Victorian England, as is well known, produced an enormous amount of scientific endeavour, but what has previously been overlooked is the important role of geography on these developments.
Naylor seeks to rectify this imbalance by presenting a historical geography of regional science. Taking an in-depth look at the county of Cornwall, questions on how science affected provincial Victorian society, how it changed people’s relationship with the landscape and how it shaped society are applied to the Cornish case study, allowing a depth and texture of analysis denied to more general scientific overviews of the period.
This collection of essays explores the rise of scientific medicine and its impact on Victorian popular culture. Chapters include an examination of Charles Dickens’s involvement with hospital funding, concerns over milk purity and the theatrical portrayal of drug addiction, plus a whole section devoted to the representation of medicine in crime fiction. This is an interdisciplinary study involving public health, cultural studies, the history of medicine, literature and the theatre, providing new insights into Victorian culture and society.
In the nineteenth century, the British Government spent money measuring the distance between the earth and the sun using observations of the transit of Venus. This book presents a narrative of the two Victorian transit programmes. It draws out their cultural significance and explores the nature of “big science” in late-Victorian Britain.
After the Public Heath Acts of 1872 and 1875, British local authorities bore statutory obligations to carry out sanitary improvements. Richardson explores public health strategy and central-local government relations during the mid-nineteenth-century, using the experience of Uppingham, England, as a micro-historical case study. Uppingham is a small (and unusually well-documented) market town which contains a boarding school. Despite legal changes enforcing sanitary reform, the town was hit three times by typhoid in 1875-1876.
The nineteenth century saw science move from being the preserve of a small learned elite to a dominant force which influenced society as a whole. Sakurai presents a study of how scientific societies affected the social and political life of a city. As it did not have a university or a centralized government, Frankfurt am Main is an ideal case study of how scientific associations—funded by private patronage for the good of the local populace—became an important centre for natural history.
Elwick explores how the concept of “compound individuality” brought together life scientists working in pre-Darwinian London. Scientists conducting research in comparative anatomy, physiology, cellular microscopy, embryology and the neurosciences repeatedly stated that plants and animals were compounds of smaller independent units. Discussion of a “bodily economy” was widespread. But by 1860, the most flamboyant discussions of compound individuality had come to an end in Britain. Elwick relates the growth and decline of questions about compound individuality to wider nineteenth-century debates about research standards and causality. He uses specific technical case studies to address overarching themes of reason and scientific method.
Victorian anthropology has been derided as an “armchair practice,” distinct from the scientific discipline of the twentieth century. But the observational practices that characterized the study of human diversity developed from the established sciences of natural history, geography and medicine. Sera-Shriar argues that anthropology at this time went through a process of innovation which built on scientifically grounded observational study. Far from being an evolutionary dead end, nineteenth-century anthropology laid the foundations for the field-based science of anthropology today.
Higgitt examines Isaac Newton’s changing legacy during the nineteenth century. She focuses on 1820-1870, a period that saw the creation of the specialized and secularized role of the “scientist.” At the same time, researchers gained better access to Newton’s archives. These were used both by those who wished to undermine the traditional, idealised depiction of scientific genius and those who felt obliged to defend Newtonian hagiography. Higgitt shows how debates about Newton’s character stimulated historical scholarship and led to the development of a new expertise in the history of science.
From the mid-nineteenth century onwards a number of previously unknown conditions were recorded in both animals and humans. Known by a variety of names, and found in diverse locations, by the end of the century these diseases were united under the banner of “anthrax.” Stark offers a fresh perspective on the history of infectious disease. He examines anthrax in terms of local, national and global significance, and constructs a narrative that spans public, professional and geographic domains.
By the late nineteenth century, advances in medical knowledge, technology and pharmaceuticals led to the development of a thriving commercial industry. The medical trade catalogue became one of the most important means of promoting the latest tools and techniques to practitioners. Drawing on over 400 catalogues produced between 1870 and 1914, Jones presents a study of the changing nature of medical professionalism. She examines the use of the catalogue in connecting the previously separate worlds of medicine and commerce and discusses its importance to the study of print history more widely.
Winner of the Frank Watson Prize in Scottish History, 2011
The relationship between science and civil society is essential to our understanding of cultural change during the Victorian era. Science was frequently packaged as an appropriate form of civic culture, inculcating virtues necessary for civic progress. In turn, civic culture was presented as an appropriate context for enabling and supporting scientific progress. Finnegan’s study looks at the shifting nature of this process during the nineteenth century, using Scotland as the focus for his argument. Considerations of class, religion and gender are explored, illuminating changing social identities as public interest in science was allowed—even encouraged—beyond the environs of universities and elite metropolitan societies.
The Development of a Distinctive Public Science in Nineteenth-Century Australia
The Crucial Role Urban Spaces Played in the Production of Scientific Knowledge in Dublin