The love of science

CbbirthHi, Jo here, talking about science, though there's nothing scientific in the picture. That's Charlie and Billy guarding my birthday presents yesterday. 🙂 Nothing scientific in the contents, either, unless a Feng Shui book and a Himalayan salt candle count!

People in the Georgian era were very interested in science. There were many amateur scientists, including members of the aristocracy, as we can see by reading any of the magazines of the times. They submitted articles, letters, and comments from around the country, and even the world.

I have more scienctific curiosity threading through my Georgian books than my Regency ones, which is perhaps unfair. And yet, the 1760s was prime Enlightenment time, when being engaged in "natural philosophy" as the sciences were then called was as much part of everyday life for the literate as the World Wide Web is today.
Ramsayash13

Period portraits are interesting because the objects nearby indicate how the person wants to be seen. Pictures of gentlemen in country wear with guns and dogs are common, but so are ones with books, maps, and other sign of a studious nature.

The Marquess of Rothgar, key figure in my Malloren Georgian books, has wide scientific interests, but is particularly interested in the engineering side, specifically clockwork mechanisms and their many uses. Did I make his cousin, the Marquess of Ashart, interested in astronomy because they are rivals? One working with lens to see tiny things, the other using telescopes to see the heavens?

In neither case does their amateur interest play much part in the plot, but it's a strong part of their characters. It's also so true to the times. Like, as I said, the internet.

In Seduction in Silk, Perry shows Claris many of the delights of London, and she also visits Ashart's London mansion for an evening about astronomy, expecting to be bored. Instead, she's fascinated by a lecture by James Ferguson, who uses mechanical models to illustrate his points.

JamesFergusonThis is from Wikipedia. "Ferguson was born near Rothiemay in Banffshire of humble parents. According to his autobiography, he learnt to read by hearing his father teach his elder brother, and with the help of an old woman was able to read quite well before his father thought of teaching him. After his father taught him to write, he was sent at the age of seven for three months to the grammar school at Keith and that was all the formal education he ever received.

His taste for mechanics was about this time accidentally awakened on seeing his father making use of a lever to raise a part of the roof of his house — an exhibition of strength which excited his wonder. In 1720 he was sent to a neighboring farm to keep sheep, where he amused himself by making models of machines, and at night he studied the stars."

He was ten years old then. At 24 he was supporting himself by creating designs for needlework, and then by doing miniature portraits. It was a hard life, but people did more younger back then. On the other hand, some remarkable people do a great deal today when very young, sometimes impelled by hardship.

Ferguson continues his fascination with models and the stars and developed his "Astronomical Rotula for showing the motions of the planets, places of the sun and moon, &c." Soon he was giving popular demonstrations in London and around the country to the public, the nobility, and even royalty. Reach for the stars, indeed!

The odd sporting contests of the time — long distance walking with a time limit, for example — might seem frivolous, but I think they were part of science, part of the hunger to find out how long, how far, how fast which has pushed humanity onward and toward the stars.

In 1764 "A Gentleman, well known at Newmarket, has engaged for a considerable Wager, to ride one Horse from Hyde-Park-Corner to Oxford, and back again, within seven Hours; upon which several large Bets are depending." That would require a steady 14 miles an hour.

"A Noble Lord has laid a Wager of One Thousand Guineas, that he causes a Boat to go Twenty-five Miles in one Hour; the Experiment will be tried one Day this Week on the River near Chelsea." I haven't found a record of the result in either case, but it's the trying that counts, isn't it?

The novella I wrote as a lead in to Seduction in Silk has a hero who's an amateur botanist, a friend by correspondence with Joseph Banks and others. Dare to Kiss is only available for the Kindle at the moment.
Dtksm Click here for more information.

Do you have any idea why the Georgian period seems more suited than the Regency to science throughout society? Is it true?

Do you like  Georgian and/or Regency historical romances where science or engineering play a major part? Any great ones to recommend?

Jo

55 thoughts on “The love of science”

  1. I enjoyed the fact you do include science as a character’s interest. One character does point out that Rothgar’s fascination with mechanical devices made sense in that he wanted things precise and controlled, something not possible in court politics. I don’t know if it came up, but I always thought Ashart took up astronomy because his grandmother had constrained his world with her rivarly.
    As for Georgian characters love of science, I have picked that up in travel books of the time. One traveler to Yemen sketched the flora, the fauna, the natives, and the towering rock houses. It’s amazing how much he paid attenton to the smallest of details. Google Books isn’t quite the same as handling the first edition.

    Reply
  2. I enjoyed the fact you do include science as a character’s interest. One character does point out that Rothgar’s fascination with mechanical devices made sense in that he wanted things precise and controlled, something not possible in court politics. I don’t know if it came up, but I always thought Ashart took up astronomy because his grandmother had constrained his world with her rivarly.
    As for Georgian characters love of science, I have picked that up in travel books of the time. One traveler to Yemen sketched the flora, the fauna, the natives, and the towering rock houses. It’s amazing how much he paid attenton to the smallest of details. Google Books isn’t quite the same as handling the first edition.

    Reply
  3. I enjoyed the fact you do include science as a character’s interest. One character does point out that Rothgar’s fascination with mechanical devices made sense in that he wanted things precise and controlled, something not possible in court politics. I don’t know if it came up, but I always thought Ashart took up astronomy because his grandmother had constrained his world with her rivarly.
    As for Georgian characters love of science, I have picked that up in travel books of the time. One traveler to Yemen sketched the flora, the fauna, the natives, and the towering rock houses. It’s amazing how much he paid attenton to the smallest of details. Google Books isn’t quite the same as handling the first edition.

    Reply
  4. I enjoyed the fact you do include science as a character’s interest. One character does point out that Rothgar’s fascination with mechanical devices made sense in that he wanted things precise and controlled, something not possible in court politics. I don’t know if it came up, but I always thought Ashart took up astronomy because his grandmother had constrained his world with her rivarly.
    As for Georgian characters love of science, I have picked that up in travel books of the time. One traveler to Yemen sketched the flora, the fauna, the natives, and the towering rock houses. It’s amazing how much he paid attenton to the smallest of details. Google Books isn’t quite the same as handling the first edition.

    Reply
  5. I enjoyed the fact you do include science as a character’s interest. One character does point out that Rothgar’s fascination with mechanical devices made sense in that he wanted things precise and controlled, something not possible in court politics. I don’t know if it came up, but I always thought Ashart took up astronomy because his grandmother had constrained his world with her rivarly.
    As for Georgian characters love of science, I have picked that up in travel books of the time. One traveler to Yemen sketched the flora, the fauna, the natives, and the towering rock houses. It’s amazing how much he paid attenton to the smallest of details. Google Books isn’t quite the same as handling the first edition.

    Reply
  6. I have to say I’ve never thought about it that much, excerpt to be thought fashionable during the Regency one could not be considered bookish. Did this drive the interest in science more underground. I have trouble believing the interest was not there. After all, many advances were made, just not spoken about as much perhaps.
    I think an investigation is in order.

    Reply
  7. I have to say I’ve never thought about it that much, excerpt to be thought fashionable during the Regency one could not be considered bookish. Did this drive the interest in science more underground. I have trouble believing the interest was not there. After all, many advances were made, just not spoken about as much perhaps.
    I think an investigation is in order.

    Reply
  8. I have to say I’ve never thought about it that much, excerpt to be thought fashionable during the Regency one could not be considered bookish. Did this drive the interest in science more underground. I have trouble believing the interest was not there. After all, many advances were made, just not spoken about as much perhaps.
    I think an investigation is in order.

    Reply
  9. I have to say I’ve never thought about it that much, excerpt to be thought fashionable during the Regency one could not be considered bookish. Did this drive the interest in science more underground. I have trouble believing the interest was not there. After all, many advances were made, just not spoken about as much perhaps.
    I think an investigation is in order.

    Reply
  10. I have to say I’ve never thought about it that much, excerpt to be thought fashionable during the Regency one could not be considered bookish. Did this drive the interest in science more underground. I have trouble believing the interest was not there. After all, many advances were made, just not spoken about as much perhaps.
    I think an investigation is in order.

    Reply
  11. I once saw a show on PBS about the history of science and some of the early pioneers in physics and chemistry. Surprisingly there were a lot of women involved in scientific work primarily as assistants. Often family members who were interested in science. Madame Curie was featured in the series as was a French scientist a Countess who also worked in physics as she is pregnant! I wish I could remember the name of this show. It was so interesting.

    Reply
  12. I once saw a show on PBS about the history of science and some of the early pioneers in physics and chemistry. Surprisingly there were a lot of women involved in scientific work primarily as assistants. Often family members who were interested in science. Madame Curie was featured in the series as was a French scientist a Countess who also worked in physics as she is pregnant! I wish I could remember the name of this show. It was so interesting.

    Reply
  13. I once saw a show on PBS about the history of science and some of the early pioneers in physics and chemistry. Surprisingly there were a lot of women involved in scientific work primarily as assistants. Often family members who were interested in science. Madame Curie was featured in the series as was a French scientist a Countess who also worked in physics as she is pregnant! I wish I could remember the name of this show. It was so interesting.

    Reply
  14. I once saw a show on PBS about the history of science and some of the early pioneers in physics and chemistry. Surprisingly there were a lot of women involved in scientific work primarily as assistants. Often family members who were interested in science. Madame Curie was featured in the series as was a French scientist a Countess who also worked in physics as she is pregnant! I wish I could remember the name of this show. It was so interesting.

    Reply
  15. I once saw a show on PBS about the history of science and some of the early pioneers in physics and chemistry. Surprisingly there were a lot of women involved in scientific work primarily as assistants. Often family members who were interested in science. Madame Curie was featured in the series as was a French scientist a Countess who also worked in physics as she is pregnant! I wish I could remember the name of this show. It was so interesting.

    Reply
  16. Jo, I’m curious: where did you find the bets?
    When I found the online copy of the betting book at White’s, it was about as dry as dust–mostly bets on life expectancies, marriages and births. Nothing half so interesting as great sporting endeavors. 🙂
    As for the science aspect–I do find it easy for my Georgian characters to take up those pursuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the Regency as well, but my impression–perhaps over-colored by reading too much Heyer–is that it was no longer quite so fashionable.
    Most of my Regency characters’ lives are colored by the Peninsular War and its aftermath; and that was probably the case for many people in real life.

    Reply
  17. Jo, I’m curious: where did you find the bets?
    When I found the online copy of the betting book at White’s, it was about as dry as dust–mostly bets on life expectancies, marriages and births. Nothing half so interesting as great sporting endeavors. 🙂
    As for the science aspect–I do find it easy for my Georgian characters to take up those pursuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the Regency as well, but my impression–perhaps over-colored by reading too much Heyer–is that it was no longer quite so fashionable.
    Most of my Regency characters’ lives are colored by the Peninsular War and its aftermath; and that was probably the case for many people in real life.

    Reply
  18. Jo, I’m curious: where did you find the bets?
    When I found the online copy of the betting book at White’s, it was about as dry as dust–mostly bets on life expectancies, marriages and births. Nothing half so interesting as great sporting endeavors. 🙂
    As for the science aspect–I do find it easy for my Georgian characters to take up those pursuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the Regency as well, but my impression–perhaps over-colored by reading too much Heyer–is that it was no longer quite so fashionable.
    Most of my Regency characters’ lives are colored by the Peninsular War and its aftermath; and that was probably the case for many people in real life.

    Reply
  19. Jo, I’m curious: where did you find the bets?
    When I found the online copy of the betting book at White’s, it was about as dry as dust–mostly bets on life expectancies, marriages and births. Nothing half so interesting as great sporting endeavors. 🙂
    As for the science aspect–I do find it easy for my Georgian characters to take up those pursuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the Regency as well, but my impression–perhaps over-colored by reading too much Heyer–is that it was no longer quite so fashionable.
    Most of my Regency characters’ lives are colored by the Peninsular War and its aftermath; and that was probably the case for many people in real life.

    Reply
  20. Jo, I’m curious: where did you find the bets?
    When I found the online copy of the betting book at White’s, it was about as dry as dust–mostly bets on life expectancies, marriages and births. Nothing half so interesting as great sporting endeavors. 🙂
    As for the science aspect–I do find it easy for my Georgian characters to take up those pursuits. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the Regency as well, but my impression–perhaps over-colored by reading too much Heyer–is that it was no longer quite so fashionable.
    Most of my Regency characters’ lives are colored by the Peninsular War and its aftermath; and that was probably the case for many people in real life.

    Reply
  21. Jo here. Shannon, great point about Ashart and astronomy. And yes, travelers were really keen on the scientific details. I think it must have been a fascinating time to live with so many people so keen on ideas.
    And yes on handling books like that, the intensely personal ones.

    Reply
  22. Jo here. Shannon, great point about Ashart and astronomy. And yes, travelers were really keen on the scientific details. I think it must have been a fascinating time to live with so many people so keen on ideas.
    And yes on handling books like that, the intensely personal ones.

    Reply
  23. Jo here. Shannon, great point about Ashart and astronomy. And yes, travelers were really keen on the scientific details. I think it must have been a fascinating time to live with so many people so keen on ideas.
    And yes on handling books like that, the intensely personal ones.

    Reply
  24. Jo here. Shannon, great point about Ashart and astronomy. And yes, travelers were really keen on the scientific details. I think it must have been a fascinating time to live with so many people so keen on ideas.
    And yes on handling books like that, the intensely personal ones.

    Reply
  25. Jo here. Shannon, great point about Ashart and astronomy. And yes, travelers were really keen on the scientific details. I think it must have been a fascinating time to live with so many people so keen on ideas.
    And yes on handling books like that, the intensely personal ones.

    Reply
  26. Ella, if you do investigate, let me know what you find out!
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate Prinnyworld (regence romance world) from the real Regency, but I think there was a shift for women. They could be interested in flowers and such, but not in chemistry or physics. They could do watercolours for hours, but not read philosophy for as long.
    But that’s just my perception. The gentlemen were still as erudite, if so inclined, but to my eye less adventurous and esp. less iconoclastic. The advances in science and esp in technology were coming from the middle classes.
    But I’ve not done a real study.

    Reply
  27. Ella, if you do investigate, let me know what you find out!
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate Prinnyworld (regence romance world) from the real Regency, but I think there was a shift for women. They could be interested in flowers and such, but not in chemistry or physics. They could do watercolours for hours, but not read philosophy for as long.
    But that’s just my perception. The gentlemen were still as erudite, if so inclined, but to my eye less adventurous and esp. less iconoclastic. The advances in science and esp in technology were coming from the middle classes.
    But I’ve not done a real study.

    Reply
  28. Ella, if you do investigate, let me know what you find out!
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate Prinnyworld (regence romance world) from the real Regency, but I think there was a shift for women. They could be interested in flowers and such, but not in chemistry or physics. They could do watercolours for hours, but not read philosophy for as long.
    But that’s just my perception. The gentlemen were still as erudite, if so inclined, but to my eye less adventurous and esp. less iconoclastic. The advances in science and esp in technology were coming from the middle classes.
    But I’ve not done a real study.

    Reply
  29. Ella, if you do investigate, let me know what you find out!
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate Prinnyworld (regence romance world) from the real Regency, but I think there was a shift for women. They could be interested in flowers and such, but not in chemistry or physics. They could do watercolours for hours, but not read philosophy for as long.
    But that’s just my perception. The gentlemen were still as erudite, if so inclined, but to my eye less adventurous and esp. less iconoclastic. The advances in science and esp in technology were coming from the middle classes.
    But I’ve not done a real study.

    Reply
  30. Ella, if you do investigate, let me know what you find out!
    Sometimes it’s hard to separate Prinnyworld (regence romance world) from the real Regency, but I think there was a shift for women. They could be interested in flowers and such, but not in chemistry or physics. They could do watercolours for hours, but not read philosophy for as long.
    But that’s just my perception. The gentlemen were still as erudite, if so inclined, but to my eye less adventurous and esp. less iconoclastic. The advances in science and esp in technology were coming from the middle classes.
    But I’ve not done a real study.

    Reply
  31. The 18th century was cinsidered the age of enlightenment. They thought of themselves as throwing off superstition and looking to natural world — natural philosophy– for answers. It was a time of turning away from religion to science even before Darwin( some of the French did foundation work on evolution) .
    I think the Regency period was more the period of the application of the sciences. It was part of the industrial revolution which was more into things than thought but the things depended on the thoughts of the previous century– if that makes sense.
    Many of the Regency continued being interested in science but they weren’t necessarily interested in the same subjects as previously. Some built on work done previously which is never quite so exciting to report.
    PS I always have wondered why there were no Mallorens in the Regency, Surely the family wasn’t all wiped out by small pox or something.

    Reply
  32. The 18th century was cinsidered the age of enlightenment. They thought of themselves as throwing off superstition and looking to natural world — natural philosophy– for answers. It was a time of turning away from religion to science even before Darwin( some of the French did foundation work on evolution) .
    I think the Regency period was more the period of the application of the sciences. It was part of the industrial revolution which was more into things than thought but the things depended on the thoughts of the previous century– if that makes sense.
    Many of the Regency continued being interested in science but they weren’t necessarily interested in the same subjects as previously. Some built on work done previously which is never quite so exciting to report.
    PS I always have wondered why there were no Mallorens in the Regency, Surely the family wasn’t all wiped out by small pox or something.

    Reply
  33. The 18th century was cinsidered the age of enlightenment. They thought of themselves as throwing off superstition and looking to natural world — natural philosophy– for answers. It was a time of turning away from religion to science even before Darwin( some of the French did foundation work on evolution) .
    I think the Regency period was more the period of the application of the sciences. It was part of the industrial revolution which was more into things than thought but the things depended on the thoughts of the previous century– if that makes sense.
    Many of the Regency continued being interested in science but they weren’t necessarily interested in the same subjects as previously. Some built on work done previously which is never quite so exciting to report.
    PS I always have wondered why there were no Mallorens in the Regency, Surely the family wasn’t all wiped out by small pox or something.

    Reply
  34. The 18th century was cinsidered the age of enlightenment. They thought of themselves as throwing off superstition and looking to natural world — natural philosophy– for answers. It was a time of turning away from religion to science even before Darwin( some of the French did foundation work on evolution) .
    I think the Regency period was more the period of the application of the sciences. It was part of the industrial revolution which was more into things than thought but the things depended on the thoughts of the previous century– if that makes sense.
    Many of the Regency continued being interested in science but they weren’t necessarily interested in the same subjects as previously. Some built on work done previously which is never quite so exciting to report.
    PS I always have wondered why there were no Mallorens in the Regency, Surely the family wasn’t all wiped out by small pox or something.

    Reply
  35. The 18th century was cinsidered the age of enlightenment. They thought of themselves as throwing off superstition and looking to natural world — natural philosophy– for answers. It was a time of turning away from religion to science even before Darwin( some of the French did foundation work on evolution) .
    I think the Regency period was more the period of the application of the sciences. It was part of the industrial revolution which was more into things than thought but the things depended on the thoughts of the previous century– if that makes sense.
    Many of the Regency continued being interested in science but they weren’t necessarily interested in the same subjects as previously. Some built on work done previously which is never quite so exciting to report.
    PS I always have wondered why there were no Mallorens in the Regency, Surely the family wasn’t all wiped out by small pox or something.

    Reply
  36. Because the Georgian period was such an “anything goes” era I think it gave men (and some women) the freedom to pursue those things they might have only dreamed of in a different age. Even in the Regency there were some things gentlemen were discouraged from pursuing as a passion because it was considered “unmanly” in certain circles. In the Georgian era a man could investigate the wildest things his imagination drew him to and even if he masqueraded it as wild follies people were still interested in the results.

    Reply
  37. Because the Georgian period was such an “anything goes” era I think it gave men (and some women) the freedom to pursue those things they might have only dreamed of in a different age. Even in the Regency there were some things gentlemen were discouraged from pursuing as a passion because it was considered “unmanly” in certain circles. In the Georgian era a man could investigate the wildest things his imagination drew him to and even if he masqueraded it as wild follies people were still interested in the results.

    Reply
  38. Because the Georgian period was such an “anything goes” era I think it gave men (and some women) the freedom to pursue those things they might have only dreamed of in a different age. Even in the Regency there were some things gentlemen were discouraged from pursuing as a passion because it was considered “unmanly” in certain circles. In the Georgian era a man could investigate the wildest things his imagination drew him to and even if he masqueraded it as wild follies people were still interested in the results.

    Reply
  39. Because the Georgian period was such an “anything goes” era I think it gave men (and some women) the freedom to pursue those things they might have only dreamed of in a different age. Even in the Regency there were some things gentlemen were discouraged from pursuing as a passion because it was considered “unmanly” in certain circles. In the Georgian era a man could investigate the wildest things his imagination drew him to and even if he masqueraded it as wild follies people were still interested in the results.

    Reply
  40. Because the Georgian period was such an “anything goes” era I think it gave men (and some women) the freedom to pursue those things they might have only dreamed of in a different age. Even in the Regency there were some things gentlemen were discouraged from pursuing as a passion because it was considered “unmanly” in certain circles. In the Georgian era a man could investigate the wildest things his imagination drew him to and even if he masqueraded it as wild follies people were still interested in the results.

    Reply

Leave a Comment