During the nineteenth century, Thomas Huxley tried to “make the training in natural sciencethe main part of education”.
By that time, education was mostly religious, and questioning theeducation was questioning the Church, which was really dangerous. For example, during thesixteenth century, Galileo was accused of heresy because he pretended that the earth was not thecenter of the universe. It was really hard to be a scientist knowing that one could be accused ofheresy for challenging the Church’s authority. Yet some men and women believed that religionalone could not explain all phenomena around the world, and so, challenged the common beliefs.
How did science develop as a discipline over the nineteenth century?Science started to rise thanks to some famous scientists, and though it was a verycontroversial subject, it has had a real impact on the education and the religious teaching.In the course of the century, groups of scientists started to form1. Charles Darwin andThomas Huxley were the figures of two different groups, respectively from “The gentlemen ofscience” and the “scientific naturalists” or “X-club”. “The gentlemen of science” had mostly beeneducated in Cambridge, and they formed the British Association for Advancement of Science in1831 to promote science and technology. More specifically, Darwin developed two theories, oneabout evolution and one about race and gender. Huxley’s group was made up of physical scientists,anatomists and mostly scientists except for Herbert Spencer, who was, in fact, more of a journalistthan a scientist as he wrote many articles2. Spencer helped to promote science through newspapers.
Newspapers were another way to promote science to everyone with no regard towards thesocial class. Indeed, newspapers dealt with the theories, and they often used Darwin’s theory of1 B. Lightman, The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture (Cambridge, 2010) chapter 2. 2 R. Barton, X-club, http://www.oxforddnb.com.ezproxyd.
bham.ac.uk/view/theme/92539?backToResults=%2Fsearch %2Frefine%2F%3FdocStart=1%26themesTabShow=true (accessed 15/10/2017)1/6Student ID: 1861804evolution as the hot topic of the moment.
The newspaper “Punch” for example, published acaricature of Darwin called “Man is but a worm” in 1882. Newspapers also pointed out the world’sfair.World’s fair, such as the Great Exhibition of 1851, were gatherings of scientists from allaround the world presenting their inventions and collections. For many anthropologists, those fairswere a way to train the future practitioner. It was a perfect place for people from all classes todiscover science as a new discipline, even if by that time it was not one yet. The fairs were theperfect places to make and display the scientific knowledge that lacked in the nineteenth centuryand to discover the growing collection of scientists3.
As science developed through society, it also developed and advanced thanks to newdiscoveries. Darwin’s theories, for instance, were revolutionary, for it ended the racial issue thatJohann Friedrich Blumenbach had aroused. “The descent of man and selection in relation sex”,helped to prove wrong the belief that some race of man were better than others and belittled racismand the difference between the so-called races. However, this theory also gives rise to the idea thatwomen were inferior to men, because it pretended that physically and mentally, women were lesscompetent than men.This theory of gender inequality created important debates throughout the scientificcommunity.
The controversy pushed women to prove Darwin wrong, and so there was an outburstof women scientists. Sarah Ayrton, for example, was one of the first women engineers, she went tothe University of Cambridge to study Mathematics and in 1899, she was the first woman to everintegrate the Institution of Electrical Engineers and remained the only one until 19584. FrancesPower Cobbe was feared by Darwin, Huxley and many other scientists because she represented a3 S. Qureshi, Evolution and Victorian Culture, (Cambridge, 2014) chapter 10 4 J. Mason, Ayrton (Phoebe) Sarah, http://www.
uk/view/article/37136?docPos=1 (Accessed 15/10/17)2/6Student ID: 1861804threat to the advancement of science with her anti-vivisection views. In between the scientific community itself there were disagreements such as the one onvivisection with Frances P. Cobbe. Even further than that of men and women, there was a rivalrybetween the men groups. For instance, “the gentlemen of science” and “the scientific naturalists”had different points of views towards religion.
For the latter, “neither the Church nor the Biblecould be considered as authoritative sources of scientific truth”5, which meant that they believed,that what the Bible said was wrong and that it could not explain the way the world worked. Somescientists had done it before and had been called heretics. But the nineteenth century was a centuryof science, and thanks to “the gentlemen of science” who did not challenge the authority of theChurch, scientists were freer to do their work. The “X Club” though, tried to get their ideas accepted by the Church. For example, theypretended that religion was based on the world of feelings and imagination whereas sciencebelonged to the world of intellect6. Putting it like this, it was then easier to challenge the commonbeliefs with scientific knowledge. This group of scientists also thought that in order to speak aboutscience, one needed to acquire the expertise by training in laboratories and surrendering to nature,which are two things Church did not do.
Despite such disagreements, the interest in science never grew weak because it keptrenewing itself. The scientists, in addition to their passion for science, had also a true interest inromantic literature, Thomas Huxley, for example, started one of his article by a reference toGoethe7. They were not only referencing literature in their article, some scientists were, as a matterof fact, also writers. Beatrix Potter, in addition to being a mycologist, was also an illustrator and5 B. Lightman, The Cambridge Companion to Victorian Culture, (Cambridge, 2010) chap. 2. 6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.3/6Student ID: 1861804writer, she used her own scientific knowledge to write children’s book8. It is also during thenineteenth century that the new literary genre, science fiction, developed. Frankenstein, written byMary Shelley in 1818, is considered as the first book of the genre, and it was clearly inspired by thescientific world, even though Shelley was not a scientist, she grew up surrounded by them9. Thatkind of development put down strong roots for science to last. Science-fiction is not the only reason why science remained of public interest. The fact thatpeople were still looking for the missing link of Darwin’s theory is a key part of the interest forscience.
People were trying to find that missing link, and it was the main attraction of many worldfairs and Circus. For example, the Great Farini discovered a young girl who was very hairy, she was”a perfect specimen of the step between man and monkey”10, Krao was exposed by Farini all aroundthe world. Even though it was proven afterwards that she was nothing but a very hairy human, itcreated a huge enthusiasm, and this was the beginning of circus freaks. World fairs, in addition to being a way to get the public interest growing, were also away to widen the size of the collections. As scientists went around the world for different fairs topresent their collections, they also collected new pieces to add to it. Those collections enabled theopening of more and more museums, which kept the public interest alive.
Before the nineteenth century, science was a dangerous thing to work on, since you could becondemned for heresy for bringing up theories that challenged the religious faith. However, duringthat century, scientists managed to develop their theories without offending the Church, whichallowed a real development of science. The fact that it was made accessible to everyone, eitherthrough newspapers or during world fairs, was a key point of the development of science as a8 J. Taylor, Potter (Helen) Beatrix, http://www.oxforddnb.com.
ezproxye.bham.ac.uk/view/article/35584 (accessed 18/10/17) 9 B.T. Bennett, Shelley Mary Wollstonecraft, http://www.oxforddnb.
com.ezproxye.bham.ac.uk/view/article/25311 (accessed 14/11/17) 10 S. Qureshi, Evolution and Victorian Culture (Cambridge, 2014), chap. 104/6Student ID: 1861804discipline. Despite many disagreements within the scientific community, they did succeed in onething all together: they brought science to a new level.
The enthusiasm could have faded after therising of theories for many reasons, lack of true interest or misunderstanding of what were thepoints of such theories, but because scientists tried to make it as easy as possible for people tounderstand, it did not fade. That easiness was a key point of scientists strategy. They also used thecommon literature to get people to familiarize with science, Frankenstein was obviously not theonly book dealing with science.
There were many others, which allowed people to find what theyliked within the genre. It is all those things put together that really enabled science to develop as a disciplinethroughout the century. If one of it had missed, the interest could have faded, which would have puta stop to the development of science as a discipline.