Gregory Bridgman (Cambridge) / Eoin Carter (Cambridge)

Zwei wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Vorträge im Oberseminar

28.11.2019 16:00 Uhr – 18:00 Uhr

wann: Donnerstag, 28. November 2019, 16-18 Uhr

wo: Historicum, Schellingstr. 12, Raum K026

Vortrag im Rahmen des Oberseminars "Perspektiven der Wissenschaftsgeschichte"

Gergory Bridgman: Beyond trichromacy - Colour Perception as a Site of Ontological and Epistemic Tension during the Formation of Late 19th Century Scientific Disciplines

In the early to mid 19th century the Young-Helmholtz trichromatic theory of colour vision proved successful at conceptually integrating the empirical principles of trichromatic colour mixture with the theoretical principles of the Newtonian colour spectrum. Despite this initial explanatory success, the Young-Helmholtz model failed in its first two major practical applications outside the domains of physical and ophthalmological research. Both apparent failures stemmed from the use of a colour vision testing system based on trichromatic principles. This seminar presentation will explore the extent to which these technological failures were emblematic of the unclear and contested domain that colour perception occupied between the epistemic and ontological frameworks of physics, physiology, and psychology in the context of late 19th century British science.


Eoin Carter: "Science is the Antichrist": Popular Science, Radicalism, and Irreligion in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain

In 1820 the radical journalist Richard Carlile declared in the pages of his journal The Republican that science had for centuries been "continually at war" with religion. While historians have tended to locate the conflict thesis as the product of debates much later in the nineteenth century, in this paper I show how a militant, scientifically-inflected irreligion was a recurrent feature of radical agitation in Britain as early as the 1820s and ‘30s. In underground discussion groups and new printed spaces Carlile and his largely working-class followers developed what they termed a ‘zetetic’ philosophy, in which recent advances in anatomy and chemistry were taken as definitive proof that mankind, the mind, and even ideas themselves were no more than matter-in-motion. With intelligence reframed as a kind of mental capital, the product of mental labour, it followed that it too must be subject to laws of accumulation and distribution: from which the eventual triumph of working-class enlightenment was assured as a matter of deterministic inevitability. For all its ephemerality, the creativity and boldness of zetetic thought does much to complicate our understanding of the politics of British secularisation later in the century.