Science in the Early Industrial Revolution

  • Colin A. Russell
Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)


As the Enlightenment drew to a close in the final quarter of the eighteenth century so the science that had been its inspiration was to undergo a changing social role. No longer was it to be mainly an ideological weapon in religious or political polemics (though its capacity in this respect was far from exhausted). Nor was it much longer to be a hobby for the rich or a status symbol for social climbers. Its role in society was in fact to change in quite a complicated way, but most obviously in respect of its practical utility. This, of course, is what had been claimed for it ever since Bacon’s time, and with some degree of truth. Science had enabled men to navigate more accurately, just as for centuries it had allowed them to calculate the seasons with ever greater precision. Something like scientific thinking had informed those who analysed material used for coinage or who went on herbalising expeditions in the service of medicine. And that boon to mankind, the lightning conductor, was assuredly the high point of applied science in the Enlightenment. But scientific discoveries had chiefly been of use in stimulating further scientific research.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 3.
    A. R. Hall, From Galileo to Newton,1630–1720 (Collins, 1963) p. 332.Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    F. Home, Experiments on Bleaching (Edinburgh: 1756).Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    A. Clow, ‘Chemistry in Scotland, and its Pioneer Contributions to Textile Technology’, J. Textile Inst., 52 (1961) 204–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 19.
    A. R. Hall, ‘The Royal Society of Arts: Two Centuries of Progress in Science and Technology’, J.Roy. Soc. Arts, 122 (1974) 641–658.Google Scholar
  5. 29.
    T. S. Ashton, The Industrial Revolution 1760–1830 (London, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1970) pp. 16–17.Google Scholar
  6. 35.
    R. S. Watson, The History of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1793–1896 (1897).Google Scholar
  7. 37.
    See G. A. Hedley, Reports of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle (Newcastle: 1823).Google Scholar
  8. 54.
    S. Schaffer, ‘Herschel in Bedlam: Natural History and Stellar Astronomy’, B.J.Hist. Sci. 13 (1980) 211–239 (213–4).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 55.
    H. Hartley, Humphry Davy (Nelson, 1966) pp. 18–37.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Colin A. Russell 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin A. Russell
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

Personalised recommendations