Add to my Schedule Medina, Third Floor 02 Nov 2018 Contributed Papers Session
Physical Sciences 15:45 - 17:45

Laws of Nature and Divine Action in the Era of Victorian Scientific Naturalism: The Source of the Conflict Thesis
15:45 - 16:15

In the study of the conflict thesis of science and religion, two central questions persist: Why does belief in inevitable historical conflict between science and religion remain current, in spite of over a half century of historians' best efforts to refute it. Why did this belief and its central narrative, which existed well in advance of the year 1800, go viral, rising suddenly to international best-seller status in the last quarter of the nineteenth century? This paper suggests the answer to both these questions is closely linked. It examines the work of Victorian-era scientific naturalists, theologians, and scientists of religious faith. The first group is represented by well-known members of the X-Club in England, such as John Tyndall, T. H. Huxley, the philosopher Herbert Spencer, and their counterparts in the United States such as Simon Newcomb, John Draper, and Andrew Dickson White. Theologians include James B. Mozley, who debated Tyndall on the efficacy of prayer, Henry Drummond, and their conservative American counterparts at Princeton Seminary. The third group includes theologically engaged men of science such as William Whewell, John Herschel, Charles Lyell, James Clerk Maxwell, and American counterparts such as Asa Gray, George Frederick Wright, and William North Rice. Careful examination of the nuances of the concepts of laws of nature, divine action, and natural science as a means of knowing, particular to the late Victorian era and reappearing thereafter, offers significant promise for answering questions of the sudden widespread dissemination of the conflict thesis and its lasting influence today.

Strange Tales from the Unseen World: A Confluence of Systems of Understanding in Stewart & Tait's the Unseen Universe
16:15 - 16:45

In 1875 Balfour Stewart and Peter Guthrie Tait published The Unseen Universe, an odd book that attempted to combat materialism by using the newly formulated law of the conservation of energy to rationally explain supernatural ideas like miraculous happenings, the immortality of the soul, Christ’s Incarnation, angels, and more. Stewart and Tait accounted for these supernatural ideas and addressed the worrying prospect of the heat death of the universe by proposing a second, unseen universe that was tied to the seen universe through bonds of energy transference. The book represents an attempt at the reconciliation of several contradictory and complimentary systems of understanding into a new unified synthesis. This paper will present a brief introduction to and systems-based analysis of this odd work of natural philosophy, placing it in its scientific, cultural, and philosophical context, and by doing so will provide a glimpse into the broader world of competing systems of understanding in Victorian science, rife as it was with philosophical non-simultaneity and intellectual ferment. By taking a systems-analytical approach to a complex text like this we can gain insight into the ways in which competing systems of understanding interact in times of intellectual change.

Darwin’s Drawings: The Victorian Geological Field Guide and Imperial Resource Management
16:45 - 17:15

Victorian-era Geological Society of London members incorporated Charles Darwin’s illustrated geological coral growth argument in field guides used by Geological Survey students and naturalists’ clubs. This talk traces the evolution of Darwin’s images, first viewed in 1837 during his research presentation at Somerset House and later published in The Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs (1842) and Journal of Researches (1845). Using annotated versions of Darwin’s woodcuts, geologists Joshua Trimmer (Practical Geology and Mineralogy, 1841), Henry De la Beche (The Geological Observer, 1851), and Thomas Wright (Proceedings of the Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club, 1868) demonstrated for specific audiences why, how, and when Britain’s stored wealth in local coral fossil limestone deposits was accumulated. Through these case studies I argue that Geological Society of London participants framed the volume of indigenous coral reserves in terms of colonial-region coral growth, thus encouraging nineteenth-century field guide readers to engage in debates regarding the interpretation of Britain’s geological past, present, and future in the context of the geologists’ role in imperial resource management. More broadly, these case studies disclose the reverberations of Darwin’s coral growth theory among Geological Society members. In field guides designed to educate Victorian readers, geologists situated the focus of their emerging professional practices within the integration of theory and practice in global coral research conducted throughout the British empire.

Gentlemanly Journals amidst the Growth of Science: How the Royal Society’s Publishing Division Coped, c.1900-1965
17:15 - 17:45

By the twentieth century, the Royal Society was an experienced publisher of scientific journals: the Philosophical Transactions had been founded in 1665, while the Proceedings was created in 1831. But the Society’s traditionally generous and gentlemanly approach to publishing had already become difficult to sustain by the 1890s. In this paper, I will investigate how the Society and its journals weathered the challenges of the twentieth century. These can largely be seen as deriving from the expansion of scientific research. During the first four decades, the key issues were editorial and financial: the rising number of papers being submitted meant more editorial labour to be done, and more paper, printing and illustrations to be paid for. After the Second World War, the new wave of journals issued by commercial publishers (e.g. Pergamon) brought worries about the ongoing role of society-publishing, as well as a possible new financial model for journal publishing. The Royal Society made certain changes in the 1960s which partially solved the editorial and reputational challenges facing its journals; but its clearest success lay in the notion of ‘self-help for learned journals’ (1963), which solved its financial problems for the medium term. These changes form part of the story of how scientific journals evolved from records of the research of gentlemanly scholars into the tools that make both knowledge and careers in the modern academic profession.

University of Hong Kong
Oregon State University
Drew University
University of St Andrews
DePaul University
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