Grove and His Elephant; or, Ce N'est Que Le Premier Pas Qui Coüte
Societies, Scientific Practitioners, Mapping, Geology, Ether, Light, Spectroscopy, Heat, Electricity, Magnetism, Cell Biology, Vitalism, Energy, Force, Matter Theory, Education, Metaphysics, Cosmology, Eschatology, Animal Development, Evolution, Darwinism, Progress
A commentary on William R Grove's presidential address to the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Nottingham. Begins by noting the wide domain of the sciences discussed by Grove, including the way that science 'Pokes his fingers well under the Earth's crust', 'Pulls Geology's plums from their dust', 'Treads, serene, æther's luminous field with an eye above fancies or fallacies', 'Puts star-light through spectrum-analysis', and 'Shows the Universe in its simplicity', reducing life to 'Cell, plus the power of so many horses'. Proceeds to explain how Grove's reductionist claims would be received in some quarters. Warns that while 'spectra and forces' have settled the question of the constitution of matter, 'weak people' will still ask 'who made it?' and, 'Not content with cell-matter and force', 'insist on some primum mobile'. Describes how Grove anticipated such objections and dealt with nature's 'ends' and 'beginning', explaining that he traced the growth of an elephant from a cell 'Under pressure, by process Darwinian. Believes that this is at least as shocking at that of a 'ready-made elephant / Bringing his truck from the heart of a rock' or 'wringing' its tusks from a 'hollow-tree', and concludes by siding with the 'weak people', by upholding the things in 'heaven and earth [...] Not dreamt of in Grovian philosophy', and asserting that 'Folks' will not replace their 'old lights for the new' seen through spectra, or believe that they grew 'Like an Elephant made à la Darwin'.
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
Printed from Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical: An Electronic Index, v. 4.0, The Digital Humanities Institute <http://www.sciper.org> [accessed ]