Observing God : Thomas Dick, Evangelicalism, and Popular Science in Victorian Britain and America book cover
1st Edition

Observing God
Thomas Dick, Evangelicalism, and Popular Science in Victorian Britain and America

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ISBN 9780754602026
Published December 21, 2001 by Routledge
314 Pages

USD $160.00

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Book Description

Scottish theologian, educator, astronomer and popularizer of science, Thomas Dick (1774-1857) promoted a Christianized form of science to inhibit secularization, to win converts to Christianity, and to persuade evangelicals that science was sacred. His devotional theology of nature made radical claims for cultural authority. This book presents the first detailed analysis of his life and works. After an extended biographical introduction, Dick's theology of nature is examined within the context of natural theology, and also his views on the plurality of worlds, the nebular hypothesis and geology. Other chapters deal with Dick's use of aesthetics to shape social behaviour for millennial purposes, and with the publishing history of his works, their availability and their reception. In the final part, the author explores Dick's influence in America. His pacifism won him Northern evangelical supporters, while his writings dominated the burgeoning field of popular science, powerfully shaping science's cultural meaning and its uses.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Becoming a Christian philosopher: a sketch of Dick’s life; Dick and natural theology in an evangelical context; Dick, the plurality of worlds, the nebular hypothesis, and geology; Aesthetic and socio-political dimensions of Dick’s works; Dick and popular science in Britain; Dick’s works in America; Dick and aspects of popular astronomy in America; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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'Astore has done a fine job in showing how it was possible for an evangelical Christian in mid-19th century Britain to be one of the most successful science popularisers of his day. In bringing Thomas Dick to life he challenges our stereotypes with a winning portrait of an astonishing man whose fame spread to America and doubtless to the inhabitants of extra-terrestrial worlds whose numbers he cheerfully counted. Fascinating.' Professor John Hedley Brooke, University of Oxford 'One of the strengths of Astore's work is his consideration of Dick's reception in America... Astore shows how Dick's combination of evangelicalism, abolitionism and pacifism fitted beautifully into Northern antebellum society... an important contribution to recent scholarship... not written as a biography of Dick, but as an analysis of the role of popular astronomy within British and American life, particularly for evangelicals. The story occupies the same time span as Herschel's mapping of the southern hemisphere and Nichol's support for the nebular hypothesis, yet Astore provides us with a fascinating picture of Victorian astronomy.' British Journal for the History of Science '... particularly welcome because it bypasses the scientific elite but instead tackes a number of historical problems concerning the popularization of science in the second quarter of the nineteenth century... Astore has made a major contribution to our understanding of science and religion in the nineteenth century.' Annals of Science 'As an account of a leading but often neglected author, Observing God makes an important contribution to the growing literature on science popularisation. In addition, the book is of wider interest for its detailed analysis of how a range of readers made use of Dick's works.... Unusually, Astore deals with readers both in Britain and the United States, where Dick's writings enjoyed a remarkable and sustained popularity. This is the most significant aspect of the book, which point