Victorian era

Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism

Herbert Spencer and Social Darwinism

On April 27, 1820, English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era Herbert Spencer was born. Spencer is best known for the expression “survival of the fittest“, which he coined in Principles of Biology (1864), after reading Charles Darwin‘s On the Origin of Species.[4] This term strongly suggests natural selection, yet as Spencer extended evolution into realms of sociology and ethics, he also made use…
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Augustus Pitt Rivers – the Father of British Archaeology

Augustus Pitt Rivers – the Father of British Archaeology

On April 14, 1832, English army officer, ethnologist, and archaeologist Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers was born. He is often called the “father of British archaeology”, who stressed the need for total excavation of sites, through stratigraphic observation and recording, and prompt and complete publication. Like Sir Flinders Petrie, Pitt-Rivers adopted a sociological approach to the study of excavated objects and emphasized the instructional value of common artifacts.[4] “Tedious as it may…
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The Clifton Suspension Bridge – Iconic Landmark of the Industrial Age

The Clifton Suspension Bridge – Iconic Landmark of the Industrial Age

On December 8, 1864, the Clifton Suspension Bridge spanning the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel,[3] was opened for the public. Although Brunel was not able to see the bridge in operation anymore during his lifetime, the Clifton Suspension bridge was the first major commision of the famous engineer of the Great Western Railroad and the then largest steamships in the world. Bridges Across the Avon In…
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William Budd and the Infectious Diseases

William Budd and the Infectious Diseases

On September 14, 1811, English physician and epidemiologist William Budd was born. He is best known known for his discovery that infectious diseases were contagious. A Family of Doctors William Budd was born in North Tawton, Devon. Already his father was a surgeon and also six of the ten children in the family became doctors. Three graduated in Edinburgh and three in Cambridge. William Budd attended the École de Médecine in Paris…
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John Tyndall and the Physics of Air

John Tyndall and the Physics of Air

On August 2, 1820, British physicist John Tyndall was born. His initial scientific fame arose in the 1850s from his study of diamagnetism. Later he made discoveries in the realms of infrared radiation and the physical properties of air. As the most prominent example, he was able to demonstrate why the sky is blue. “Every occurrence in Nature is preceded by other occurrences which are its causes, and succeeded by others which are…
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William Makepeace Thackeray’s deft Skewering of Human Foibles

William Makepeace Thackeray’s deft Skewering of Human Foibles

On July 18, 1811, English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray was born. He was famous for his satirical works, particularly Vanity Fair, a panoramic portrait of English society. During the Victorian era, Thackeray was ranked second only to Charles Dickens, but he is now much less read and is known almost exclusively for Vanity Fair, which has become a standard fixture in university courses and has been repeatedly adapted for movies and television. “Let the…
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Between Realism and Romanticism – Thomas Hardy

Between Realism and Romanticism – Thomas Hardy

On June 2, 1840, English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy was born. A Victorian realist in the tradition of George Eliot, he was influenced both in his novels and in his poetry by Romanticism, especially William Wordsworth.[7] Charles Dickens was his other source of influence, and like Dickens he was highly critical of much in Victorian society. “To find beauty in ugliness is the province of the poet.” — Thomas Hardy, Statement (5 August 1888) Thomas…
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The Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace

The Great Exhibition and the Crystal Palace

On May, 1st, 1851, Queen Victoria opened the Great Exhibition in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, which was the first in a series of World’s Fair exhibitions of culture and industry. A special building, nicknamed The Crystal Palace, a gigantic cast-iron and plate-glass building, was built to house the show on its 92,000 square meters of exhibition space to display examples of the latest technology developed in the Industrial Revolution. If you…
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George Boole – The Founder of Modern Logics

George Boole – The Founder of Modern Logics

On December 8, 1864, British mathematician and logician George Boole passed away. He is best known as the inventor of the prototype of what is now called Boolean logic, which became the basis of the modern digital computer. Thus, Boole also is regarded as one of the founders of the field of computer science. “It appeared to me that, although Logic might be viewed with reference to the idea of quantity, it…
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Thomas Carlyle and his Obsession with “Great Man”

Thomas Carlyle and his Obsession with “Great Man”

On December 4, 1795, Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher Thomas Carlyle was born. Best known for his famous work On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, he argued that the key role in history lies in the actions of the “Great Man“. However, Carlyle is considered one of the most important social commentators of the Victorian era. “The weakest living creature, by concentrating his powers on…
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