Robert Chambers and Thomas Henry Huxley, Science Correspondents: The Popularization and Dissemination of Nineteenth Century Natural Science [Book Review]

Journal of the History of Biology 32 (2):343 - 383 (1999)

Robert Chambers and Thomas Henry Huxley helped popularize science by writing for general interest publications when science was becoming increasingly professionalized. A non-professional, Chambers used his family-owned Chambers' Edinburgh Journal to report on scientific discoveries, giving his audience access to ideas that were only available to scientists who regularly attended professional meetings or read published transactions of such forums. He had no formal training in the sciences and little interest in advancing the professional status of scientists; his course of action was determined by his disability and interest in scientific phenomena. His skillful reporting enabled readers to learn how the ideas that flowed from scientific innovation affected their lives, and his series of article in the Journal presenting his rudimentary ideas on evolution, served as a prelude to his important popular work, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Huxley, an example of the new professional class of scientists, defended science and evolution from attacks by religious spokesmen and other opponents of evolution, informing the British public about science through his lectures and articles in such publications as Nineteenth Century. He understood that by popularizing scientific information, he could effectively challenge the old Tory establishment -- with its orthodox religious and political views -- and promote the ideas of the new class of professional scientists. In attempting to transform British society, he frequently came in conflict with theologians and others on issues in which science and religion seemed to contradict each other but refused to discuss matters of science with non-professionals like Chambers, whose popular writing struck a more resonant chord with working class readers.
Keywords agnosticism  Darwinian  evolution  materialism  Malthusian  nebular hypothesis  popularization  professionalization  transitional forms
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DOI 10.1023/A:1004616403134
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