Punch,  51 (1866), 99.

The Philosophers at Nottingham



Illustration, Drollery; Song, Drollery

Relevant illustrations:



C H B, pseud.  [Charles H Bennett] *


Societies, Scientific Practitioners, Mapping, Philosophy, Physical Geography, Travel, Anatomy, Zoology, Military Technology, Geology, Stratigraphy, Chemistry, Antiseptics, Animal Husbandry, Disease, Aeronautics, Meteorology, Heat, Experiment, Light, Instruments, Spectroscopy, Astronomy, Animal Development, Evolution, Darwinism, Progress, War, Heroism

    A commentary on the 1866 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Nottingham. The illustration shows some of the stars of the meeting rolling on globes, often holding the artefacts used in their scientific labours, on a large spiral. At the top stands the association's president, William R Grove, who wields a sun labelled 'Continuity' and stands on a sphere marked 'Correlation' (a reference to Grove 1846). Further down is Roderick I Murchison, who stands on a globe and holds a banner labelled 'Traveller's Friend' (an allusion to Murchison's extensive cartographic enterprises), and Thomas H Huxley who balances on the skull of an ape and plays with some bones. Next down, the rifle-wielding William Fairbairn jumps off a forty-pound cannon ball and the geographer Matthew F Maury operates some bellows. Further around is a falling Andrew C Ramsay clad in a cartographic sphere, William Crookes holding some fuming chemical jars and standing on his 'Carbolic' spray, and William Odling, standing on a chemical bottle and trying to shield himself from Crookes's demonstration. On the bottom spiral, James Glaisher is being hoisted by a large balloon attached to his coat, John Tyndall rides on a gargantuan teapot marked 'Invisible Heat', an elderly David Brewster stands astride a giant pair of spectacles, and William Huggins, his head composed of a large glass prism within which a small sun is contained, is seen holding the scales and bottle of an analytical chemist, whilst standing on a small sun (a reference to Huggins's use of spectrum analysis to gauge the sun's chemical composition). The song, which describes the illustration, begins by asking forgiveness for showing the austere 'High Priesthood' of science as 'figures of fun' and each verse explains how the artist has illustrated each as an 'Ethardo atop of his globe'. The next verse describes Grove and alludes to the presidential address in which he discussed 'continuity' and explained, on Darwinian principles, the biological development of an elephant from the 'trunk of a tree'. The following verse praises Murchison as a 'kind friend of adventurous travellers' and one of the great 'unravellers' of geographical 'secrets', notes Huxley's playing with bones, and Maury 'Blowing the storms to appropriate zones'. The song then describes how Fairbairn heard 'how bombs in the air burn, / And rifles hit hardest' and anticipates the importance of his work 'in days when we dare burn / War's gory stories', and then praises Ramsay's extensive stratigraphical and geological knowledge. The next verse opens by describing how Crookes 'for a frolic' dispensed his 'Carbolic' spray until Odling asked him to 'discontinue his smells', and then notes Glaisher's travels in a balloon 'charged with Blue Mist' and how Tyndall, 'whose honours are safe from erasure', rode a giant teapot. The concluding verse opens by praising 'Binocular' Brewster, whose fame shines with 'brilliant lustre', notes how Huggins 'the starry' is perched on a sun, and ends by affirming the 'fun' of 'Philosophy'.

© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020

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