Ian Hesketh is an Australia Research Council Future Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. He is the author of Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity, and the Oxford Debate, The Science of History in Victorian Britain, and, most recently, Victorian Jesus: J. R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity.
The 329 letters in this volume represent a period of immense transition in John Tyndall’s life. A noticeable spike in his extant correspondence during the early 1850s is linked to his expanding international network, growing reputation as a leading scientific figure in Britain and abroad, and his employment at the Royal Institution. By December 1854, Tyndall had firmly established himself as a significant man of science, complete with an influential position at the center of the British scientific establishment.
Tyndall’s letters throughout the period covered by this volume provide great insight into how he navigated a complicated course that led him into the upper echelons of the Victorian scientific world. And yet, while Tyndall was no longer as anxious about his scientific future as he was in previous volumes of his correspondence, these letters show a man struggling to come to terms with his newfound status, a struggle that was often reflected in his obsession with maintaining an “inflexible integrity” that guided his actions and deeds.
New attitudes towards history in nineteenth-century Britain saw a rejection of romantic, literary techniques in favour of a professionalized, scientific methodology. The development of history as a scientific discipline was undertaken by several key historians of the Victorian period, influenced by German scientific history and British natural philosophy. This study examines parallels between the professionalization of both history and science at the time, which have previously been overlooked.
Hesketh challenges accepted notions of a single scientific approach to history. Instead, he draws on a variety of sources—monographs, lectures, correspondence—from eminent Victorian historians to uncover numerous competing discourses.