Week 1: Science as Public Performance
We will look at the changing public attitudes toward science and technology in the Victorian era and explore the contributions of those individuals who spent a significant part of their careers engaging the public in thinking about science and the role of the media in communicating scientific ideas.
Week 2: Electricity and Magnetism
Electricity and magnetism were hot topics in the Victorian Era. We will examine how a few key insights and relatively simple experiments sparked a revolution in scientific understanding. We will focus on the “Maxwellians,” a group of British physicists who developed technologies making use of new ideas about electricity and magnetism.
Week 3: Darwin’s Theory of Evolution
Darwin’s theories continue to provoke discussion even today. We will explore broader conversations about geology and evolution that set the context for his work before exploring some key ideas in depth. We will also explore the debate surrounding these on their publication and throughout the late 19th century.
Week 4: Science, Exploration and Culture
The Victorian era’s pursuit of scientific knowledge was, in many ways, bound with a desire for exploration, to further the interests of the Empire, and an interaction with changing cultural ideas. We will explore these relationships by examining the contributions of selected scientist-explorers.
Week 5: The Science of Sound
We will explore ingenious equipment built to explore the nature of sound, paying particular attention to connections between the development of technological devices and ideas about human physiology, the technological development of several musical instruments and cultural shift in ideas about the nature of sound and noise.
Week 6: The “Science” of the Supernatural
We will explore the Victorian interest in spiritism and psychical research. We will devote attention to how controversies in Victorian spiritualism reflected broader debates over what should be considered “science” and what might be considered part of the “natural” world.