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The X ClubPower and Authority in Victorian Science$
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Ruth Barton

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226551616

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226551753.001.0001

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The X Club 1864–92

The X Club 1864–92

(p.1) Introduction The X Club 1864–92
The X Club

Ruth Barton

University of Chicago Press

The nine men of the X Club and the approach and themes of the book are introduced. The members, in birth-order, were George Busk, Joseph Dalton Hooker, Herbert Spencer, John Tyndall, Thomas Henry Huxley, William Spottiswoode, Edward Frankland, Thomas Archer Hirst and John Lubbock. They dined together as a formal club from 1864 to 1892. Such dining clubs were common in gentlemanly London. The approach taken is non-heroic. Like group biographies of families and women, it is as much interested in the ways in which the protagonists were representative as those in which they were powerful. Although the members were among Darwin’s leading defenders, their Darwinism must be loosely interpreted to include non-Darwinian developmental schemas. Similarly, scientific naturalism, with which the X Club has been closely associated, is reinterpreted to include its pre-Darwinian and metaphysical sources alongside the scientific aspects usually emphasized. The historiography of professionalization, and the continuing importance of gentlemanly status and manners within science are discussed. Approaches to cultural authority from outside history of science suggest that the range of claimants to cultural authority be broadened beyond “science” and “the Church.” Finally, the variety and importance of religion in Victorian life is emphasized, and “secularization” interpreted.

Keywords:   dining clubs, group biography, non-heroic history, Darwinism, scientific naturalism, professionalization, cultural authority, Victorian religion, secularization

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