest point on the area of not life which they touch? Are they, in short, the direct product of some yet uncorrelated force in nature changing the dead, the unorganized, the not living into definite forms of life?

Dallinger answered “No.” “Careful and prolonged experiment and research” had shown that the “not living” could not be “changed into that which lives.” Turning to evolution, Dallinger moved to “distance the spontaneous generation hypothesis from the theory of evolution.” As Toal nicely sums things up, “the process of evolution outlined by Darwin, and in contrast to Lamarck, did not require continuous instances of spontaneous generation. Indeed, Darwin set aside the issue of first origins, and avoided controversy, by claiming that his focus was solely on the evolutionary processes form the emergence of the first primordial form onwards.”

Dallinger’s lecture at Queen’s Hall was an official BAAS event, and thus his speech was tacitly delimited. By contrast, Dallinger entitled his address at James Ferrier Hall, McGill’s theological college, “The probability of a divine moral manifestation on Man’s behalf considered in the light of recent science.” According to Toal, “Dallinger was speaking in a very different speech space, and somewhat reflecting this turn to more theological concerns, the local press now referred to him as ‘Rev Dallinger’ and not Dr Dallinger.” The details of the speech are told well by Toal, and here it will suffice to say that in this address, Dallinger put forward four propositions for divine manifestation: that God molded the atom; that the origin of life was a direct result of God’s intervention; that the injection of consciousness into man was another direct act by God; and therefore “if divine intervention was necessary to fashion the atom, ‘quicken the not-living in to the living’ and insert consciousness into Man, was it not logical, he queried, that God, through Christ, had intervened to further elevate the ‘moral nature of man?’”

On the same day, Dallinger also delivered a sermon at the St James Street Church, in downtown Montreal. Here, interestingly enough, Dallinger focused on how “science was, in fact, imperfect.” Science can only conceive God from nature; but this is, according to Dallinger, the God of pantheism, “a force you ‘may tremble at’ but ‘cannot adore’, a force that ‘awes you, but does not bend your knee.’” Only the Gospels could reveal the “moral grandeur” and “beauty” of God. Ultimately, knowledge of “God’s character—the knowledge that really mattered—was only accessible through revelation.”

According to Toal, “Dallinger’s lecture, address and sermon in Montreal neatly highlight the close connection between, what David Livingstone has called, ‘location and locution,’” and thus “should be recognized as another aspect of the geography of speech attached to the British Association.” At the same time, as Bernard Lightman has also highlighted, popular authors, as opposed to narrow groups such as the scientific naturalists, played an increasingly important role in presenting science to the mass-reading public.

Indeed, I am currently digesting two important volumes—Livingstone’s Geographies of Nineteenth-Century Science (2011) and Lightman’s Victorian Science in Context (1997)—that deal extensively and explicitly with issues of “Sites and Scales,” “Practice and Performance,” “Guides and Audiences,” and the nature and definition of Victorian science. I will post on these volumes in the coming week.

Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Readership

A couple of other things I read over the holidays were J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel’s (eds.) Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society (1994), and Alvar Ellegård’s short essay “The Readership of the Periodical Press in Mid-Victorian Britain” (1957).

Don Vann and VanArsdel have calibrated before, and Victorian Periodicals happens to be the third volume of an annotated bibliography project began in their MLA volume Victorian Periodicals: a Guide to Research in 1978. The contents of this third volume pertains to the professions, the arts, occupation and commerce, popular culture, and worker and student journals. There is a total of 18 essays on different types of periodicals: Law (Richard A Cosgrove), Medicine (M. Jeanne Peterson), Architecture (Ruth Richardson and Robert Thorne), Military (Albert Tucker), and Science (William H. Brock); Music (Leanne Langley), Illustration (Patricia Anderson), Authorship and the Book Trade (Robert A. Colby), and Theatre (Jane W. Stedman); Transport (John E.C. Palmer and Harold W. Paar), Financial and Trade Press (David J. Moss and Chris Hosgood), Advertising (Terrence Nevett), and Agriculture (Bernard A. Cook); Temperance (Olwen C. Niessen), Comic Periodicals (J. Don Vann), and Sport (Tony Mason); and finally Worker’s Journals (Jonathan Rose) and Student Journals (Rosemary T. VanArsdel and John S. North).

As with any collection of essays, this volume suffers from omissions and unevenness. But as a launching point for considering deeper studies into Victorian periodicals, it is most useful. It is a landmark study identifying “the ways that periodicals informed, instructed, and amused virtually all of the people in the many segments of Victorian life.”

The essays demonstrate the “pervasiveness of periodical literature in nineteenth-century British society.” Indeed, according to John S. North, the “circulation of periodicals and newspapers was larger and more influential in the nineteenth century than printed books, and served a more varied constituency in all walks of life.” The ubiquitous nature of Victorian periodical literature serves as a “vast repository of contemporary culture.”

What follows are some of the more interesting essays in this volume. William H. Brock’s “Science,”  observes that “by the 1830s almost all initial scientific communication took place through specialist periodicals rather than books.” According to one nineteenth-century author, “periodical publications are a surer index of the state of progress of the mind, than the works of a higher character.” Nineteenth-century science journals and periodicals can thus provide the “collective view of science” of Victorian society.

Another instructive essay comes from J. Don Vann on “Comic Periodicals.” The Victorian comic periodical typically contained jokes, comic verse, riddles, parodies, caricatures, puns, cartoons, and satire. Some of the earliest were Satirist (1808-14) and Age (1825-43), well-known for their vicious and scurrilous attacks on people, which resulted in frequent lawsuits, but increased circulation and advertising revenues. But of all comic periodicals of the nineteenth century, “more has been written about the history of Punch (1841-1900[1992]) than about all the other Victorian comic periodicals combined.” Its appeal lies in the fact that from the outset it was a magazine designed to do more than amuse its readers; it was designed to “ridicule political parties when they became nothing more than ‘sycophancy of a degraded constituency,’ to ensure that prisons were for correction of offenders rather than places of punishment for those who were simply poor and unlucky, and to attack capital punishment.” In addition to appealing to “all lovers of wit and satire,” Punch “appealed to ‘gentlemen of education’ and thus found a place in the library and drawing room.” Or as another author eloquently put it:

The press is the corrector of abuses; the regressor of grievances; the modern chivalry that defends the poor and helpless and restrains the oppressor’s hand in cases where the law is either too weak or too lax to be operative, or where those who suffer have no means of appealing to the tribunals of their country for protection. It is, to, the scourge of vice; where no law could be effective, where the statue of law does not extend, where the common law fails—the law of the press strikes the offender with a salutary terror, causes him to shrink from the exposure that awaits him, and not infrequently arrests him in the career of oppression or of guilt.

Finally, in an essay on “Student Journals” by Rosemary T. VanArsdel and John S. North, we see how the university “provided an ideal atmosphere during the nineteenth century to encourage student journalism.” A community of many constituencies, university journals offered material from faculty, administrators, chancellors and boards of trustees, and students with their societies and organizations. From satire, parody, essays, and lampoons, to expository prose in editorial or news stories, descriptive prose in features, or literary expression in verse, drama, or narrative prose, student magazines and university journals provide an excellent source of educated Victorian high society. VanArsdel and North include selections (1824-1900) from England’s Cambridge University, Durham University, London University, University of Manchester, and Oxford University; from Ireland’s University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, and University College, Dublin; from Scotland’s Aberdeen University, University of Edinburgh, Glasgow University, and St Andrews; and from Wales’ University College of Wales.

Alvar Ellegård’s astonishing Darwin and the General Reader (1958, 1990), which investigated  over one hundred newspapers and periodicals to extract how contemporaries received Darwin’s theory, is well-known among historians of science. But prior to that 1958 publication, Ellegård published “The Readership of the Periodical Press in Mid-Victorian Britain” (1957), a paper estimating “the size and various other characteristics of the publics of the Mid-Victorian periodicals.” According to Ellegård, the press is where the age portrays itself. In the 1860s, for example, because the “pace of life was quickening,” the public “demanded more frequent and more easily digestible information about happenings in the world of letters and ideas.” Thus in the mid-Victorian period there was an explosion of weekly, monthly and quarterly periodicals. In his Directory, Ellegård includes the “more important periodicals that were in some degree organs of opinion,” giving a “fairly reliable picture of the sort of periodicals that were most important in expressing, and most influential in forming, public opinion on the wider questions of the day.”

This Directory is helpfully divided into five main groups: newspapers, weekly reviews, fortnightly and quarterly reviews, monthly magazines, and weekly journals and magazines. Listed with each periodical are dates of establishment, price and estimated circulation, and brief descriptions and likely readership. There follows a treasure trove of primary source information. In newspapers proper, Ellegård lists the Daily News, Daily Telegraph, Manchester Guardian, Morning Advertiser, Morning Post, Standard, Star, and Times; evening newspapers included are Echo, Globe, and Pall Mall Gazette; weekly newspapers included are John Bull, Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, News of the World, Observer, Reynold’s Weekly Newspaper, Saint James’ Chronicle, Sunday Times, Weekly Dispatch, and Weekly Times; specifically religious newspapers included are British Standard, Methodist Recorder, Record, Watchman, and Universe.

The next group includes weekly reviews. Here we find the literary reviews of Athenaeum, British Medical Journal, Critic, Economist, Examiner, Lancet, Leader, Literary Gazette, London Review, Nature, Parthenon, Press, Public Opinion, Reader, Saturday Review, and Spectator. Religious weekly reviews included are Church Review, English Churchman, English Independent, Freeman, Guardian, Inquirer, Nonconformist, Patriot, Tablet, and Weekly Review.

Fortnightly and quarterly reviews included are Academy, Contemporary Review, Edinburgh Review, Fortnightly Review, North British Review, Quarterly Review, and Westminster Review. Some of the better known scientific reviews included are Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Geological Magazine, Intellectual Observer, Natural History Review, Popular Science Review, Quarterly Journal of Science, Recreative Science, Student, and Zoologist. On the religious front Ellegård includes British and Foreign Evangelical Review, British Quarterly Review, Christian Observer, Christian Remembrancer, Dublin Review, Ecclesiastic, Eclectic Review, Friend, Friends’ Quarterly, Home and Foreign Review, Journal of Sacred Literature, Literary Churchman, London Quarterly Review, Month, National Review, Rambler, and Theological Review.

Monthly magazines included are Argosy, Belgravia, Bentley’s Miscellany, Blackwood’s Magazine, Broadway, Cassell’s Magazine, Cornhill, Dublin University Magazine, Fraser’s Magazine, Gentleman’s Magazine, London Society, Macmillan’s Magazine, New Monthly Magazine, St James’ Magazine, St Paul’s Magazine, Temple Bar, Tinsley’s Magazine, and Victoria Magazine.

Weekly journals and magazines sold in weekly parts included are All the Year Around, Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper, Chamber’s Journal, Family Herald, Fun, Good Words, Illustrated London News, Leisure Hour, London Journal, London Reader, Once a Week, Punch, Tomahawk, and Vanity Fair.

Like J. Don Vann and Rosemary T. VanArsdel’s Victorian Periodicals and Victorian Society Alvar Ellegård’s short essay “The Readership of the Periodical Press in Mid-Victorian Britain” provides little commentary on nineteenth-century periodicals itself. Rather, their strength lies in their ability to act as reference points, leading the reader to pursue further research from one of the many primary sources listed in these two helpful books.

John Tyndall and the “War” between Science and Religion

While scanning Linda Woodhead’s (ed.) Reinventing Christianity: Nineteenth-Century Contexts (2001) yesterday, I found Gowan Dawson’s “Contextualizing the ‘War’ between Science and Religion” particularly enlightening.

John Tyndall 1885Dawson explores Victorian materialism as it was exemplified by polemicists like John Tyndall. While the confrontation between T.H. Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce at the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) in Oxford in 1860 serves as a paradigmatic example of the “war” between science and religion in the nineteenth century, Tyndall’s Presidential Address to BAAS at Belfast in 1874 in fact aroused far more controversy.

In his Address, Tyndall gives an account of the development of science from the glorious days of ancient Greece, from “free-thinking and courageous” pagan philosophers like Democritus and Epicurus and even Roman poet Lucretius, which was then momentarily submerged by Christian and other regressive forces in the Middle Ages, to its triumphal revival in the Renaissance. By his reading, Tyndall saw the beginnings of a rigorously materialistic explanation of the natural world, without recourse to any form of supernaturalism, in the ancient doctrines of pagan philosophers, connecting it with the most advanced scientific conclusions of his own day. He claims that the “‘grand generalizations’ of ‘our day’ are really experimentally verified developments of the old atomic philosophy.” The advances of modern science “have their origin in a philosophy of matter which is over two thousand years old.” Modern science is the heir to these developments, and stands in direct continuity with them.

Tyndall’s account provoked outrage amongst many Christians. The periodical press afforded a “textual site” for much of the pillory hurled against Tyndall’s advocacy of pagan materialism. But as Dawson points out, this was not simply a clash between two metaphysical systems: theism on the one hand and a godless scientific materialism on the other. What Tyndall’s critics saw in his Address was the social and ethical implications of materialism. Indeed, Tyndall’s belligerent anti-clerical Address was censured for advocating the disreputable atheistic hedonism of Greek and Roman philosophers. As Dawson puts it, “Victorian exponents of this ancient understanding of the natural world could be portrayed as implicitly advocating the immoral sensualism which had precipitated the downfall of pagan antiquity.” For instance, Henry Reeve, editor of the Edinburgh Review, not only dismisses contemporary thought as merely the return to the conjectures of the pre-Socratic age, but that the “Lucretian doctrines of Professor Tyndall” could very well lead “to a bestial emphasis on earthly pleasure.” “Scientific materialism,” Dawson writes, “will uproot the true morality which Christianity has bestowed upon the world, and cast humanity once more into the sordid pit of pagan depravity.”

Sermons preached in Belfast also implicated Tyndall’s materialistic conclusions. Calvinist theologians in particular, with their emphasis on the Fallen condition of man, contended that it would leave him bereft of any sense of morality. For instance, Robert Wallace, professor of systematic theology at Belfast Presbyterian College, makes explicit connection between Tyndall and Epicurean doctrine. James McCosh, President of Princeton College, responded to Tyndall’s materialism by identifying it with the disreputable ethics of the pagan world. “The moral corruption of first-century Rome…provides a cautionary warning of the inevitable consequences of the unbelief predicated by present-day materialism.” These denunciations of Tyndall’s scientific creed can be located, Dawson explains, in a long tradition of Christian hostility towards Epicureanism, which dates back as far as the last centuries of the Roman Empire. For religious commentators, the resemblance between classical and modern philosophy actually undermined the intellectual pretensions of contemporary thought.

Responding to such imputations of pagan hedonism, Tyndall argued that hedonism “is by no means the ethical consequence of a rejection of dogma.” Thus Tyndall contests “the pessimistic theological assumption that without a metaphysical criterion for morality civic society will ultimately give way under the unrestrained selfishness which is man’s original condition.”

Dawson, following the work of Adrian Desmond, concludes that not only is the warfare image hackneyed, so is the reaction to it. “The point is not to deny the struggle, any more than to refight ‘the good fight.'” Historians should instead endeavor to understand the social currents which underwrite such moments of conflict.

Book History and the History of Science

Nineteenth Century BooksThis morning I began reading the “special section” collection of articles published in The British Journal for the History of Science, entitled “Book History and the Sciences” (2000). Jonathan R. Topham provides an introduction explaining why historians of science have been not a little skeptical about the value of the book history approach. “It is often dismissed as an intellectual fad or as an enterprise which is illuminating but ultimately peripheral, rather than being valued as an approach which can offer major new insights within the field.” Historians of science in recent decades have tried to get away from an “unsocial history of ideas, usually rooted in texts,” so their apprehensions are well taken. In this sense they see book history as retrograde.

Topham wants to reassure historians of science that book history does indeed “reintroduce social actors,” but with the caveat: as “engaged in a variety of practices with respect to material objects.” It is an approach that rejects a history in which books are seen as merely disembodied texts. According to Topham, book history “applies to print culture an approach which historians of science have pioneered in other contexts, such as studies of laboratories, observatories, lecture halls and museums.” Such an approach can contribute significantly to a cultural history of science. “Exploring in detail the historical encounters of readers with printed matter enables the historian to elaborate an account of scientific communication by print which, instead of methodologically privileging the role of scientific authors, acknowledges the complex and contested nature of such communication.”

Besides this introduction, I found particularly fascinating Lesile Howsam’s “An Experiment with Science for the Nineteenth-Century Book Trade: the International Scientific Series.” She argues that “a close examination of the publishing history of scientific books can be particularly fruitful for the scholar interested in how text and physical object combined to constitute the reader’s experience at a given place and moment in time.” Her object of study is the International Scientific Series (ISS), published in Britain and North America from 1871 to 1911. She asks a series of questions about the histories of authorship, of publishing and of reading in the Victorian era: “What are historians of Victorian science to make of this collection of texts, most of which were written by scientific practitioners, and some by world-famous men of science? Can we construe the contributions as an ideological community in the scientific culture of the late nineteenth century? What are we to make of the publishers and promoters of the series? Can anything be found out about the people who read the books and what contribution they made to popular conceptions of what constituted the ‘sound material’ of science that prevailed in the closing decades of the nineteenth century?” But whereas historians of science may inquire about the way professionals and amateurs defined science in the ISS, historians of the book may inquire: “What and how did these works fit in the contemporary context of scientific publishing, and of publishing in general? Were the texts as fixed as they appear, or is there evidence of revision? When revisions occurred, were they announced to booksellers and the reading public, or were they concealed? Did publishers agree with the titans of science who gave them editorial advice about what constituted a saleable manuscript, and when they failed to agree, whose opinion prevailed?

Both sets of questions yield remarkable dividends. According to Howsam, “editorial decisions about what titles to include in the series are evidence of contemporary definitions of science, particularly the inclusion of the social science with the natural sciences.” Moreover, “production decisions about how to keep the series in print are evidence of how the contemporary culture of science interacted with the culture of publishing.”

Books emerge not merely from artistic motives, but from a “desire to instruct,” “inform,” or “persuade.” Books, and nineteenth-century books in particular, were “conversion projects,” and scientific authors of science of nineteenth-century Europe and North America “were just as passionate evangelists, for science, as were their opposite numbers in the missionary societies.” T.H. Huxley and his coterie wished to revolutionize the dissemination of science in society, to create a much broader audience than before. They found this in Edward Livingston Youmans (1821-1887) call for a series of new books “covering the entire field of modern science.” Youmans was an American writer working for New York publishing firm D. Appleton and Company. According to his biographer, John Fiske, Youmans was “an interpreter of science for the people.” In 1871, Youmans traveled to Britain to pitch the series to a number of scientists and philosophers, including John Tyndall, T.H. Huxley, his close friend Herbert Spencer, and even requested Charles Darwin to endorse the project. Youmans and William Henry Appleton entered into contract with London publisher Henry S. King and Company later that year. Before returning to New York, Youmans also traveled to France and Germany, making arrangements with publishers and scientists for the corresponding series there.

Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer would form as ISS’s advisory body, “charged with helping the publisher decide which books should be included in the series, and to some extent with soliciting further titles form their powerful network of acquaintances.” Their motives, according to Howsam’s analysis of letters and other documents, were threefold. First, they wanted greater recompense for their own personal efforts. Second, “they envisioned the series as a tool in their campaign for a more secular approach to public policy.” Finally, they wanted the series to “educate” the non-professional reader about what they perceived was the latest developments in the physical and social sciences.

Howsam goes on to show how bookseller became aware of the series, how it was revised for new editions, including substantial changes based on criticisms and translations, the addition of prefaces or appendices to bring them up to date, and how in general authors kept their specific contributions “alive.” “Although the series must have found its place on the bookshelves of many collections both public and private,” Howsam argues, “few collectors were aware of the fluidity of the texts enclosed inside the uniform red bindings.”

In tracing its reception, Howsam relies on book review columns gleaned from Nature and Westminster Review, but also suggests other journals, letters, and autobiographies in order to enter the consciousness of nineteenth-century readers of popular scientific works. These latter remain, however, fragmentary, and thus periodical reviews is our best source of “what the reviewers, and beyond them readers, thought of how the series was achieving its objectives.”

“In the hands of Yousmans, King and Appleton, and Huxley, Tyndall and Spencer,” Howsam concludes, the International Scientific Series became a “vision of modern secular science.” And it was the “publishers who made the ultimate publishing decisions.” Books have a dual nature, as text and as physical object. Investigating both aspects, historians of the book are “learning to recognize the malleable text lurking below the deceptively bland leather or cloth-bound skin of the apparently torpid beast, and to demonstrate that books produced in the past had a recoverable dynamic existence in that past culture.” Book history reveals books as complexly embodied objects, giving us a glimpse of  “motivations not only of the men and woman who wrote and published them, but also of booksellers who distributed them and the readers who consumed them.”

Wresting with Nature – Science and Place

Great Exhibition 1851

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations 1851

David N. Livingstone once again wraps things up with his “Science and Place.” Imagining science in the singular has been used by progressivists in the service of “philosophical argument or social policy in order to provide grounds for investment in such cultural capital as intellectual advancement, technical control, and instrumental progress.” But a “geography of science,” Livingstone tells us, reveals a “science” influenced in significant ways by location. This analysis undoubtedly “disturbs settled assumptions about the kind of enterprise science is supposed to be and calls into question received wisdom about how scientific knowledge is acquired and stabilized.” In other words, what passes as “science” is different not only from time to time, but also from place to place.

Livingstone supports these claims by looking at “productions of space.” Spaces are social productions of practice, including scientific ones. “Venues like the laboratory, the observatory, the museum, the field, the botanical garden, and the hospital…” but also “cathedrals, coffee houses, tents, breeding clubs, royal courts, stock farms, exhibition stages and, no doubt, many more” are spaces and sites of scientific performance, principle, practice and theory, of institutions and ideas; and each is conditioned by geography.

The following sections on “spaces of experimentation,” “spaces of expedition,” and “spaces of exhibition,” are drawn largely from Livingstone’s Putting Science in its Place (2003), and a summary of them can be found here, here, and here.

Just as scientific knowledge is produced in a variety of places, so too the results of scientific inquiry are received in different venues. Darwin’s theory evolution is a case example, experiencing a “different fate in different national settings, religious spaces, and institutional arenas.” Protestants in Edinburgh, Belfast, and Princeton developed “markedly different tactics in their reading of the Darwinian challenge.” This leads Livingstone to posit that “scientific ideas rarely circulate as immaterial entities”—they are embodied.

More specifically, ideas are embodied “written texts,” for it is “print rather than thought or theory that is let loose upon the world.” A consideration of textual spaces is therefore necessary for understanding scientific culture. But because textual meaning is mobile, distinctive cultures of reading must be parsed within “regions and between them, within cities and between them, within neighborhoods and between them.”

“At every stage in the cycle of scientific culture, place matters. Where scientific work is conducted and where its wares are encountered make a difference to both the production and consumption sides of the enterprise. This means that if we are to understand the place of science in our culture we will need to attend more carefully to the places of scientific culture and to how these spaces have historically come into being.”

Wrestling with Nature – Science and the Public

The other essay I found particularly interesting is Bernard Lightman’s “Science and the Public.” It was in reviewing Mary Somerville’s popular work, On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences (1834), when English polymath William Whewell (1794-1866) first coined the word “scientist,” used as a umbrella term to avoid the “endless subdivision of the physical sciences.” In reviewing Somerville, Whewell hoped that her work, and others like it, would help “counteract the growing fragmentation of the physical sciences.”

Although concerned over its growing fragmentation, Whewell nevertheless took comfort that the Anglican clergy guaranteed a “strong religious framework unified science.” But by the middle of the nineteenth century, a new cult of science had emerged, represented by such names as Renan, Taine, Tyndall, Bernard, Büchner, Huxley, and Haeckel, vying for cultural authority. “Whoever determined the boundaries between legitimate and illegitimate scientific knowledge, between valid and invalid ways of doing science, and between the professional scientist and the mere amateur controlled the definition of science and could dominate the intellectual, social, and political agenda of the day.” According to Lightman, both groups, the Anglican establishment and the scientific naturalists, attempted to enroll the support of the British public. This was made possible by mechanized printing presses, railway distribution, improved education, and the penny post. While Huxley and his allies dominated the world of scientific journalism, popularizers of science, claims Lightman, “proposed a more egalitarian relationship between scientist and layman.”

In the beginning of the nineteenth century, such figures as Charles Lyell (1797-1875), Adam Sedgwick (1785-1873), Charles Babbage (1791-1871), Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871), Richard Owen (1804-1892), Humphry Davy (1778-1829), John Herschel (1792-1871), and William Whewell “adhered to an ideal of gentlemanly science based on a conception of a hierarchical society, masculine authority, and government by an Anglican, aristocratic elite.” From this group, natural theology was used to preserve the political and social status quo, presenting experimental science as a genteel, theologically safe, and socially conservative activity. “Science teaching at the ancient universities,” writes Lightman, “was not intended to institute modern, professional education, but instead to educate Christian gentlemen.” The science of gentlemen, then, leads to the recognition of a divine, static and hierarchical order behind nature.

Young Thomas Henry Huxley

A young, and dashing, Thomas Henry Huxley at 32 in 1857

By the mid-nineteenth century, the circulation of knowledge was no longer limited to the wealthy and to the aristocracy. Born into a low-middle-class family, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895) was deeply affected by the poverty he saw in the East End slums. “It was a grim reminder,” writes Lightman, “of how the Anglican-aristocratic establishment had failed to provide for many members of English society.” “Huxley never forgot his early struggles to establish a scientific career for himself,” he continues, “and throughout his life he set as one of his main goals the redefinition of both the meaning and institutional infrastructure of British science.” Sharing many aspects of Huxley’s lower-middle-class roots, John Tyndall (1820-1893), Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879), Leslie Stephen (1832-1904), Edward Tylor (1832-1917), E. Ray Lankester (1847-1929), Henry Maudsley (1835-1918) formed an alliance, promoting, according to the Fabian socialist Beatrice Webb (1858-1945), the notion that the scientific method solves all problems and the “transference of the emotion of self-sacrificing service from God to man.”

Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer would in the latter half of the nineteenth century found the “X-Club,” a private, informal society where the member could exchange ideas on literature, politics, and science over dinner. Most important here is that members and supporters of the X-Club engaged the Anglican Church in the pages of the periodical press and in public debate. In these forums, members, and particularly Huxley, “presented a seemingly more democratic science, which emphasized how a scientific education could discipline the mind and teach the public to resist” unscientific practices and beliefs.

But in attempting to crush the authority of the Anglican establishment, Huxley revealed an increased commitment to the “professionalization” of science from the public domain. In his “On the Study of Biology” (1876), for example, Huxley argued that natural history was an outmoded term, “old” and “confusing,” in need of a replacement with a new term that would “characterize the study of the totality of living phenomena.” Huxley promoted “biology,” which, interestingly enough, did not “involve the analysis of exquisitely designed organs of perfection and it could be conducted without having to deal with any questions concerning the wisdom, power, and benevolence of a divine being”; that is, stripped of all religious content (Peter Harrison gives a detailed account of the origins, rise, and fall of “Natural History” in the same volume). Biology, moreover, must be “analogous to the study of the other physical sciences; it must be performed, in other words, in the laboratory by “men of science.” “The democratic nature of science,” writes Lightman, “became lost in Huxley’s stress on expertise developed only in the laboratory.”

Of course, such claims of scientific naturalism were met with resistance by the intellectual elite. The most effective opposition came from a reformed group of scientists known as the “North British,” composed of William Thomson (1824-1907), James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), Peter Guthrie Tait (1831-1901), Henry Fleeming Jenkin (1833-1885), William Macquorn Rankine (1820-1872), who “found the perceived anti-Christian materialism of the metropolitan scientific naturalists quite distasteful and they prepared to enter into an alliance with Cambridge Anglicans to undermine the authority of Huxley and his allies.” Thomson and Maxwell were particularly public in their disagreements with Huxley and Tyndall, for example. “While Huxley trained his biology students…to see a fully secularized material world through the lens of the microscope, Maxwell and the other North British Physicists were prepared to admit God into their laboratory as the creator who had given purpose to nature and to all scientific activity.”

More importantly, Huxley’s claims were also resisted by popularizers of science, who belonged to groups that Huxley and his colleagues were trying to edge out of science; namely women and Christian ministers. Mary Somerville but also Rosina Zornlin (1795-1859), Jane Loudon (1807-1858), Anne Pratt (1806-1893), Elizabeth Twining (1805-1889), Lydia Becker (1827-1890), Margaret Gatty (1809-1873), Mary Ward (1827-1869), Agnes Giberne (1845-1939), Agnes Clarke (1842-1907), and Eliza Brightwen (1830-1906) published widely on physical geography and geology, on botany, on evolutionary theory and natural history, on scientific instruments such as the microscope and telescope, on astronomy, and, more generally, on “short stories designed to teach children scientific, as well as moral, lessons.” John George Wood (1827-1889), Ebenezer Brewer (1810-1897), Charles Alexander Johns (1811-1874), Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) George Henslow (1835-1925), Henry Neville Hutchinson (1856-1927), moreover, sold a staggering amount of work on popular science. Richard Proctor (1837-1888) in particular authored “over sixty books, mostly on astronomy” and “wrote at least five hundred essays that appeared in a wide variety of periodicals such as Popular Science Monthly, Cornhill Magazine, Contemporary Review, Fortnightly Review, Fraser’s Magazine, and Nineteenth Century.” Indeed, Proctor “founded his journal Knowledge in order to challenge Nature for control of the popular science periodical market.”

It did not take long for Huxley, Tyndall, Spencer and friends to try their hands at writing popular works. Perhaps the most well known is the International Scientific Series, its aim to “disseminate an authoritative and collective image of science as stable, secular, and comprehensive.” Indeed, in its early years in England it was directed by an advisory committee composed of Huxley, Tyndall, and Spencer. And least we forget, John William Draper’s The History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science was among the most popular works in the entire series.

During the nineteenth century, increased contact with scientific ideas was made possible by the communications revolution.”Driven by the twin engines of empire and industrialization, science became a cultural and social force to be reckon with.” One consequence of this nineteenth-century revolution was that “scientists gained unprecedented cultural authority at the expense of the Christian clergy, as science came to be seen as providing a model for obtaining truth.” Lightman warns us about drawing overarching conclusions that the scientific naturalists won the contest in determining the meaning of science. Granted. However, although the meaning of science may still be debated amongst historians, philosophers, and even  scientists—in other words, amongst intellectuals—popular perceptions convey a meaning of science as secular, mechanistic, and independent of theology. Indeed, it is often said that it was this “science” that made the modern world. In this sense, the Anglican establishment may have won the battle against Huxley and his coterie, but they clearly lost the war for the hearts and minds of the people.