BOOK: Victorian Scientific Naturalism: Community, Identity, Continuity

Gowan Dawson and Bernard Lightman, eds., Victorian Scientific Naturalism: Community, Identity, Continuity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 368pp.

Victorian Scientific Naturalism examines the secular creeds of the generation of intellectuals who, in the wake of The Origin of Species, wrested cultural authority from the old Anglican establishment while installing themselves as a new professional scientific elite. These scientific naturalists—led by biologists, physicists, and mathematicians such as William Kingdon Clifford, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Thomas Henry Huxley, and John Tyndall—sought to persuade both the state and the public that scientists, not theologians, should be granted cultural authority, since their expertise gave them special insight into society, politics, and even ethics.

In Victorian Scientific Naturalism, Gowan Dawson and Bernard Lightman bring together new essays by leading historians of science and literary critics that recall these scientific naturalists, in light of recent scholarship that has tended to sideline them, and that reevaluate their place in the broader landscape of nineteenth-century Britain. Ranging in topic from daring climbing expeditions in the Alps to the maintenance of aristocratic protocols of conduct at Kew Gardens, these essays offer a series of new perspectives on Victorian scientific naturalism—as well as its subsequent incarnations in the early twentieth century—that together provide an innovative understanding of the movement centering on the issues of community, identity, and continuity.

Summary of the editors’ introduction from James Ungureanu.

17 thoughts on “BOOK: Victorian Scientific Naturalism: Community, Identity, Continuity

  1. The code of ethics of these ‘gentlemen of science’ that they should not go into print on the work of any naturalist who used deduction, trespassed on the territory of divinity, published seditious ideas or on “news” (See Professor Secord’s “Victorian Sensation”) provided the perfect “silent treatment” mechanism by which Darwin and Wallace were able to claim that neither had read Patrick Matthew’s (1831) earlier published theory of natural selection (the “natural process of selection”) In 2014, big data analysis newly proves that at least 52 people read Matthew’s book. 19 were Darwin’s social circle. Seven were naturalist. The bombshell discovery is that three of those naturalists played pivotal roles at the very epicentre of influence of the pre-1858 published work of Darwin and Wallace. The independently verifiable new evidence is here:

    You might also like to learn more about the active (newly proven) roles of some of the “gentlemen” in the picture in facilitating the theft of Matthew’s discovery by reading ‘Nullius in Verba: Darwin’s greatest secret.’

    By the way – I’m an atheist and believe natural selection to be the most important discovery of all time. However, it is now 100 per cent a newly proven myth that Darwin and Wallace independently discovered it.

  2. Dr Mike Sutton – Once you’ve published your research in a history of science journal such as ISIS or BJHS, or as a book through an academic press, I’ll pay attention. If what you have found is indeed true and rewrites the history of evolutionary thought, University of Chicago Press and Cambridge University Press would surely be interested…

  3. Firstly you need to know that no journal edited and peer reviewed by Darwinists will publish such devastating facts. I tried. Just like you the editors lack the gumption to so much as engage with the newly discovered disconfirming data. This is the Semmelweis effect in action. Nonetheless two criminology peer rreviewed journals commissioned articles

  4. All the new evidence is independently verifiable hard data in the public domain. Do you need to be told by a more senior Darwinist before you can make up your own mind? That way YOU will never do anything notable of your own. So much for all your education. Shame!

  5. It is true. Go read! Its that easy. Uni. Chic Press say its not for them. Why not if its true. ? I expect you can hypthesise more than one answer to that question. I suggest you email Professor M Wainwright of Sheffield University. He will begin your enlightenment.

  6. Tell you what. You know who I am. My reputation is on the line. You do well to realise the bombshell discovery “if its true”. So have the gumption to find out. If its not true I will admit to commiting science fraud ok? In public on film and on your website. Its so easy for you to check the newly discovered facts because all the data is copyright free and online. NULLIUS IN VERBA old chap.

  7. Finally – dare you bother to check that you might be named a Darwinist only because your namesake committed the worlds greatest science fraud by plagiarising the entire theory of natural selection from Matthew. This link takes you to a peer-to-peer article with all the evidence plainly presented with full references that even a fist year undergraduate can follow and verify:

    If you care to simply look for yourself, of course.

    Best wishes from a true scientist. (science means truth)

  8. I have been following Michael Sutton’s monologue of indignation about how the scientific community of Darwinists refuse to recognize Sutton’s advocacy that the almost unknown arborist named Patrick Matthew predated Darwin and Wallace with the idea of evolution. But why stop at Matthew’s work, which seems to have had as many as 52 readers? What about Lamarck (who died in 1829), from whom Matthew may have built his ideas? Even Charles Lyell was excited about evolutionary theory at least as early as 1827 when he wrote, “what changes species may really undergo! How impossible will it be to distinguish and lay down a line, beyond which some of the so-called extinct species have never passed into recent ones.” And there were Edward Blyth and Charles Wells who wrote about natural selection. Why stop at nineteenth century scientists? Robert Hooke, in Micrographia (1662), advocated evolution when he wrote that mites evolved due to responses to changes in climate and environment. At the same time, the Jesuit priest Athanasius Kircher described how deer moving to cold climates evolved into reindeer. 2,000 years earlier, Anaximander wrote (“On Nature”) that humans had evolved from fish. Rather than making accusations of intellectual theft, we might suggest instead that Darwin built on the previous work of many, many others.

    I am a geophysicist and I was surprised to learn that many of the great breakthroughs in earth sciences were not as revolutionary as I assumed. For example, Wegener, attributed in 1910 with the idea of continental drift, was preceded by Antonio Snider-Pellegrini (1802-1885) and Richard Owen (1810-1890), among others with very similar ideas – including Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). More recently, seafloor spreading and subduction were attributed to scientists who developed plate tectonics in the 1960s, yet Arthur Holmes published similar concepts in the 1920s, as did Albert Heim in the 1880s, and John Perry in the 1890s. The difference is that Wegener and the later scientists advocated with overwhelming evidence and conviction for their cause (though neither evidence nor conviction were enough to help Wegener).

    Patrick Matthew may have written about the tendencies for selection of strong (or otherwise desirable mates) at about the same time Darwin was forming his own thoughts. It is not enough to have an idea and to publish an obscure book or paper. The accompanying evidence must overwhelmingly support the concept and the scientist advocating the cause must convince his community of the logic and validity of the argument. Otherwise, even the most revolutionary and thought-provoking commentary may not go much further than the lips of the opinionated taxi-driver or the ramblings of the bright but unpublished philosopher at the neighbourhood pub. Everyone has ideas – it is what becomes of them that counts.

    Sutton’s own work (linked in Sutton’s post above) is worth a read. Michael Sutton makes the very same case about the importance of promotion and evidence when he writes that Darwin’s presentation of natural selection was “supported by a great and unique synthesis of confirming evidence, in the Origin of Species.” And that is the key, isn’t it? Patrick Matthew’s idea was buried in an appendix to his book on trees, Naval Timber and Arboriculture. Had he made natural selection the thesis of a book and supported the idea with “a great and unique synthesis of confirming evidence” then it would be Matthew’s name, instead of Darwin’s, that would be cursed in Sunday schools across the land today.

    – Ron Miksha

  9. The notion that work in an appendix is “burried” is a myth started by Darwin. My book provides several famous examples of evolutionary heresy being placed in an appendix. Far from being buried the appendix appears to have been the place to look.

    And as Dawkins admits only Matthew published the full complex theory before Darwin and Wallace.

    Sorry folks but you need to read my book to argue against it

  10. To continue my monologue ;-)… My question is : are Darwinist right to claim Darwin & wallace discovered natural selection infependently of Matthew. My answer is that the new evidence of who read Matthew’s book means it would now be irrational to claim Darwin and Wallace did not.

  11. Mike – I will read your book, not in order to “argue against it,” but rather to understand your idea better. Some of what I have seen on the internet (including your Bustermythmonger’s Wikipedia entry about you) seems to indicate that you discovered that Darwin plagiarized Patrick Matthew. That is quite a discovery. Surprising no one made the link a hundred years ago.

  12. Matthew was a despised leader of the Chartists. Moreover he wrote sedition as well as mocking heresy. He broke every convention of the Royal Society. Much more explained in book.

  13. Sorry but that is further dysology. Look up Butler 1886. He alluded to Darwin’s plagiarism of Matthew. MANY others before Eiseley. Eiseley got a few facts wrong.


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