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Science in the Marketplace

Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences

The nineteenth century was an age of transformation in science, when scientists were rewarded for their startling new discoveries with increased social status and authority.  But it was also a time when ordinary people from across the social spectrum were given the opportunity to participate in science, for education, entertainment, or both. In Victorian Britain science could be encountered in myriad forms and in countless locations: in panoramic shows, exhibitions, and galleries; in city museums and country houses; in popular lectures; and even in domestic conversations that revolved around the latest books and periodicals.

Science in the Marketplace
reveals this other side of Victorian scientific life by placing the sciences in the wider cultural marketplace, ultimately showing that the creation of new sites and audiences was just as crucial to the growing public interest in science as were the scientists themselves. By focusing attention on the scientific audience, as opposed to the scientific community or self-styled popularizers, Science in the Marketplace ably links larger societal changes—in literacy, in industrial technologies, and in leisure—to the evolution of “popular science.”

432 pages | 54 halftones, 17 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2007

Culture Studies

History: British and Irish History, History of Ideas

History of Science

Physical Sciences: History and Philosophy of Physical Sciences


“Here is a history of nineteenth-century science that is refreshingly different. Averting our gaze from the production of knowledge by a scientific elite, the editors and their enthusiastic team take us on an exciting tour of neglected locations where an expanding audience for science was attracted and wooed. Exhibitions, galleries and museums, lecture-halls, clubs and salons all feature in stimulating essays that bring to life the experiences of the  audiences themselves. Readers will delight in the unexpected discovery that these competing sites each played multiple roles in promoting their conception of the sciences.”

John Brooke, Andreas Idreos Professor Emeritus of Science & Religion, University of Oxford

“From the sedate charms of small mineralogical museums to the high drama of the Crystal Palace or electricity as a source of extraordinary theatrical effects, scientific entertainment was big business in Britain in the nineteenth century. Looking and learning was only the half of it. This very readable and important collection of essays takes us deep into the heart of the enthusiastic public response to science in the Victorian era, including careful discussion of the marketing of popular literature, electrical demonstrations, stuffed animals, smells and sounds, conversations, and hands-on-skulls phrenological readings. Every author has something new and intriguing to say about the puzzling question of how to define popularity and how something novel might spread through a society. The intention is to explore the key characteristics of public audiences for science and the birth of what might be called modern consumerism, an audience-based history that truly opens the door to rethinking the notion of a marketplace for knowledge. Any book edited by social historians such as Lightman and Fyfe must command interested attention. This provides an invaluable reexamination of the whole notion of popular science in the Victorian era.”

Janet Browne, Harvard University

"The multimedia experience in science is not as modern a concept as many science enthusiasts may think. This collection of essays depicts the 19th-century British piublic as consumers, seeking out scientific knowledge and engaging themselves in a multimedia scientific market eager for their patronage. . . . The essays are enjoyable to read due to the expertise of the authors."

Anthony J. Dellureficio | Quarterly Review of Biology

:This lively and readable collection represents a fascinating step forward in the history of popular science, and should be found on the reading lists of all undergraduate and graduate courses on science, popular culture, and the nineteenth century more generally."

Adelene Buckland | The British Society for Science and Literature

"Cogent, compelling, and creatively crafted, this collection of scholarly essays examines some of the many processes by which scientific knowledge was made, marketed, and consumed as ’popular’ in nineteenth-century Britain."

Pamela Gossin | Journal of British Studies

"This is a major collection of papers on Victorian popular science and will be essential reading for anyone interested in the field."

Peter J. Bowler | Isis

"Nineteenth-century England is well-trodden ground, but the editors and authors of this book have found an innovative and extremely interesting way to approach it. . . . And by publishing essays that shed light on these sites of scientific consumption, this book itself opens a wintow on the experience of science in the nineteenth century."

Laura J. Snyder | H-Net Review

"Science in the Marketplace offers an important overview of science and consumer culture in nineteenth-century Britain, with each author contributing something new to our understanding of the meaning and development of popular science. A history with a difference, it will be of wide appeal."

Angelique Richardson | British Journal for the History of Science

Table of Contents

1. Science in the Marketplace: An Introduction
Aileen Fyfe and Bernard Lightman
Section I: Orality
2. How Scientific Conversation Became Shop Talk
James A. Secord
3. The Diffusion of Phrenology through Public Lecturing
John van Wyhe
4. Lecturing in the Spatial Economy of Science
Bernard Lightman
Section II: Print
5. Publishing “Popular Science” in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain
Jonathan R. Topham
6. Sensitive, Bashful, and Chaste? Articulating the Mimosa in Science
Ann B. Shteir
7. Reading Natural History at the British Museum and the Pictorial Museum
Aileen Fyfe
8. Illuminating the Expert-Consumer Relationship in Domestic Electricity
Graeme Gooday
Section III: Display
9. Natural History on Display: The Collection of Charles Waterton
Victoria Carroll
10. Science at the Crystal Focus of the World
Richard Bellon
11. “More the Aspect of Magic than Anything Natural”: The Philosophy of Demonstration
Iwan Rhys Morus
12. The Museum Affect: Visiting Collections of Anatomy and Natural History
Samuel J. M. M. Alberti

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