Science and Dissent in England, 1688–1945: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Science and Dissent in England, 1688–1945

1st Edition

Edited by Paul Wood


288 pages

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Hardback: 9780754637189
pub: 2004-06-28

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In considering the relations between science and religion, one must inevitably address the controversial question of the role of Protestantism in the rise and subsequent development of modern European science. In the past, a number of historians including Alphonse de Candolle and Robert Merton argued that Protestantism, and specifically Puritanism, was a formative influence on the Scientific Revolution. Historians have also seen the legacy of Puritanism as having had a profound impact on the growth of science and technology in eighteenth-century Britain. It has long been accepted wisdom in historical scholarship that science and technology flourished during the period primarily because of the contributions of Dissenters like Joseph Priestley and the utilitarian ethos informing the curricula of the Dissenting academies. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the apparent simplicities of the Age of Enlightenment are replaced by growing complexity and fragmentation, with Dissent transformed into Nonconformity, and the emergence of a pervasive 'crisis of faith' which undermined any comfortable assumptions about the amicable relations between science and religion. This volume brings together chapters written by a group of internationally-recognized experts on the relations between Puritanism, Dissent, Nonconformity and science in England in order to reassess such topics as the Merton thesis, and to develop a better sense of the role played by dissenting Protestants in the pursuit of science and technology in England from the Glorious Revolution to the end of the Second World War. What is lacking in the historical literature related to the theme of the book is a broad view of the interactions of science and dissenting Protestants over the longue durée. By bringing together scholars from different periods, this book develops just such an overview in order to explore the continuities and discontinuities in the relations between scientific inquiry and dissenting Protestantism in England over the span of almost three centuries, providing a unique and fresh perspective on the subject.


'This is a superb collection of essays which will surely reward repeated reading. Its excellence resides not simply in the fact that each of the essays is packed with information and judicious historical and historiographical guidance, but also in the fact that collectively they inspire serious contemplation on the relationship between those two most noble cognitive systems, science and religion.' Ecclesiastical History 'Rarely in the history of scholarly endeavour can there have been a more complex assignment!… the results are uniformly impressive.' English Historical Review ’This volume contains some important and intriguing essays on the scientific interests of members of the Dissenting religious traditions.’ Metascience

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Stepping out of Merton's shadow, Paul Wood; Science and dissent: some historiographical issues, John Hedley Brooke; To discourse of God: Isaac Newton's heterodox theology and his natural philosophy, Stephen D. Snobelen; Science, technology and dissent in English provincial culture: from Newtonian transformation to agnostic incarnation, John Money; The public culture of radical philosophers in 18th-century London, Larry Stewart; Natural philosophers in a coffee house: dissent, radical reform and pneumatic chemistry, Trevor H. Levere; Real disabilities?: Quaker schools as 'nurseries' of science, Geoffrey Cantor; Condescending harmony: John Pye Smith's mosaic geology, Richard Helmstadter; Interpreting agnosticism as a nonconformist sect: T.H. Huxley's 'New Reformation', Bernard Lightman; 'If gold ruste what shall iren do?': Silvanus Phillips Thompson, Quakerism and science, Hannah Gay; Creed and experience: Eddington on science and religion, Alan H. Batten; Index.

About the Editor

Paul Wood is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Victoria, Canada.

About the Series

Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945

Science, Technology and Culture, 1700-1945 focuses on the social, cultural, industrial and economic contexts of science and technology from the ‘scientific revolution’ up to the Second World War. Publishing lively, original, innovative research across a broad spectrum of subjects and genres by an international list of authors, the series has a global compass that concerns the development of modern science in all regions of the world. Subjects may range from close studies of particular sciences and problems to cultural and social histories of science, technology and biomedicine; accounts of scientific travel and exploration; transnational histories of scientific and technological change; monographs examining instruments, their makers and users; the material and visual cultures of science; contextual studies of institutions and of individual scientists, engineers and popularizers of science; and well-edited volumes of essays on themes in the field.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General