Report of the Thirtieth Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. London: Murray, 1861. Biodiversity Heritage Library. Web. 31 Aug. 2012.
Morrell, Jack, and Arnold Thackray. Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Oxford: Clarendon, 1981. Print.
From Cornell University Library.
Revisionist accounts include those of Altholz, Brooke, Browne, Caudill 27-45, Gilley, Gould, James, Jensen, Livingstone, Lucas, Moore 60-2, and most recently and fully, Hesketh.
Pitkin's Refutation.Chapter 11 - .Chapter 12 - .
The British Association for the Advancement of Science was a relatively young organization in 1860, having been founded just thirty years before. Membership and participation were to be more meritocratic than Britain’s most prestigious and much older scientific body, the Royal Society of London (f. 1660), although gaining power and authority meant inclusion of sympathetic aristocrats, urban gentry, and wealthy manufacturers. To promote the pursuit of science throughout Britain, the Association’s annual meeting moved from city to city, and some of the proceedings were open to the public. The Association was dominated in its early decades, however, by a gentlemanly elite centered in London and Cambridge, many of them in holy orders (see Morrell and Thackray). For these men, mindful of the connections between scientific materialism and radical politics and atheism, particularly in France and among the medical community in London (see Desmond, Politics of Evolution), natural science should be pursued and defended as a buttress to Christianity, and thus to the moral and political order of society. This gentlemanly elite reserved to itself the right to speculate and theorize; those from the provinces or without connections to traditional institutional bulwarks like the ancient universities or the Royal College of Surgeons were expected to confine themselves to such empirical enterprises as field observations and data collection, preferably as part of a larger project endorsed by the elites.
Richardson speaks about James and the Varieties.
Thus it was that, fifteen years earlier, at the 1845 BAAS meeting at Cambridge, the Association’s leading lights had attacked another work of evolutionary speculation, the recently-published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (Secord 406-10). Vestiges had appeared anonymously and become a cultural and scientific sensation; the work of Edinburgh publisher Robert Chambers (Fig. 5), it synthesized evidence from across the natural sciences to present a grand cosmic narrative of change and development. Such evolutionary ideas were dangerous in the eyes of the British scientific elite, particularly in the economic depression and social turmoil of the 1840s. Many—including the young Huxley—also saw Vestiges as marred by numerous scientific errors. For Darwin, who had then just completed a draft of his own theory, the response to Vestiges provided a cautionary example of what might lie in store for him. Over the ensuing years, he was determined to distinguish his work from Vestiges and avoid the latter’s mistakes and provocations. As a well-respected member of the scientific elite himself, Darwin had reason to hope for a less vituperative reception than the anonymous author of Vestiges had received, but he knew well that his ideas would nonetheless unleash similar criticisms.
Lowell Lecture Hall, Harvard, May 2007.
Figure 9: One of the many contemporary cartoons and caricatures casting Darwin as a monkey or an ape. Note the phallic and serpentine quality of Darwin’s tail.