Thesis ID: CBB001561614

Science in Its Local Context: The Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (2005)


This study examined how the work and direction of the BNHPS was adapted to the local context in a city undergoing rapid expansion and industrialisation while maintaining credibility within the wider scientific community. It takes account of the wider context of foundations of similar societies in other parts of Britain and Ireland. The study adopted a concentric model and looked successively at: national trends and patterns in society foundations during the nineteenth century; local historical and social factors that affected the climate for science in the Belfast context; the internal organisation and systems of control within the society and its scientific practice; and finally how key projects, the foundation of a museum and botanic garden as well as the 1852 visit to Belfast by the BAAS, raised issues of access and relationships to the wider public and a changing educational environment. The BNHPS was part of the scientific community at local, national and international levels. To maintain this position it was necessary that the members' scientific work was verified and appreciated by their social and scientific peers to gain social legitimation and credence. But in order to sustain the society and its resources the Council primarily took their direction from the location in which they were based. The two demands were inextricably linked. Science needed to be accessible to its 'publics' and this was achieved by the way in which the physical and social space of the society was managed.


Description Cited in Diss. Abstr. Int. C 67/01 (2006): 88. UMI pub. no. C822493.

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Authors & Contributors
Adelman, Juliana
Neswald, Elizabeth
Withers, Charles W. J.
Finnegan, Diarmid A.
Nelson, E. Charles
Higgitt, Rebekah
British Journal for the History of Science
Archives of Natural History
The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs
Physics in Perspective
Journal of the History of Collections
Journal of Medical Biography
Pickering & Chatto
Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution & William Herschel Society
University of Pittsburgh Press
Empire State Editions - Fordham University Press
Societies; institutions; academies
Science and society
Natural history
Science education and teaching
Public understanding of science
Tyndall, John
Hunter, John
Soane, John
Kane, Robert
Williams, Alexander
Hooker, Joseph Dalton
Great Britain
United States
Dublin (Ireland)
Belfast, Ireland
19th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century
British Association for the Advancement of Science
Dublin Natural History Museum
Natural History Society of Dublin
Museum of Irish Industry
Royal Dublin Society
American Museum of Natural History

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