The British Journal for the History of Science

Published by Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Online ISSN: 1474-001X
Print ISSN: 0007-0874
This paper focuses on the response of the Royal Society to the increasing contact with parts of the globe beyond Europe. Such contact was in accord with the programme of Baconian natural history that the early Royal Society espoused, but it also raised basic questions about the extent and nature of the pursuit of natural history. In particular, the paper is concerned with the attention paid to one particular branch of natural history, the study of other peoples and their customs. Such scrutiny of other peoples in distant lands raised basic questions about what methods natural history should employ and the extent to which it could serve as a foundation for more general and theoretical claims. By taking a wide sweep from the beginnings of the Royal Society until the end of the eighteenth century it is hoped light will be shed on the changing understanding of natural history over this period.
Although historians have long recognized the importance of long-range scientific expeditions in both the practice and culture of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century science, it is less well understood how this form of scientific organization emerged and became established in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. In the late seventeenth century new European scientific institutions tried to make use of globalized trade networks for their own ends, but to do so proved difficult. This paper offers a case history of one such expedition, the voyage sponsored by the French Académie royale des sciences to Gorée (in modern Senegal) and the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in 1681-3. The voyage of Varin, Deshayes and de Glos reveals how the process of travel itself caused problems for instruments and observers alike.
This article explores the enticement of consumers for natural philosophy (buyers of books, audiences at public lectures and purchasers of instruments) in London between 1695 and 1720 through advertisements placed in two political newspapers. This twenty-five-year period witnessed both the birth of public science and the rage of party politics. A consideration of public science adverts within the Whig-leaning Post Man and the Tory-leaning Post Boy reveals that members of both the Whig and Tory parties were equally targeted and that natural philosophy was sold to London's reading population in bipartisan fashion. In the process of integrating natural philosophy into the wider culture through commercial sales, political allegiances were not imprinted on the advertising process. This conclusion raises questions regarding the historiographical assertion of Whig-supported public science and Tory opposition to it at the level of consumers.
After 1700, astrology lost the respect it once commanded in medical circles. But the belief that the heavens influenced bodily health persisted - even in learned medicine - until well into the nineteenth century. The continuing vitality of these ideas owed much to the new empirical and mechanical outlook of their proponents. Taking their cue from the work of Robert Boyle and Richard Mead, a number of British practitioners amassed statistical evidence which purported to prove the influence of the Moon upon fevers and other diseases. Such ideas flourished in the colonies and in the medical services of the armed forces, but their exponents were not marginal men. Some, like James Lind, were widely respected and drew support for their views from such influential figures as Erasmus Darwin.
By looking at the fierce debates in the city of Carlsbad in Bohemia around the fabrication of medical salt by a local doctor, David Becher, from 1763 to 1784, the paper examines the interactions between different spheres or levels of circulation of knowledge in the Habsburg Empire. The dispute crystallized around the definition of the product, about its medical qualities and its relation with the water of the local mineral spring. The city's inhabitants contested the vision of the medical experts, fearing that the extraction of the medical salt from the spring water and its sale outside the town would have a negative effect on the number of visitors to the spa. Their vision implied a more or less 'popularized' form of alchemical thinking as it identified the mineral water with the extracted 'salt', conceived as the 'essence' of the water, produced by evaporation. The Carlsbad salt dispute highlights the complex interactions among the different networks in which knowledge circulated through the Habsburg Empire in the eighteenth century. The different actors relied on specific networks with different logics of discourse and different modes of circulation. In each case the relation between the local, the regional and the imperial had to be negotiated. The paper thus sketches out the different geographies of knowledge in the Habsburg Empire but also its localization in and around Carlsbad.
Drawing on the rich but mostly overlooked history of Guatemala's anti-smallpox campaigns in the 1780s and 1790s, this paper interweaves an analysis of the contribution of colonial medical knowledges and practical experiences with the construction and implementation of imperial science. The history of the anti-smallpox campaigns is traced from the introduction of inoculation in Guatemala in 1780 to the eve of the Spanish Crown-sponsored Royal Maritime Vaccination Expedition in 1803. The paper first analyses the development of what Guatemalan medical physician José Flores called his 'local method' of inoculation, tailored to material and cultural conditions of highland Maya communities, and based on his more than twenty years of experience in anti-smallpox campaigns among multiethnic populations in Guatemala. Then the paper probes the accompanying transformations in discourses about health through the anti-smallpox campaigns as they became explicitly linked to new discourses of moral responsibility towards indigenous peoples. With the launch of the Spanish Vaccination Expedition in 1803, anti-smallpox efforts bridged the New World, Europe and Asia, and circulated on a global scale via the enactment of imperial Spanish health policy informed, in no small part, by New World and specifically colonial Guatemalan experiences with inoculation in multiethnic cities and highland Maya towns.
Logbooks and sea charts may appear rather straightforward evidence to present at a naval court martial. However, their introduction into proceedings in the early nineteenth century reveals an important shift. Measuring the depth of water soon became a problem both of navigation and of discipline. Indeed, Captain Newcomb's knowledge of the soundings taken at the Battle of the Basque Roads proved crucial at Lord Gambier's court martial in June 1809. Through a case study of Edward Massey's sounding machine, this paper reveals the close connection between disciplinary practices on land and at sea. The Board of Longitude acted as a key intermediary in this respect. By studying land and sea together, this paper better explains the changing make-up of the British scientific instrument trade in this period. Massey is just one example of a range of new entrants, many of whom had little previous experience of the maritime world. More broadly, this paper emphasizes the role of both environmental history and material culture in the study of scientific instruments.
In the late eighteenth century, which was for Scotland in many ways an ‘Age of Improvement’, the University of Edinburgh enjoyed a golden age. Under the enlightened principalship of the Reverend William Robertson, the University offered wide, flexible, and mainly secular courses of study which were taught by conspicuously able professors. If we restrict ourselves to scientific chairs, a roll-call of their occupants is distinctly impressive: John Robison (natural philosophy, 1774–1805); John Playfair (mathematics, 1785–1805); John Walker (natural history, 1779–1804); Daniel Rutherford (botany, 1786–1819); James Gregory (theory of medicine, 1776–89); William Cullen (practice of medicine, 1773–90); Alexander Monro secundus (anatomy, 1758–98); and their doyen Joseph Black (chemistry and medicine, 1766–99), ‘so pale, so gentle, so elegant, and so illustrious’. The scientific eminence of the University at that time is, of course, widely acknowledged.
As is widely known, the Bridgewater Treatises on the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as Manifested in the Creation (1833–36) were commissioned in accordance with a munificent bequest of the eighth Earl of Bridgewater, the Rev. Francis Henry Egerton (1756–1829), and written by seven leading men of science, together with one prominent theological commentator. Less widely appreciated is the extent to which the Bridgewater Treatises rank among the scientific best-sellers of the early nineteenth century. Their varied blend of natural theology and popular science attracted extraordinary contemporary interest and ‘celebrity’, resulting in unprecedented sales and widespread reviewing. Much read by the landed, mercantile and professional classes, the success of the series ‘encouraged other competitors into the field’, most notably Charles Babbage's unsolicited Ninth Bridgewater Treatise (1837). As late as 1882 the political economist William Stanley Jevons was intending to write an unofficial Bridgewater Treatise , and even an author of the prominence of Lord Brougham could not escape having his Discourse of Natural Theology (1835) described by Edward Lytton Bulwer as ‘the tenth Bridgewater Treatise’.
The British Association for the Advancement of Science sought to promote the understanding of science in various ways, principally by having annual meetings in different towns and cities throughout Britain and Ireland (and, from 1884, in Canada, South Africa and Australia). This paper considers how far the location of its meetings in different urban settings influenced the nature and reception of the association's activities in promoting science, from its foundation in 1831 to the later 1930s. Several themes concerning the production and reception of science--promoting, practising, writing and receiving--are examined in different urban contexts. We consider the ways in which towns were promoted as venues for and centres of science. We consider the role of local field sites, leading local practitioners and provincial institutions for science in attracting the association to different urban locations. The paper pays attention to excursions and to the evolution and content of the BAAS meeting handbook as a 'geographical' guide to the significance of the regional setting and to appropriate scientific venues. The paper considers the reception of BAAS meetings and explores how far the association's intentions for the promotion of science varied by location and by section within the BAAS. In examining these themes--the geographical setting of the association's meetings, the reception of association science in local civic and intellectual context and the importance of place to an understanding of what the BAAS did and how it was received--the paper extends existing knowledge of the association and contributes to recent work within the history of science which has emphasized the 'local' nature of science's making and reception and the mobility of scientific knowledge.
In recent years, historians have come to question earlier Whig interpretations that there was little science or science teaching done at Cambridge University prior to the appointment of Cambridge University Parliamentary Commissions in the 1850's. However, there has been no comprehensive survey of scientific activity at Cambridge in the first half of the nineteenth century. This essay, based upon research which penetrates beneath pedagogical tracts and Whig criticisms (both nineteenth and twentieth century varieties) reveals that Cambridge science professors researched, lectured, gave experimental demonstrations and provided other educational opportunities. Furthermore, it shows that serious attempts to provide research and teaching facilities met with some success and might have met with more if not for the intervention of specific historical incidents compounded by financial problems and the consequences of the upgrading of the core of the Cambridge curriculum. Before the sciences became alternative routes to a Bachelor of Arts Degree and before the appointment of the first University Parliamentary Commissions, Cambridge dons laid the foundations for science at Cambridge in the second half of the century.
Much attention has been given to the science-religion controversies attached to the British Association for the Advancement of Science, from the infamous 1860 Huxley-Wilberforce debate at Oxford to John Tyndall's 1874 'Belfast Address'. Despite this, almost no attention has been given to the vast homiletic literature preached during the British Association meetings throughout the nineteenth century. During an association meeting the surrounding churches and halls were packed with men of science, as local and visiting preachers sermonized on the relationship between science and religion. These sermons are revealing, particularly in the 1870s when the 'conflict thesis' gained momentum. In this context, this paper analyses the rhetoric of conflict in the sermons preached during the meetings of the association, exploring how science-religion conflict was framed and understood through time. Moreover, it is argued that attention to the geography of the Sunday activities of the British Association provides insight into the complex dynamic of nineteenth-century secularization.
In his presidential address to the Belfast meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1874, John Tyndall launched what David Livingstone has called a 'frontal assault on teleology and Christian theism'. Using Tyndall's intervention as a starting point, this paper seeks to understand the attitudes of Presbyterians in the north of Ireland to science in the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century. The first section outlines some background, including the attitude of Presbyterians to science in the eighteenth century, the development of educational facilities in Ireland for the training of Presbyterian ministers, and the specific cultural and political circumstances in Ireland that influenced Presbyterian responses to science more generally. The next two sections examine two specific applications by Irish Presbyterians of the term 'science': first, the emergence of a distinctive Presbyterian theology of nature and the application of inductive scientific methodology to the study of theology, and second, the Presbyterian conviction that mind had ascendancy over matter which underpinned their commitment to the development of a science of the mind. The final two sections examine, in turn, the relationship between science and an eschatological reading of the signs of the times, and attitudes to Darwinian evolution in the fifteen years between the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 and Tyndall's speech in 1874.
In 1875 T. H. Huxley discovered that a secretion from the mould penicillium glaucum had an ability, unconnected with oxygen deprivation, to inhibit bacterial growth. He recorded his observations in his notebooks and in a single letter to John Tyndall, who at that time was a friend of Lister and a correspondent of Pasteur. Neither Huxley nor Tyndall looked for an explanation of this phenomenon, and neither told anyone else about it.
The science historian Charles Singer might seem to have shared with positivists a widely held commitment to observation as the foundation of knowledge. Yet in fact Singer's historiography was peculiarly unconcerned with instruments, models and other artefacts. Such tools might have been expected to present crucial empirical evidence for the historical arguments and ideal material for the didactics which pioneers such as Singer associated with their mission of a 'scientific humanism'. In their hands, physical things did not translate into epistemic things. This was deliberate. Yet while the configuration of science history which would distance it from material objects seems to speak of a shift from the visual to texts, the ocular technologies deployed in Singer's histories rather point to a co-existence of different kinds of visuality in that period's scholarship. As the academic and the museological aspects of science history pulled apart, the visuality of the museum came to be complemented by texts that vitally relied on images. The function of such images was to create proximity with the cognitive desires around whose traffic these histories became paper theatres of knowing. In bypassing material theatres and crafting realities that he understood to be empirically undemonstrable, Singer purposefully developed the story of understanding nature not as entailing obedience to its established results, but instead as embodying an attitude of continuing enquiry.
This paper focuses on the role played by Domenico Marotta, director of the ISS (Higher Institute of Health) for over twenty-five years, in the development of twentieth-century Italian biomedicine. We will show that Marotta aimed to create an integrated centre for research and production able to interact with private industry. To accomplish this, Marotta shifted the original mission of the ISS, from public health to scientific research. Yet Mussolini's policy turned most of the ISS resources towards controls and military tasks, opposing Marotta's aspiration. By contrast, in the post-war years Marotta was able to turn the ISS into the most important Italian biomedical research institution, where research and production fruitfully cohabited. Nobel laureates, such as Ernst Chain, and future Nobel laureates, such as Daniel Bovet, were hired. The ISS built up an integrated research and production centre for penicillin and antibiotics. In the 1960s, Marotta's vision was in accord with the new centre-left government. However, he pursued his goals by ruling the ISS autocratically and beyond any legal control. This eventually led to his downfall and prosecution. This also marked the decline of the ISS, intertwined with the weakness of the centre-left government, who failed to achieve structural reforms and couple the modernization of the country with the democratization of its scientific institutions.
Over its long history, the buildings of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich were enlarged and altered many times, reflecting changing needs and expectations of astronomers and funders, but also the constraints of a limited site and small budgets. The most significant expansion took place in the late nineteenth century, overseen by the eighth Astronomer Royal, William Christie, a programme that is put in the context of changing attitudes toward scientific funding, Christie's ambitious plans for the work and staffing of the Observatory and his desire to develop a national institution that could stand with more recently founded European and American rivals. Examination of the archives reveals the range of strategies Christie was required to use to acquire consent and financial backing from the Admiralty, as well as his opportunistic approach. While hindsight might lead to criticism of his decisions, Christie eventually succeeded in completing a large building - the New Physical Observatory - that, in its decoration, celebrated Greenwich's past while, in its name, style, structure and contents, it was intended to signal the institution's modernization and future promise.
Historian of science, he was educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he eventually became Master. A friendship with three young Chinese researchers in Cambridge inspired him to learn Chinese, and during the Second World War he was posted to Chongqing, where he became acquainted with Chinese achievements in science and technology, and was astonished. This inspired him to devot...
This article examines the British child guidance movement's claim to scientific status and what it sought to gain by the wider acceptance of such a claim. The period covered is from the movement's origins in the 1920s to the end of the Second World War, by which point it had been incorporated into the welfare state. This was also an era when science commanded high intellectual and cultural status. Child guidance was a form of psychiatric medicine that addressed the emotional and psychological difficulties that any child might experience. It thus saw itself as a form of preventive medicine and as a component of the international movement for mental hygiene. Child guidance was organized around the clinic and employed the knowledge and skills of three distinct professions: psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric social workers. Its claim to scientific status was underpinned by the movement's clinical and organizational approach and in turn derived from developments in the laboratory sciences and in academic medicine. There were, however, those even within the movement itself who challenged child guidance's purported scientific status. Such objections notwithstanding, it is suggested here that at least in its own terms the claim was justified, particularly because of the type of psychiatric approach which child guidance employed, based as it was on a form of medical holism.
The history of contraceptives met the history of drugs long before the invention of the contraceptive pill. In the first half of the twentieth century, numerous pharmaceutical laboratories, including major ones, manufactured and marketed chemical contraceptives: jellies, suppositories, creams, powders and foams applied locally to prevent conception. Efforts to put an end to the marginal status of these products and to transform them into 'ethical' drugs played an important role in the development of standardized laboratory tests of efficacy of contraceptive preparations; debates on the validity of such tests; evaluation of the long-term toxicity of chemical compounds; and the rise of collaborations between activists, non-profit organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. Chemical contraceptives were initially associated with quack medicine, shady commercial practices and doubtful morality. Striving to change the status of contraceptives and to promote safe and efficient products that reduced fertility in humans shaped some of the key features of the present-day production and regulation of pharmaceuticals.
The Peking Man fossils discovered at Zhoukoudian in north-east China in the 1920s and 1930s were some of the most extensive palaeoanthropological finds of the twentieth century. This article examines their publicization and discussion in Britain, where they were engaged with by some of the world's leading authorities in human evolution, and a media and public highly interested in human-origins research. This international link - simultaneously promoted by scientists in China and in Britain itself - reflected wider debates on international networks; the role of science in the modern world; and changing definitions of race, progress and human nature. This article illustrates how human-origins research was an important means of binding these areas together and presenting scientific work as simultaneously authoritative and credible, but also evoking mystery and adventurousness. Examining this illustrates important features of contemporary views of both science and human development, showing not only the complexities of contemporary regard for the international and public dynamics of scientific research, but wider concerns over human nature, which oscillated between optimistic notions of unity and progress and pessimistic ones of essential differences and misdirected development.
Accounts of the religious debates sparked by the theory of evolution tend, almost inevitably, to focus on the late nineteenth century. Darwinism is treated as a symbol of the scientific naturalism that so traumatized Victorian thought. Modern accounts have shown, however, that religious thinkers were in the end able to take on board an evolutionism purged of its most materialistic tendencies. We tend to assume that in Britain, at least, the arguments had largely died down by the end of the nineteenth century. Led by Aubrey Moore, the Anglican Church made its accommodation, and Moore's contribution of an essay to the volume Luxmundi, edited by Charles Gore in 1889, symbolized the ability of even the conservative Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church to move in the direction of modernization. In America, of course, the compromise broke down with the rise of Fundamentalism in the early twentieth century, but most British commentators saw the of 1925 as a strange transatlantic phenomenon that was unlikely to have a parallel in their own country.
The present interest of Englishmen in education is partly due to the fact that they are impressed by German thoroughness. Now let there be no mistake. The war has shown the effectiveness of German education in certain departments of life, but it has shown not only its ineffectiveness, but its grotesque absurdity in regard to other departments of life, and those the departments which are, even in a political sense, the most important. In the organization of material resources Germany has won well-merited admiration, but in regard to moral conduct, and in regard to all that art of dealing with other men and other nations which is closely allied to moral conduct, she has won for herself the horror of the civilized world. If you take the whole result, and ask whether we prefer German or English education, I at any rate should not hesitate in my reply. Thus William Temple, future archbishop, addressing the Educational Section at the 1916 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Newcastle. Temple's statement introduced his contribution to the ‘neglect-of-science’ debate, a public dispute over the place of science in English secondary education. Originally, the debate had been started by prominent scientists convinced that England's military and industrial fortunes were suffering as a result of the country's continuing scientific illiteracy. The contrasts Temple drew between ‘us’ and ‘them’, between England and Germany, between ‘conduct’ and ‘efficiency’, cropped up throughout the debate.
In the first half of the twentieth century, hormones took pride of place as life's master molecules and the endocrinologist took precedence over the geneticist as the scientist offering the means to control life. But, as with molecular genetics and biotechnology today, the status of endocrinology was not based solely on contemporary scientific and medical practices. To a high degree it was also reliant on expectations or visions of what endocrinologists would soon be able to do. Inspired by the approach of social studies of techno-scientific expectations, the aim of this article is to explore some of the great expectations connected to the development of endocrinology in the 1930s. The analysis is based on popular books written by the American physician and endocrinologist Louis Berman. The paper argues that Berman thought not only that it was perfectly possible to understand human nature through hormone analysis but that endocrinologists would be able to control, design and 'improve' humans by using hormone replacement therapy. Furthermore, in contrast to most of the eugenics of his time, Berman suggested that the whole population of the world should be improved. As a political activist he wanted to contribute to the development of new human beings, 'ideal normal persons', thereby reaching an 'ideal society'. That HRT could involve risks was something that he seems not to have taken into account.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the elite world of institutional British science attempted to take control of the BBC's management of science broadcasting. Delegations of scientists met BBC managers to propose an increased role for scientists in planning science broadcasts to a degree that threatened to compromise the BBC's authority and autonomy. The culmination was a set of proposals to the Pilkington Committee in 1960, principally from the Royal Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science, under which a scientist-manager was to be appointed head of a unified science division in the BBC. BBC managers resisted these proposals. The outcome, in 1964, was a compromise giving the scientists little of what they wanted, and proving practically and strategically useful for the BBC. The article frames the story as a contest of jurisdiction between elite science and the BBC, and draws on scholarship relating to the social nature of authority and professions, and to the popularization of science. It shows the fundamentally different beliefs held by the scientists and the BBC about the purpose of science broadcasts and about the nature of the audience. The historical narrative is based on unpublished archive documents, and it contributes to the small but growing body of work on the historical background to the presentation of science in the broadcast media.
By the early twentieth century there was a growing need within palaeoanthropology and prehistoric archaeology to find a way of dating fossils and artefacts in order to know the age of specific specimens, but more importantly to establish an absolute chronology for human prehistory. The radiocarbon and potassium-argon dating methods revolutionized palaeoanthropology during the last half of the twentieth century. However, prior to the invention of these methods there were attempts to devise chemical means of dating fossil bone. Collaborations between Emile Rivière and Adolphe Carnot in the 1890s led to the development of the fluorine dating method, but it was not until the 1940s that this method was improved and widely implemented by Kenneth Oakley to resolve a number of problems in palaeoanthropology, including the Piltdown Man controversy. The invention of the fluorine dating method marked a significant advance in the quest for absolute dating in palaeoanthropology, but it also highlights interesting problems and issues relating to the ability of palaeoanthropologists and chemists to bring together different skills and bodies of knowledge in order successfully to develop and apply the fluorine dating method.
Weighing before Lavoisier. Note the prominence of accurate balances (on the right, against the window) alongside traditional chemical alembics, cucurbits, furnaces, distillation retorts and so on in this fi gure from William Lewis ’ s Commercium Philosophico-Technicum of 1765. 
Af fi nities in the traditional and the new chemistry. On the left: ‘ Single Elective Attractions ’ from Bergman ’ s 1785 Dissertation (phlogiston in column 36); on the right: Lavoisier ’ s ‘ table of oxygenous principle ’ from Kirwan ’ s 1789 Essay . Comparing the two tables demonstrates the visual dimension of the reduction from the ‘ richness ’ of phlogistic traditional chemistry to the ‘ bareness ’ of the French system. 
Long after its alleged demise, phlogiston was still presented, discussed and defended by leading chemists. Even some of the leading proponents of the new chemistry admitted its 'absolute existence'. We demonstrate that what was defended under the title 'phlogiston' was no longer a particular hypothesis about combustion and respiration. Rather, it was a set of ontological and epistemological assumptions and the empirical practices associated with them. Lavoisier's gravimetric reduction, in the eyes of the phlogistians, annihilated the autonomy of chemistry together with its peculiar concepts of chemical substance and quality, chemical process and chemical affinity. The defence of phlogiston was the defence of a distinctly chemical conception of matter and its appearances, a conception which reflected the chemist's acquaintance with details and particularities of substances, properties and processes and his skills of adducing causal relations from the interplay between their complexity and uniformity.
Although the process of Westernisation in Russia began long before the eighteenth century, its impact was not really felt until the time of Peter the Great.
This paper aims to build an integrated account of the history of twentieth-century laboratories. The historical literature is fragmented, which has led to the impression that one type of laboratory has dominated, or has become more important than other types. The university laboratory has also unjustly shaped the conceptualization of other types of laboratory. This paper approaches laboratories as sites of organized knowledge production, and as entities engaged in different activities for different audiences at any point in time. Eight types of laboratory are identified, and their developments in the twentieth century are sketched. The two world wars of that century and models of innovation, building links between knowledge production in the laboratory and the impact of this knowledge outside the laboratory, are important catalysts of this history. The paper underlines that different types of laboratory have existed side by side, and continue to exist side by side.
The term ‘Ohm's law’ traditionally denotes the formula of Georg Simon Ohm relating voltage, current, and resistance in metallic conductors. But to students of sensory physiology and its history, ‘Ohm's law’ also denotes another relationship: the fundamental principle of auditory perception that Ohm announced in 1843. This aspect of Ohm's science has attracted very little attention, partly because his galvanic researches so thoroughly eclipsed it in success and importance, and partly because Ohm's work in physiological acoustics had so little immediate impact on the science of his time. On announcing his hypothesis in 1843, Ohm found himself drawn into a bitter dispute with the physicist August Seebeck, who successfully discredited the hypothesis and forced Ohm to withdraw from the field.
The concepts of action and reaction before Newton have received so little attention from historians that the unwary student might easily get the impression that Newton was the first to concern himself seriously with the problem. In fact, the subject had a long prehistory extending back to Aristotle and it was actively discussed by physicists during the half-century preceding the publication of Principia mathematica in 1687. Although there is no evidence that Newton himself was much influenced by the views of others on the subject, they formed a part of the intellectual background of the Principia which should not be ignored.
That a coherent account of the origins and early history of the British Association for the Advancement of Science has yet to be written is not altogether surprising. Even when the facts of the matter have been retrieved from the scattered papers of Babbage, Brewster, J. D. Forbes, Murchison, John Phillips, Vernon Harcourt, Whewell, and the rest, their organization into a connected whole remains a formidable business. The present paper seeks to identify the roles played in this important chapter in the chronicles of British science by David Brewster (1781–1868), the Scottish natural philosopher, and William Vernon Harcourt (1789–1871), the York clergyman. Inquiries of this kind—into the proper apportioning of the credit for a discovery, a technique, or the rise of an institution—are only saved from sterility if they make possible a better understanding of the critical events. The present review of the origins of the British Association leads to the modest but important conclusion that the organization brought into existence by Vernon Harcourt at York in September 1831 was subtly but significantly different from that which had originally been proposed by Brewster. If this is so, some of the existing accounts of the matter stand in need of revision.
In April of 1849, a disspirited and vocationless Francis Galton consulted Donovan, a London phrenologist, for a reading of his aptitudes and character. After a disappointing university career and a prematurely concluded try at medical training, the 27-year-old Galton had been drifting unhappily for several years in the life of the idle rich. Donovan shrewdly assessed Galton's mind as ‘not distinguished by much spontaneous activity in relation to scholastic affairs’, but still with ‘much enduring power’ and other positive capacities brought fully to light ‘only when rough work has to be done’.
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