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The Rigid Boundaries That Divide Science

from the UK Spectator

The Age Of Wonder

The romance of science

Richard Holmes
HarperPress, 380pp, £25,




The Age of Wonder, by Richard Holmes


Just what some- one who studied science should be called was mooted at the 1833 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. ‘Formerly the “learned” embraced in their wide grasp all the branches of the tree of knowledge, mathematicians as well as philologers, physical as well as antiquarian speculators,’ reported the geologist William Whewell. ‘But these days are past.’

The meeting was chaired by Coleridge, who vetoed the use of ‘philosopher’; ‘savants’ was instantly rejected as too French. But ‘some ingenious gentlemen’ (including Whewell himself) proposed ‘that, by analogy with “artist”, they might form “scientist” ’. Natural philosophers did not, with their new designation, become in the mind of the public another kind of artist, but a breed apart, divorced from the wider culture. This, according to Richard Holmes, is a tragedy. We should repudiate the rigid boundaries that divide science from literature, art, ethics and religion.

We need a wider, more generous, more imaginative perspective. Above all … we need the three things that a scientific culture can sustain: the sense of individual wonder, the power of hope, and the vivid but questing belief in a future for the globe.

[ click to continue reading at The Spectator ]

Posted on October 17, 2008 by Editor

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