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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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Cultures of Science in Early Victorian England

Cultures of Science in Early Victorian England

(p.39) One Cultures of Science in Early Victorian England
The X Club

Ruth Barton

University of Chicago Press

This chapter identifies the diverse cultural contexts that shaped the future members of the X Club: gentlemanly London science (Busk, Hooker and Lubbock), Balliol College, Oxford (Spottiswoode), radical provincial Dissent (Spencer and Huxley), and the mechanics institutes and mutual improvement societies of the industrial north (Frankland, Tyndall and Hirst). The variety of their social backgrounds, scientific ambitions, and religious beliefs opens windows onto early Victorian science more generally. The future X-men included wealthy amateurs pursuing their scientific interests, medically trained men seeking to make reputations and careers in science, and social outsiders seeking to rise in the world through scientific employment. Most saw specialist expertise as the route to scientific recognition. They were all aware of the subtle distinctions of social status and religious belief that shaped Victorian life. Even scientific societies, it is shown, marked their status by the level of their fees. Religious skeptics were expected to constrain their conversation in polite society to avoid giving offence to orthodox believers. The changing religious beliefs of the nine are investigated: varieties of Anglicanism; reinterpretations of religion that rejected dogmatic formulations and associated “true” religion with deep feeling; the politics of Church reform and disestablishment.

Keywords:   cultures of science, gentlemanly London science, provincial Dissent, mechanics institute culture, Balliol College, Oxford, specialism in science, London’s scientific societies, changing religious beliefs

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