Journal of the History of Biology

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 115–147 | Cite as

Amateurs and Professionals in One County: Biology and Natural History in Late Victorian Yorkshire

  • Samuel J.M.M. Alberti


My goals in this paper are twofold: to outline there fashioning of amateur and professional roles in life science in late Victorian Yorkshire, and to provide a revised historiography of the relationship between amateurs and professionals in this era. Some historical treatments of this relationship assume that amateurs were demoralized by the advances of laboratory science, and so ceased to contribute and were left behind by the autonomous “new biology.” Despite this view, I show that many amateurs played a vital part in the construction of a professional academic community in urban Yorkshire, and then continued to collaborate with the laboratory-based biologists. The key to any analysis of the relationship between amateurs and professionals is the great variety of amateur identities and practices in Victorian Yorkshire. The amateur-professional riftfallacy arose because laboratory biologists fashioned an identity in conscious opposition to a particular type of amateur: an ideal that belied an array of co-operative relationships. As naturalists refashioned their roles and identities in light of the changes within academe and without, debates about the practice and place of life science took place as often among amateurs as between professionals and amateurs.

amateurs biology Denny England field Gatty laboratory Miall natural history nineteenth century professionalization Roebuck Sorby Yorkshire 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel J.M.M. Alberti
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Division of History and Philosophy of Science, School of PhilosophyUniversity of LeedsLeedsU.K.
  2. 2.Center for Nineteenth Century Studies, School of English LiteratureUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldU.K.

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