UW–Madison Libraries Services during COVID–19

COVID–19 Library Dashboard
Get the latest information on the status of library spaces and services

The X Club : power and authority in Victorian science

Barton, Ruth, 1945- author

Publication Details Click to collapse Cite/Export

  • Creator Ruth Barton
  • Format Books
  • Publication Chicago : The University of Chicago Press, 2018.
  • Physical Details
    • xii, 604 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • ISBNs 9780226551616, 022655161X, 9780226551753
  • OCLC on1004256541


  • In 1864, amid headline-grabbing heresy trials, members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science were asked to sign a declaration affirming that science and scripture were in agreement. Many criticized the new test of orthodoxy; nine decided that collaborative action was required. The X Club tells their story. These six ambitious professionals and three wealthy amateurs--J. D. Hooker, T. H. Huxley, John Tyndall, John Lubbock, William Spottiswoode, Edward Frankland, George Busk, T. A. Hirst, and Herbert Spencer--wanted to guide the development of science and public opinion on issues where science impinged on daily life, religious belief, and politics. They formed a private dining club, which they named the X Club, to discuss and further their plans. As Ruth Barton shows, they had a clear objective: they wanted to promote "scientific habits of mind," which they sought to do through lectures, journalism, and science education. They devoted enormous effort to the expansion of science education, with real, but mixed, success. For twenty years, the X Club was the most powerful network in Victorian science--the men succeeded each other in the presidency of the Royal Society for a dozen years. Barton's group biography traces the roots of their success and the lasting effects of their championing of science against those who attempted to limit or control it, along the way shedding light on the social organization of science, the interactions of science and the state, and the places of science and scientific men in elite culture in the Victorian era.


  • Includes bibliographical references and index.


  • Introduction: the X Club, 1864-92 -- Nine men who wanted to change the world -- Historians of the X Club -- Introducing this book -- Origins and ambitions. Cultures of science in early Victorian England ; Gentlemanly London science ; Science for self-improvement: Frankland, Tyndall, and Hirst ; Spencer and Huxley: the science and politics of rational dissent ; Spottiswoode at Oxford: a liberal education for a Christian gentleman ; Scientific aspirations, social status, and religious beliefs -- Making career. Finding employment: patronage and pluralism ; Scientific expertise and gentlemanly status ; A taste for campaigning ; Friends -- Speaking for nature. Defending Darwin and expanding the domain of nature ; Alliances: naturalistic science and liberal theology ; The science of man: ethnologists against anthropologists ; The reader: a liberal alliance and its collapse ; Friends and conspirators -- The X Club established. Organizing science ; Specialist societies ; The British association: representing science to the nation ; The Royal Society: power and its symbolic uses ; Men of weight, of craft, and of party ; Public money and the public good. Science in the curriculum I: examination successes ; Science in the curriculum II: lobbying failures ; Money and advice: the reciprocal relations of science and government ; Hirst's career: higher education and London life ; Good and influential men -- Claiming cultural authority. Self-images ; Science militant ; Insiders: scientific men at home among the social elite ; Pulpits for science ; The rhetoric of scientific authority ; Sunday Lecture Societies: the politics of lay sermons ; Cultural leaders -- Retrospective the life, work, and times of the X Club -- Phases of power and friendship, 1860-1900 -- The X Club program: the authority and independence of science and scientific men -- Victorian science and Victorian culture
Checking the Web...