Hi, 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.
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.
This 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.
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?