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A. Synopsis: This book is about the early years of the BAAS. The BAAS was founded in 1831. Its membership was diverse including scientific, political, military, religious, and literary participants. Thus, a study of the BAAS is also a study of the rich intellectual and social life of Victorian culture. The Association itself sponsored a wide array of projects in many different fields. These subjects included astronomical observation, anthropological studies, capillary functions, body secretions, fossil ichthyology, railway studies, and the shape of ships (both science and technology). Despite all of this diversity the BAAS was shaped and organized by a small group of individuals—the Gentlemen of Science. These men had leisure, wealth, and a great interest in promoting their idea of what science should be.
B. Themes: There are two main themes in this book. First is to show how science is an element of culture (science became part of the democratic age of reform). Second, is to understand the Gentlemen of Science themselves. To accomplish these goals the book provides a sociological analysis of Victorian science and also narratives to detail the evidence involved in this story.
C. Structure
1. The creation and organization of the BAAS
a) A broad discussion of Victorian history and culture. This includes the Industrial Revolution, and the Age of Reform (overcoming the abuses of an old parliamentary system, enfranchising the middle class, and reorganizing the constituency representation in Victorian society)
b) The institutional origin of the BAAS. This is told as a “diary of events” constructed from letters that the authors uncovered from the Gentlemen of Science. The BAAS was formed because the conception at that time was that science was in decline. The government was unwilling to fund scientific projects, and the Royal Society had become lax in their promotion and enthusiasm of science. Men like Babbage, Davy, and Herschel were concerned about this decline and personally wanted to arrest the problem.
c) How the BAAS came to serve the public as a vital resource. The word ‘scientist’ was coined in 1833 and the term science took on a narrower meaning. The BAAS transformed science into a ‘cultural resource’ and made it visible for all of society. (This is part of the democratic reforms as thousands attended meeting, and science was covered in the press).
d) Another “diary.” This time detailing the mechanics of BAAS annual meetings. These meetings were referred to as “Vanity Fair,” the “Philosophical Olympiad,” and “Frankenstein’s Monster.”
2. The role of the BAAS in Victorian culture
a) The ideologies of science championed by the BAAS. Since ‘advancement’ of science was the main goal of the Association, the main position of the BAAS was to divorce science from either religion or politics. This would allow opposing social and religious groups to unite for the advancement of science. The ideologies espoused by the BAAS then are the same that scientists hold today. Science is value free and objective knowledge; science as the result of a proper scientific method; and science as culturally desirable.
b) The politics of science. Internal politics were a necessary component of the BAAS. This type of political maneuverings helped create careers, shape a public image, and distribute funds.
c) The utility of science. The BAAS was able to specifically help individuals and groups within Britain with specific problems
d) How the BAAS shaped the content of science. This is a social constructivist position.

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Book info

PublisherOxford University Press, USA
Release date 01.10.1982
Pages count616
File size6.9 Mb
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
Book rating4 (1 votes)
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