BOOK: The Age of Scientific Naturalism: Tyndall and His Contemporaries

Pickering & Chatto has published as part of their Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century series a collection of papers about the nineteenth-century Irish physicist John Tyndall, who wrote and lectured for the public, was a member of the X Club and Darwin supporter, and vocal critic of religion. Most of the papers are from a conference, held in Big Sky, Montana in June 2012, that brought together historians and students working on the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to present their research. I attended, and presented my MA paper. Unfortunately, for the publication, I did not have the resources necessary to do continued research for my paper. But I am happy to see the publication out, and delighted to see my paper in the book’s very first footnote. If anyone wishes to see my paper – “The ‘efficient defender of a fellow-scientific man': John Tyndall, Darwin, and Preaching Pure Science in Nineteenth-Century America” – let me know, and I can send you a copy.

Here’s the publisher’s information about the book:

Bernard Lightman and Michael S. Reidy, eds. The Age of Scientific Naturalism: Tyndall and His Contemporaries (Brookfield, VT: Pickering & Chatto, 2014), 272 pp.

Publisher’s description Physicist John Tyndall and his contemporaries were at the forefront of developing the cosmology of scientific naturalism during the Victorian period. They rejected all but physical laws as having any impact on the operations of human life and the universe. Contributors focus on the way Tyndall and his correspondents developed their ideas through letters, periodicals and scientific journals and challenge previously held assumptions about who gained authority, and how they attained and defended their position within the scientific community.

You can view the contents of the volume here, read the introduction here, and read James Ungureanu’s blog post about the volume here. Also, the first two volumes (of at least sixteen) of the The Correspondence of John Tyndall will be published by Pickering & Chatto in 2015.

VIDEOS: Lectures from Darwin in the 21st Century: Nature, Humanity, and God (2009 conference)

Robert Richards: ‘All that is most beautiful': Darwin’s Theory of Morality and Its Normative Validity

Peter Bowler: Imagining a World without Darwin

Darwin, God, & Design – Evolution & the Battle for America’s Soul

Darwin’s Revolution: From Natural Theology to Natural Selection

Videos of other lectures here, conference information here.

CONFERENCE: The Shared Cultural Milieu of Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century


Registration is still possible for the Conference on:

‘The Shared Cultural Milieu of Charles Darwin and Samuel Butler: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century’

Monday 1st – Tuesday 2nd July, in the Divinity School, St John’s College Cambridge.

This conference will extend the discussion of Darwin’s reception in Europe, published in two volumes as *The Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe* (2008) in the well-established Series on the Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe (Bloomsbury) as well as in the third volume, ‘The Literary and Cultural Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe’ (forthcoming 2014).

It will consider not only Darwin’s impact on culture, especially literary culture, but also the milieu in which writers like Darwin and Butler could emerge from very similar educational and cultural backgrounds and contribute to both literature and science. Through our work on the European reception, a new focus on the channels and modes of understanding of Darwin’s work emerges, in which Butler’s contributions to the subject not only in his controversies with Darwin but through his translations and his five books on evolution enrich our understanding of the Continental reception and of new sciences emerging from the Darwinian controversies.

St John’s College houses the Butler Collection, the largest collection of his works, letters, notebooks, paintings, and photographs in one place, and recently received a Heritage Lottery Grant to make Butler’s work better known to a wider public. In the past two years the Collection has been fully catalogued and a number of exhibitions, events and lectures, open to the public as well as to the University, have been held. A small Butler exhibition will be mounted in the Divinity School for the conference.

A number of younger scholars have come forward who are doing new research on Butler, especially in the context of his scientific ideas. A feature of the conference will be a seminar presenting this new work, at which James Paradis (MIT), editor of *Samuel Butler: Victorian Against the Grain* (Toronto 2007), will be present. Another feature will be the contributions of writers who themselves have explored the links between science and literature in their own work, and the talented young poet Emily Ballou will give a reading on the first evening.

Registration (incl. lunch) costs £60 per person per day; £40 for full-time students.

Rooms can be also booked for those wishing to stay overnight in the College.

You can download the programme at
and register by writing to us at

Dr Elinor Shaffer FBA and Professor Thomas F. Glick, co-editors, ‘The Literary and Cultural Reception of Charles Darwin in Europe’
Dr Mark Nicholls, Fellow and Librarian, St John’s College
Conference co-organizers

John Tyndall and 19th Century Science

On Tuesday I head from Portland to Big Sky, Montana for a conference, “John Tyndall and 19th Century Science”:

The conference will bring together some of the past and current participants of the John Tyndall Correspondence Project to discuss issues raised by the NSF-funded project. It will also include a workshop for the editors of the anticipated twelve volumes of Tyndall’s letters, currently under contract with Pickering & Chatto. The conference will be held from at the 320 Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.

I will be presenting the paper I wrote when I was a graduate student at Montana State University, about John Tyndall’s 1872-3 lecture tour in the United States. It’ll be nice to see some familiar faces and some new ones from the project. And I am looking forward to meeting Darwin biographer Janet Browne, who is giving the keynote lecture. And it does not hurt that the conference is being held here:

I’ll fly back on Thursday.

NFA Conference brings Richard Dawkins to the Pacific Northwest

Richard Dawkins will be the closing keynote speaker at the Northwest Free-thought Alliance conference, March 30-April 2 in Renton, WA (see the schedule and register here). I am not able to attend, but I did last year when it was in Portland. If you are not going to attend the conference, there will be another opportunity to see Dawkins speak, at Newport High School in Bellevue, WA on April 1, details here.

If you go, have fun, and learn something new!

Consilience Conference: Evolution in Biology, the Human Sciences, and the Humanities


Consilience Conference: Evolution in Biology, the Human Sciences, and the Humanities
April 26-28, 2012 | St. Louis, MO

For details, see conference website:

About the Conference:

Speakers at this conference are all top researchers in biology, the social sciences, or the humanities. All the speakers know the level of consensus in their fields and can recognize major changes taking place, identify the major unsolved problems, and point toward future directions of research. They can all also discuss relations among at least two of the three areas (biology, the social sciences, and the humanities).

The conference features morning and afternoon sessions for each of three days. Each session contains one speaker from biology, one from the human sciences, and one from the humanities. We’re aimed at maximizing the interaction among the three areas.

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows are invited to submit poster proposals.

E. O. Wilson will deliver the Keynote address.