Chapter 3 The Newtonian Enlightenment 


The cultural ascendancy of science in the late seventeenth century from a body of knowledge once promoted by its select devotees in Florence, Paris, or London, to the cornerstone of progressive thought among the educated laity occurred with extraordinary rapidity. We can date that transformation in the role of science in Western culture quite precisely from the 1680s to the 1720s. Within one generation the transformation was complete in northern and western Europe, and mechanically based science had left the hands of its first crusaders and visionaries and gone into the everyday language of journalists, learned societies, coffeehouse lectures, and church sermons. As a result, it transformed the way urban merchants, progressive aristocrats, and just simply literate gentlemen, and some gentlewomen, understood the physical world around them.


Indeed this assimilation was so rapid, and its impact so great, that historians since the 1930s have identified that period in European culture from the 1680s to the 1720s as one of profound crisis. Out of that crisis emerged a mentality discernibly modern, a new cultural movement, the ""age of enlightenment.'' At that moment, high culture distinguished itself completely and irrevocably from the culture of the people. Science became essential to educated discourse, and so too did heterodoxy. A new rationalism, ""active, zealous and intrepid'' as one leading cultural historian of the period has described it,1 became a weapon against Christian orthodoxy and piety, as well as against established authority. Among the educated, new religious persuasions appeared, some indebted to scientific renderings of nature, others derived from popular or ancient sources: Socinianism, Jansenism, deism, pantheism, freethinking. The first denied the Trinity and argued for a universal natural religion; the second (more pious than any of the others) called for a spiritual and pietistic renewal of Catholicism that severed its linkage to monarchical absolutism; the third relegated God to the role of a clockmaker. Pantheism and freethinking words first used in the early 1700's amounted to a disdain for all forms of organized religion that led some bold spirits to proclaim nature as the only God. All amounted to a massive shift away from religious toward secular culture or, in the case of Jansenism, toward a critical posture hostile to the traditional support given to monarchy by the French church.


In making that shift possible the new science proved to be a decisive element. It offered a new definition of creation, and hence of the Creator, that fostered a new religiosity. But in the hands of freethinkers science also permitted the first articulation of a coherent universe without any creator. The roots of our uniquely modern ability to examine nature and society as self-contained entities and to offer explanations totally natural, that is entirely human, lie in the crisis of the late seventeenth century. The maturation of that new ability can be found in the naturalistic uses to which science and natural philosophy were put during the eighteenth-century Enlightenment.


In consequence, so many of our contemporary beliefs about science have been inherited from the Enlightenment: a faith in its progressive nature leading to constant improvement of the human condition; its supposed superiority to mere beliefs, opinions, and subjective judgment; the heroic role of the scientist; the presumed need for all other disciplines, however social their focus, to be ""scientific''; and not least, the absolute right of free scientific inquiry as an extension of freedom from censorship a freedom demanded regardless of the social or moral consequences of that inquiry. With this sort of cultural legacy, it is extremely difficult to use our historical imagination and realize that these assumptions emerged as dominant in our culture only early in the eighteenth century. Their rapid acceptance in northern and western Europe was provoked by a European-wide cultural crisis primarily political, yet also social, in its origins.


At that critical moment the new science, whether in its Cartesian or Newtonian form, if coupled with a tolerant version of Christianity, seemed the only alternative to the cultural rigidity and intolerance increasingly associated with the absolutist state and its clergy. This synthesis of science and Christianity also served to combat new varieties of cultural radicalism, the old naturalism of the people, the new naturalism of the literate proponents of materialism and pantheism, and the sectarian enthusiasm of popular religiosity. Such a cultural role for science owed much to the ideological struggles embraced by the seventeenth-century prophets and promoters of science from Galileo through Gassendi, Descartes, Boyle, and the Cambridge Platonists. When early in the seventeenth century they began to enlist the mechanical philosophy against the culture of ""the vulgar,'' they imagined that some sort of alliance between the established church and state on the one hand and science on the other was possible, indeed inevitable. By the 1680s such an alliance, with the freedom of inquiry and practical application for science that it implied, seemed doomed by the pretensions of absolutist monarchy throughout Continental Europe but now especially in France and England.



In 1685 Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes and sent over one hundred thousand French Protestants into exile in search of religious toleration. Those who remained either converted to Catholicism or faced persecution. Simultaneously Louis XIV embarked on an aggressive foreign policy that threatened the territorial integrity of the Low Countries, both north and south, as well as the western German cities and principalities. In England James II, as we have seen (pp. 91-93), sought to install Catholics within the army and the universities, that is, to undermine the Anglican church. By this time rigid censorship was already an established fact of life in much of Catholic Europe,2 as was clerical control over the universities. Indeed the absolutist nature of the Hapsburg monarchy in Spain was so long established that its relative decline was largely missed by many astute and hostile observers. Suddenly the 1680s in western Europe resembled the 1580s. Continental Protestants feared for their survival, monarchs once again sanctioned religious persecution, religious refugees crowded into the urban centers of the Low Countries, and Protestant intellectuals went in pilgrimage to London, Amsterdam, and Geneva. Within that context came the crisis out of which the Enlightenment emerged.


Predictably, given the immediate political causes of the crisis, its impact came first in the area of political beliefs and values. Beginning in the 1680s we see a rapid disintegration of confidence in the doctrine of the divine right of kings, an increasing emphasis among political theorists on the rights of subjects rather than on their duties. To justify those attacks on absolutism, natural law theorists of a previous era (such as Hugo Grotius) were invoked, and arguments for the rule of law rather than will became fashionable. The prevalency of such arguments among the political opponents of absolutism may indeed have encouraged a predisposition to the new science among them, a desire for the experimental rather than the simply memorized or doctrinal, and a sympathy with general theories operating according to predictable laws and not whimsical forces. The assault on absolutism and Catholicism also gave credibility to the rhetoric of probability over that of absolute certainty. It is hardly accidental that one of the most subtle historians of Protestantism, the Anglican polemicist Bishop Gilbert Burnet, argued for the probable certainty of knowledge, scientific and otherwise, against the claims to eternal, and hence absolute, authority made by Catholic historians.3


The crisis that began in the 1680s also gave a European significance to events and ideologies that were fresh in the minds of English Protestants such as Burnet, Boyle, and their associates. In short, the political crisis of the late seventeenth century brought the legacy of the first of the great modern revolutions into the mainstream of European thought. There it merged with indigenously Continental traditions of anticlericalism, philosophical heresy, and antiabsolutism. The English Revolution of mid-century had produced a body of political, religious, and scientific thought so rich and complex that once discovered by the European opponents of absolutism it became a major source for that synthesis we describe as enlightened. The English version of the new science, whether in the form of Hobbes's materialism or Boyle's Christian atomism, had been, as we have seen in the previous chapter, inextricably bound up since the early 1650s with the search for an alternative to rigid Puritanism, to radical sectarianism, as well as to the pretensions of absolutist monarchy supported by an independent and culturally dominant clergy. The science and natural philosophy of Boyle and Newton in that sense was the by-product of a revolution against the established clergy and the absolutist state. It is little wonder that English theorists from the liberal Anglican promoters of science to Hobbes and the republicans appealed to a Continental audience that included French Huguenots, Dutch lawyers and doctors, French poets of minor aristocratic background (like Voltaire), and an entire generation of Protestant refugee journalists. Exiled in the Dutch republic and armed with their native command of French, these journalists used the freedom of their presses in a vast campaign against absolutism.4 Not incidentally, through translations and explications they introduced educated Europeans, literate in French, to English science and culture.



Coupled with the political origins of the crisis were other cultural factors, by the late seventeenth century more cumulative than traumatic in their effect. The increase in European traffic to non-Western nations had produced a travel literature richly descriptive of customs and beliefs that were totally non-Christian, yet ""curiously'' moral. Although much racism and Christian chauvinism were mixed into the Western response to the non-West, by the late seventeenth century the cumulative effect of that literature had been to call into question the absolute validity of religious customs long regarded, especially by the clergy, as paramount. And not least, a century of Protestant versus Catholic polemics about the biblical authorization for either version of Christianity had, willy-nilly, rendered the Bible into a historical document. Once reduced to human scale, its contents were open to sceptical scrutiny. Such scrutiny when offered to the literate could only render the task of instruction more difficult for the clergy. Simultaneously, literacy increased in England and Scotland (and possibly in the Dutch republic), especially during the second half of the seventeenth century. On both sides of the Channel by 1700 probably 50 percent of males were in some sense literate. In France the figures were nowhere as high, but after 1700 they were increasing, not stagnating or declining. In Protestant Germany literacy, in the sense of reading, appears to have been common, although by no means a mass or majority phenomenon by the late sixteenth century.5 The presence of active literacy in early modern Europe is notoriously difficult to calculate, but it would seem to be increasing among urban men and possibly women in the period after 1680. This may have been coupled with a decline or stagnation in the rural or poorer areas of Europe, thereby further widening the gap between elite and popular culture. The crisis of Western culture that gave birth to the widespread assimilation of the new mechanical science was profound precisely because of the presence of a large literate citizenry, greater than any ever assembled since ancient times.


Not least in the course of this crisis stands the failure of the older, scholastic culture to deal effectively with the challenges presented by new experience and empirical data. Indeed by the 1680s it could be said that elite culture had been badly served by the guardians of religious orthodoxy. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both Catholic and Protestant theologians had based the metaphysics of such doctrines as transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and the Trinity on scholasticism, that is, on the Aristotelianism of the schools. Yet as early as the 1630s, after Galileo's confrontation with the church and the publication of Descartes's Discourse on Method (1637), it was clear that Aristotle and Ptolemy no longer adequately described the operations of the natural world, either celestial or terrestial.


The threat to the metaphysics of orthodox Christianity was real and immediate, yet despite the efforts of Gassendi or the Christian Cartesians to salvage basic doctrines, the clergy of the schools resolutely clung to the old scholastic explanations. By the 1680s one could still find Aristotelians in powerful positions in any school in almost every country, but in western and northern Europe they were on the defensive. They now desperately sometimes mindlessly sought to maintain doctrinal orthodoxy in the face of the destruction of Aristotelian natural philosophy.



Eventually the more ingenious clergy, largely of Protestant Europe, realized that it would be necessary to construct a new Christian religiosity based in large measure on mechanical assumptions. That was precisely the synthesis developed by moderate Anglicans, who had been forced under the impact of the English Revolution to rethink the relationship between the natural order, society, and religion. Eventually all progressive European Christians, from the German philosopher Leibniz to the Cartesian priest Malebranche, would be forced to restructure the philosophical foundations of Christianity to conform to one or another version of the new science. It is hardly surprising that liberal Anglicanism, wedded as it was by the 1690s to Newtonian science, took the lead in this enterprise. The Boyle lectures were quickly translated into a variety of Continental languages, and Samuel Clarke became the leading theologian of the godly version of the Enlightenment. Later in the eighteenth century Rousseau invoked the teachings of Clarke, whereas French materialists such as Baron d'Holbach saw him as one of their prime enemies.


In tandem with this liberal version of Christianity came the science of Boyle and Newton. In stark contrast to the doctrinal rigidity of the French Catholic church, or of fundamentalist Calvinism, the English theologians in the tradition of the Cambridge Platonists preached a natural religion founded on reasonable expectations of salvation in the afterlife and reward in this life. The laws of science vindicated God's existence, and the instilling of belief in order, both social and natural, took precedence over such doctrines as transubstantiation and the Trinity. Suddenly a version of Christianity emerged that focused on achievements in this world, on a Christianized self-interest; and this version also embraced the physical universe delineated by the new science.


After 1689 this liberal Christianity became associated in the minds of Europeans with two extraordinary developments. The first was a successful and bloodless revolution in 1688-1689 that removed an absolutist king, James II, established parliamentary sovereignty, and forced the Dutch stadholder, William of Orange, to accept a Bill of Rights as one of the conditions for his ascent to the English throne. It also established a limited religious toleration for all English Protestants, although not for Catholics or anti-Trinitarians. The second innovation was Newtonian science. In the 1690s liberal Anglican clergymen championed both the political settlement of 1689 and the Newtonian synthesis, and related one to the other.


Suddenly the new consensus forged in England stood in stark contrast to the capriciousness of Continental absolutism. A viable national and Anglican church remained amid limited religious toleration, clergymen offered justification for revolution and constitutional government, and a new experimental science had uncovered previously unknown and universal laws. The Newtonian system of the world could be championed as the model for the stable, harmonious, moderately Christian polity ruled by law, not by an arbitrary and capricious will. This polity was the creation of the parliamentary class: large landowners, prosperous merchants, voting freeholders. Political revolution against absolutism had been achieved without social upheaval, without an uprising of the lower orders. Not least, the alliance of England and The Netherlands against the French colossus proved effective. By 1710 the French king had been humiliated on the battlefield; his treasury also stood empty. In this period we should never underestimate the cultural implications of military victory or defeat.



Yet before we explore this triumphant Newtonian Enlightenment, as well as the radical alternatives offered to its theism by materialists, pantheists, and atheists who were themselves enamored of the new science we should examine the variety of uses to which scientific knowledge was put during the crisis of the late seventeenth century. The psychological epicenter of that crisis lay predictably within Protestant culture, where the traditional responses of piety, prayer, and biblical prophecy came to be seen as increasingly inadequate.


We may take as typical of that older Protestant tradition the mentality of a Protestant Dissenter   of southern England, one Samuel Jeake (b. 1652). He was a highly literate merchant who read widely, whose family favored the Puritan side during the civil wars and who, himself, supported the revolution of 1688-1689. From an early age he began to interpret the events in his life, as well as revolutions in the polity, in astrological terms. This is not to say that he knew nothing of the new science; he certainly read William Harvey's treatise on anatomy and the circulation of the blood. But the culture of the Royal Society or the publication of Newton's Principia (1687) passed him by completely. In the early 1690s he found himself on the defensive as he tried to justify astrology ""experimentally'' and to show that events in 1688-1689 conformed to the radical alterations of the planets in those years.6 Yet his faith in astrology never wavered; nor did his belief that the events in his lifetime had somehow been foretold by the scriptural prophecies.


In the 1690s such responses were still commonplace. The Huguenot minister Pierre Jurieu and his followers identified Louis XIV as the Antichrist of biblical prophecy and predicted his demise. Jurieu cast a cold eye on natural religion or indeed on any version of Protestant rationalism that denied the clergy an independent and dominant role in the state. He persecuted the Huguenot refugee journalist Pierre Bayle, who in turn used his encyclopedic Dictionnaire historique et critique (1697) to mock the doctrinal rigidity of those who predict the future, as well as to scorn absolutism.7


Laymen like Bayle, so typical of the crisis, embraced the new science in his case in its Cartesian form as an antidote to the scholastic pretensions of the orthodox clergy, both Catholic and Calvinist. Of course this new encyclopedic mind with its passion to order and classify was deeply indebted to the Baconian method of classification and collection. Bayle was the foremost encyclopedist of his age, and where we find his Dictionnaire being reedited or imitated in the eighteenth century we will also find journalists with a keen interest in the new science.


The prophetic vision of Francis Bacon, his call to classify all knowledge, did not require the science of Boyle or Newton for its survival or application. It appealed to the organizers of knowledge, those directly connected with the printed word, who by the late seventeenth century faced the monumental task of simply keeping track of all that was now being published. The line of influence from Bacon to the great encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, Diderot's Encyclopedie (1751), lies through the world of journalists and publishers, particularly in France and the Dutch Republic, who were forced to devise cataloguing and classificatory systems just to keep abreast of their inventory.8 Their receptivity to the new science lay partly in its salability, but it also grew out of their own sense of the necessity to order the world around them. The inordinate number of Huguenot refugees many of them once Parisian booksellers drawn after 1685 to the freer presses of England and The Netherlands meant that presses receptive to science were also the centers for antiabsolutist and anti-Catholic propaganda.9


Among the most important Continental promoters of the new science, particularly in its English form, was the liberal Arminian*


*See glossary of terms. minister and journalist Jean Le Clerc. His Bibliotheque universelle et historique, published in Holland, disseminated news of the Principia to thousands of French readers, and it also championed the liberal Christianity of the Anglican moderates. In addition Le Clerc embraced the epistemology of his friend John Locke, whose Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690) had proclaimed the senses as the starting point of all knowledge.10 Locke had come to intellectual maturity deeply under the influence of the new science as explicated by Robert Boyle, and not surprisingly his philosophy laid emphasis on the external, physical world as the starting point of all knowledge.


Locke and his place within international Protestant circles are perfectly symbolic of the European crisis and its resolution. In the 1680s as an English opponent of royal absolutism he fled for safety to the Dutch Republic. There he became closely associated with liberal Calvinists such as Le Clerc as well as with English refugees of radical background, such as the Quaker merchant Benjamin Furly. Together they discussed every aspect of the contemporary scene: the threat from France, the danger of invasion, Locke's ideas on parliamentary sovereignty, which he had worked out primarily in the early 1680s when James II's ascent to the throne appeared inevitable.11 Not least, he and Furly were familiar with the latest medical theories and with medical reformers who attempted to apply both mechanical and hermetic theories to their practice. In Locke, who was an accomplished doctor, and his circle we see the confluence of interest in the new science and hostility to doctrinal rigidity and absolutism in short, the Enlightenment in embryo.


Likewise in that circle during the 1690s we can see the confusion of possibilities open to the educated layman in search of alternatives to rigid orthodoxy and authoritarianism. The influence of hermeticists, such as the alchemist F. M. van Helmont (d. 1698?), was still in evidence;12 indeed Furly himself believed in the mystical doctrine of metempsychosis that is, the migration of souls after death. By contrast Le Clerc and liberal Dutch theologians argued for science, theism, and toleration, while young refugee journalists, who would later edit Bayle and become radical materialists, found Furly's circle and his library an interesting place to congregate.13 All were drawn together by the wars against France (1689-1697 and 1701-1713) and the very real fear of a French invasion. In their midst English radicals of freethinking inclination such as John Toland (see pp. 96-97) visited and sought converts; the radical version of the Enlightenment mingled in its early years with moderacy.


At this stage in its cultural history scientific knowledge was still very much a matter of philosophical principles, cosmologies, and rules of reasoning. It was part of the search for an alternative synthesis among educated laymen, doctors, merchants, journalists, politicians, and liberal clerics, for a way out of the crisis provoked by clerical and monarchical authority. Science had not yet become, as it would very shortly, by the 1720s, a body of learning for laymen to master, practice, and apply. Yet to what extraordinary uses natural philosophy could be put within the context ""of an entire philosophical liberty,'' as one of Furly's circle described the desired effect of the ""mighty Light which spreads itself over the world especially in those two free Nations of England and Holland.''14


An example of that light is the assault on magic and popular superstition as elite culture defined it launched by the scientific rationalist and Dutch Calvinist minister Balthasar Bekker. From his vantage point as a citizen of a vast seafaring empire, Bekker compiled a massive catalogue of the superstitions and magical practices found both at home and abroad. Introduced to rationalism and the new science by reading Descartes, Bekker embraced both while retaining his own version of Christian orthodoxy. Where the Bible speaks in the language of the people, as for example in asserting geocentricity, Bekker simply dismissed its cosmology as rhetoric necessary to keep the attention of the common folk. Likewise he denounced the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as simply unreasonable.15 Where the Bible clearly speaks in the voice of God, as in the prophecies that describe the time and circumstances of the end of the world, it must be taken literally. Fideism and Cartesianism mixed in Bekker's mind so typical of the transition we are describing in such a way as to permit him to render a major theoretical assault against magic and still remain a millenarian.16 His De Betoverde Wereld (The World Bewitched, 1691) was dedicated to a mathematician and the burgermeester (mayor) of his native city, Franeker, and it pitted the mechanical philosophy of Descartes against all tovery en spokery (witchery and spookery). Bekker sought ""to banish the devil from the world and bind him in hell so that the King Jesus might rule more freely.'' It also labeled the Catholic church as the kingdom of the devil.17 When he translated his textbook on magic into French, Bekker muted that outright assault on Catholicism and confined himself to attacking the superstitions of ""popish'' priests. Bekker's French text took its place among a number of such assaults on popular religiosity emanating from French rationalist as well as Jansenist circles. Once again the new science was enlisted against the pagan naturalism of the people,18 and Bekker's text became a standard and widely read work of the early Enlightenment. We may see him as a transitional figure, not unlike Newton, who combined scientific rationalism with intense religious piety and millenarianism. Yet both thinkers addressed themselves to the laity or to liberal clerics; indeed as might well be imagined, Bekker quarreled with other Calvinist clergy. We might also recall that Newton limited his anti-Trinitarianism to discussions with those clergy who were his Newtonian followers and, possibly, John Locke.


In France Cartesianism had been used by clerical supporters of absolutism to render glory to the Sun King19 (see pp. 64-66). Indeed, a French Huguenot was one of the first to attack those scientific mandarins and to argue that science should serve other, more humane ends.20 But in the hands of Dutch Protestants such as Bekker we can see where Cartesian science might have led had it not been for its negative associations with French absolutism and for the lingering fears about the materialistic implications of Cartesian matter theory.


Indeed, throughout the seventeenth century doubts lingered among the clergy about the meaning of Descartes's radical separation of mind from body. Dutch anti-Cartesians had been vociferous in the 1640s about the danger of materialism (see pp. 68-69). The Cambridge Platonists of the 1660s had sought for similar reasons to lead a new generation of students away from the French philosophy (see pp. 85-87); and as late as 1671 the Scottish Cartesians in Edinburgh actively taught Descartes while still warning against atheistic attempts to use the mechanical philosophy to undermine religion.21 All those warnings, however dire, preceded the impact made by the Amsterdam philosopher Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677).



Born into a family of recently immigrated Portuguese Jews and the son of a merchant, Spinoza read Descartes as part of his school education. As one contemporary biographer put it, from Descartes Spinoza learned ""that nothing ought to be admitted as true, but what has been proved by good and solid reason.''22 Spinoza combined his reading of Descartes with deep knowledge of classical and Hebraic texts. Out of that melange he forged a solution to the Cartesian separation of mind and body that possessed devastating implications for all forms of organized religion. The fears of a century were actualized in Spinoza. He constructed a natural, philosophically anchored version of the human and natural worlds that John Toland, the English radical and follower of Bruno, labeled pantheism.23 Briefly stated, Spinoza asserted the existence of one infinite substance in the universe, namely Nature or God. He argued that it is illogical or contradictory to posit two kinds of substance, as did all traditional Christian metaphysics, in other words to posit the infinity of God and the separate finiteness of matter. In true Cartesian fashion Spinoza pursued his reason to its clear and distinct conclusion. In the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) he presented his pantheism in an eminently readable fashion and linked it with a philosophy of total freedom from intellectual constraint and with his republicanism.


In the midst of the crisis of the late seventeenth century, spinozism proved the most virulent heresy, and its debt to the new science was inescapable. Spinoza accepted all the Cartesian and mechanical definitions of matter and motion. He then perversely collapsed matter into spirit, God into nature, and a nightmare for Christian natural philosophers became a reality. First Hobbes, then Spinoza very different, to be sure, in their philosophies of government and both were so comfortable with purely naturalistic, materialistic, pantheistic explanations of man, society, and nature. Whatever adjective we use should not obscure the adjective most commonly used by contemporaries: atheistic.


To this day the spinozism of those decades possesses a murky history. To its opponents it was everywhere; yet just try to find an avowed spinozist. The Dutch Republic spawned the heresy, and there it can be found among very private circles of professional men, not least of them publishers and journalists. They invented and circulated clandestine treatises that proclaimed Jesus, Moses, and Mohammed as imposters; they championed all science and taught themselves mathematics. They were republicans and critics of monarchical authority; and they had little use for the clergy of the Dutch Reformed Church, who had the right to interrogate heretics and force the authorities to do something to silence them. In their private letters spinozists described the providential God of Christianity as ""the god of the lazy.''24 In short they took care of themselves in a competitive world and never resorted to traditional piety for solace. We know of a postal official and servant of the Austrian administration in Brussels in the early eighteenth century who was a spinozist. It all sounds harmless enough from this distance until we realize that this official almost certainly assisted his publisher friends to ship clandestine and heretical literature into France, to undermine the authority of both its church and state. Eventually, in the 1740s, he lost his job because he could not resist publishing and circulating himself yet another heretical piece, a Jansenist work that attacked absolutism.25


Jobs and careers could be lost in this period if an individual was accused of irreligion, especially of spinozism. In 1668 an Amsterdam lawyer and doctor who belonged to Spinoza's circle and publicly blasphemed the Judeo-Christian tradition got a sentence of ten years in prison; he died there the following year. In the early eighteenth century Tyssot de Patot, a professor of natural philosophy and mathematics at Deventer in The Netherlands, lost his position for holding heretical views and was ostracized from polite society. Not incidentally he had known Toland in The Hague, where they exchanged clandestine manuscripts a form of communication for heretical thought that became commonplace during the Enlightenment.26 An English deist, Thomas Woolston (d. 1733), who challenged the authority of the Bible in matters miraculous and prophetic, died in prison. In Paris during the 1720s the authorities closed down an aristocratic club, L'Entresol, because its members toyed with spinozism and free thought. The leading Continental Newtonian of the first half of the century, William Jacob s'Gravesande (see pp. 185-187), was accused of Spinozism a heresy to which he did not subscribe but of which he might be accused by devout Dutch Calvinists simply because of his intense involvement with the new science. His successor to the chair of natural philosophy at the University of Leiden, J. N. S. Allamand, was similarly accused although he too successfully protested his innocence.27 In Leipzig, one of the cultural centers of Protestant Germany, official censors persecuted publishers and booksellers with special zeal when they were suspected of distributing spinozist literature, but also for selling that antimagical text of Bekker. The orthodox clergy regarded any attack on the power of spirits to be tantamount to undermining all spirituality.28


The implications of spinozism threatened secular as well as clerical authority, and not simply in the absolutist monarchies. The specter of leveling as remembered from the English Revolution lurked about in the early eighteenth-century circles of London deists and freethinkers, many of whom adopted the naturalism of either Hobbes or Spinoza. An anonymous freethinking poem of the 1730s wittily summed up that aspect of the spinozist legacy: Add ""mind'' (or spirit) to ""Nature'' and ""this Mighty Mind shall be / A Democratic Deity/ ... all of which we behold is God,/From Sun and Moon, to Flea and Louse/And henceforth equal Man and Mouse.''29 Freethinkers of this period could hold to ideas with democratic implications while still having little use for the people or their clergy.



The crisis of the late seventeenth century brought to a head the longstanding tension between the new learning, particularly the new science, of the educated laity and the doctrinal rigor of the traditional clergy. By and large the latter lost the struggle. They could no longer control the printing presses, particularly in England and the Dutch Republic; nor could they eradicate the demand for books and learning, the ever-expanding market for knowledge. The crisis also starkly exposed the dangers to traditional religiosity to be extracted from the new science. Indeed, as a result of the crisis a new cultural persona emerged, first in England and then in western Europe: the literate gentleman who read the periodical press, attended literary and philosophical lectures or clubs for the purpose of being cultured, and remained vaguely Christian, generally Protestant, but explained his beliefs in terms of the order and harmony of creation. He might be a merchant of the city or a landed gentleman of the country; he might even be a shopkeeper, a doctor, or a lawyer. He believed in educating his children; his wife was almost certainly literate and a reader of books, especially novels.30 By the 1720s, particularly in England, such a gentleman could have increasingly easy access to applied science as taught by the Newtonian lecturers. By the 1760s his son might be investing in industrial adventures or possibly even be an industrial entrepreneur himself. Liberal Protestantism and science made it possible for such men to explain the world to themselves and to feel comfortable in it; eventually, applied mechanical science also made it possible for them to exploit it.31


Occasionally one of these literate gentlemen might slip over the edge into outright atheism, generally into pantheism or materialism. We can be sure that when such a conversion occurred it was made easier by familiarity with the principles of the new science. It may even have been prompted by taking Descartes's method of reasoning too literally or by assuming, as did Toland, that Newtonian gravity was a sufficient explanation for the workings of the universe and that no deity other than Nature was necessary. In England such a radical departure from the prevailing cultural wisdom was often accompanied by opposition to the ruling oligarchy or to any version of the old order as it manifested itself at home or abroad. Where we find such radical groups in the late eighteenth century they will be frequently at the forefront of industrialization (see pp. 164-168). For them science was tied to a larger vision of social reform through the application of machinery to production. Such radical gentlemen embraced capitalism perhaps even more willingly than did their more moderate counterparts. For those who could control it, capitalism of an industrial and mechanical sort represented, on both sides of the Channel, an effective means of destroying the monopolies exercised by the old landed aristocracy.


Whatever one's private religiosity or politics became, by the early eighteenth century it bore little resemblance to the expressive piety of popular Catholicism or to the rigorous demeanor of orthodox Calvinism. Any kind of sectarian ""enthusiasm,'' the public preaching of millenarians who announced the end of the world or the ecstasies of parishioners who thought they had discovered a saint in their midst such an event occurred in Paris in the 1720s was an object of scorn and derision on the part of enlightened men, and also quite possibly of enlightened women.32 The scorn for ""the inferiour herd of people'' was endemic to enlightened culture; ""our people of the lowest rank, for want of due care to instruct them, are worse than Hottentots,'' as one freethinking English journal put it. The only remedy was to instill ""the most familiar and evident truths in natural philosophy ... some of the fundamental maxims of a free-government ... and practical precepts of religion and morality.'' These alone might ""dispose the people to virtue, without which we can never long continue a flourishing nation.''33


Throughout western Europe educated elites eagerly absorbed the scientific learning coming from England, the science of Newton and the Royal Society. In 1700 Pierre Bayle urged a bright young Huguenot refugee with an interest in science to go to England: ""It is the one country in the world where profound metaphysical and physical reasoning is held in the highest regard.''34 By that year Newtonian science had also attracted followers in the Dutch Republic, especially at the University of Leiden (see pp. 185-186) as well as at the French language presses run by Huguenot refugees or Dutch Arminians. It offered a new yet moderate synthesis that eschewed materialism but implied a tolerant and progressive way out of the crisis in confidence that had afflicted elite culture. The fact that these receptive groups were already present, and decidedly not from the mainstream of traditional Dutch Calvinism, indicates the irreconcilable divisions within European Christendom that the crisis now finally exposed. Nor is it accidental that non-Calvinist Protestants who emphasized the right of the individual to find his or her own salvation, for example, the Mennonites, were particularly receptive to the new science throughout the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The leading liberal Mennonite theologian of the Dutch Enlightenment, Johannes Stinstra, adorned his wall with a portrait of the Newtonian philosopher Samuel Clarke, whom he had translated.35


But it was the French language press of the republic, edited by the Dutch and Huguenot journalists, that first announced Newtonian science on the Continent. The pages of the Journal litteraire (1713-1732), the Nouvelles de la republique des lettres (1700-1710), L'Histoire critique de la republique des lettres (1712-1718), Nouvelles litteraires (1715-1720), and the Bibliotheque raisonnee (1728-1752) are bursting with English culture, but particularly with explications of liberal Anglicanism and the latest scientific publications. In addition the Dutch theologian Bernard Nieuwentyt wrote one of the most important textbooks on this liberal and Newtonian theology, The Religious Philosopher (1715), which after its translation became a standard text in English schools; it was also popular in French and German translations. It was unrelenting in its attack on spinozism, and it presented a melange of science and religion known at the time as physico-theology that emphasized the harmonious and hierarchical order of nature and society. Significantly the English translation done under Newtonian auspices removed Nieuwentyt's extensive references to the Bible.36 A century of doctrinal quibbling had convinced liberal Protestants that science was a better anchor for religion than either of the Testaments.


In England the first generation of Newtonians Richard Bentley, Samuel Clarke, John Derham, and William Whiston had taken Newton's science into the pulpit. Yet as early as the 1690s Newtonian science, or more precisely the new mechanical science as synthesized by the Principia, was also unveiled in far more secular settings. In coffeehouses and printers' shops, Newtonian explicators such as John Harris, Francis Hauksbee, and Whiston assembled audiences and gave ""a course of Philosophical Lectures on Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics and Opticks.''37 Such lectures frequently received aristocratic patronage and became very much a part of the culture of the ruling Whig oligarchy.


Indeed the linkage between the promotion of Newtonian science and the interests of that oligarchy was by no means accidental. The latitudinarian hierarchy of the established church, much to the horror of the lower clergy, gave its blessing to the triumphant Whig party. The scientific ideology of order and harmony preached from the pulpits complemented the political stability over which that oligarchy presided. At the Royal Society the followers of Newton, partly as a result of his direct influence, were firmly in control of that institution and kept anti-government or Tory dissidents out of positions of authority. By the 1720s and the accomplishment of the Hanoverian Succession (1714) which ensured the survival of Protestant monarchy, the Whig party, and the established church a new generation of Newtonians had come to prominence and very much set the terms of the Enlightenment in England.


At the Royal Society under the leadership of such Whigs as Martin Folkes and Sir Hans Sloane scientific application to industry and commerce always a part of its mission took on increasing prominence. Likewise we see an easing of the doctrinal preoccupations of the first generation of Newtonian clergymen; indeed Folkes and his friends appear to have had little interest in organized religion.38 Newtonianism supplied all the answers they needed in order to live lives of relative comfort amid the prosperity and political stability enjoyed by the upper classes and some middling folk in the Hanoverian state. The gardens of Queen Caroline at Richmond contained busts of Newton, Locke, Clarke, Boyle, and the liberal theologian William Wollaston, which expressed her faith in Newtonian science and natural religion.39


Typical of this Newtonian culture, with its emphasis on practical science, is a text like Henry Pemberton's A View of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy (1728). It is a much more straightforward and succinct account of Newton's philosophy of nature, his definitions of matter, space, time, the vacuum, and the law of universal gravitation, than that found in the Boyle lectures. Christian apologetics have been de-emphasized in favor of a general, but constant, emphasis on the power of the deity, on a straightforward explanation of Newtonian physics. Whenever Pemberton enters into polemics, it is only against the materialists: those who assert that gravity is essential to matter, those who would have the immortality of the world, those who deny the supremacy of God in every aspect of creation. This fashionable Newtonian and providential ""deism'' had now replaced the doctrinal exactness of the early Newtonians.


By far the most famous transmitter of this Newtonian culture to the Continent was the French poet and philosopher Voltaire. When he arrived in London in 1726 he learned Newtonianism directly from Samuel Clarke, and for Voltaire it took on the force of a religion.40 His Lettres philosophiques (1733), an immensely popular paean of praise to English government, mores, and science, linked the achievements of Newton to a milieu of intellectual liberty such as existed, he claimed, only in England. He offered English science and society as a universal model for enlightenment, and in the process he further secularized Newtonianism. He insisted on the existence of Newton's God; but in Voltaire's hands the concept becomes largely impersonal, its function could be described as simply social. The deity maintains order and so too should monarchs and governments. The English aristocracy is praised precisely because of its willingness to be educated, to mix with men of learning and science. Like the English Newtonians, Voltaire repudiated the science of Descartes, and for similar reasons. Not only is it wrong, but his private notes on the matter tell us that it leads directly to materialism and atheism.41 Voltaire made Newton and his science fashionable, and he linked both to his rabid anticlericalism and his denunciation of superstition and intolerance. The new science, he proclaimed, is the alternative to priestcraft and bigotry. The argument became famous by the 1740s.


Beginning in the 1690s English and then Continental Newtonians undertook a vast propaganda campaign against Cartesian science. For someone like the Dutch doctor and professor Boerhaave, the science of Descartes was insufficiently experimental, for others the primary fear was that Cartesianism led directly to materialism. Voltaire put his objections succinctly:


With regard to the pretended infinity of matter for Descartes matter is extension, that idea hath as little foundation as the vortices.... But what are we to understand by an infinite matter? For the term indefinite, used by Descartes, either must be explained by this, or it signifies nothing at all. Do they mean, that matter is essentially infinite in its own nature? If so then Matter is God.42


Voltaire's deism rested on the assumption that ""God the General in the Universe gives orders to different bodies.''43 Without those orders there can be no order. Voltaire believed that without God nothing would restrain kings or impose order on the masses. Any explanation for the triumph of Newtonian science in the early eighteenth century that ignores or underestimates the force of these social and ideological considerations misses the cultural context within which science, like any other body of knowledge, had to be mediated.


Perhaps of even greater importance than Voltaire as a transmitter of Newtonian science within western Europe was the Dutch scientist s'Gravesande (1688-1742) (see pp. 185-186). His Mathematical Elements of Natural Philosophy (Latin edition, 1720-1721, English, 1720-1721 and five subsequent editions; French, 1746-1747) gave a sophisticated explication of Newtonian science in textbook form that was never surpassed in the first half of the century. In 1717 at his inaugural lecture for the professorship in astronomy at the University of Leiden, a post secured for him through Newton's intervention, s'Gravesande defended mathematicians from the accusation of atheism and irreligion. He also lashed out at ""those men who have never thought that their very existence and that of the things around them would not be possible without the effects of a powerful and a very wise Cause ... and against those who are only occupied with religion as it is an object of their indecent railleries.'' s'Gravesande always maintained the Newtonian objection to materialism; and in general his text, although more mathematically sophisticated, is similar to Pemberton's. He eschewed the polemics of the first generation of clerical Newtonians and concentrated his attention on explicating the Principia. Visitors to his university in the 1720s saw proudly displayed in its library ""a fine brass sphere which shows the motion of all the planets according to the Copernican system and is moved by a pendulum.''44 Indeed with devices and textbooks such as these, especially when combined with the easier texts in Newtonian science that became increasingly commonplace (see Chapter 5), the Principia could be safely ignored by those in search of a basic scientific education.


The Birth of European FreemasonryIt is little wonder that this cultural synthesis based on science, religion, and social ideology, which was preached from the fashionable London pulpits and published in fancy editions partly financed by lawyers, merchants, and Whig members of parliament,45 should also produce a new form of social gathering complete with ritual and costume. British Freemasonry began in 1717 as a speculative, gentlemanly club quite different from the older masonic guilds from which it originated. The practicing masons along with their culture had been totally displaced indeed the concept of the guild protecting the wages of its workers is self-consciously repudiated by the new masonic Constitutions (1723). In their place have come the scientific devotees with one out of four Freemasons in the 1720s being fellows of the Royal Society.46 Indeed one of the most active Freemasons in its early years was the Newtonian scientist and experimenter Jean T. Desaguliers (see pp. 143-144). He was undoubtedly instrumental in spreading the society from London to the English provinces and the Low Countries.47


At the masonic gathering, that quintessential popularization of enlightened culture, literate gentlemen of substantial means (one had to afford the dues) worshiped the ""great Architect,'' the god of the new science, and gave allegiance to any religion they cared to name: ""to the religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet 'tis now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves.''48 Armed with the principles of geometry as well as ""the Mechanical Arts,'' ""several noblemen and gentlemen of the best rank, with clergymen and learned scholars'' constituted lodges where ""all preferment'' is based on ""personal merit only.'' In some of the earliest British lodges scientific experiments were performed and lectures on the new science given.49


The lodges as they spread to both sides of the Channel should not be understood, however, as centers of scientific learning. They were primarily social clubs that gave ritualistic expression to the fraternity of the meritorious and encouraged them to improve their literacy, education, and decorum. The lodges sometimes kept libraries or sponsored reading societies; not accidentally, Freemasons in eighteenth-century Europe were active in promoting scientific education in excess of their numbers. When Desaguliers lectured on mechanics in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague, and Paris speaking in English, Latin, or French he undoubtedly attracted men who in turn sought out membership in his fraternity (women were permitted to attend these scientific lectures and did, but were excluded from Freemasonry).


Brothers in this fraternity imbibed a mythic lore that connected their society back to ancient times and thereby stamped as ancient, and hence respectable, that which was irredeemably modern and, in the first instance, British. The cultural persona given expression in the British lodges was overwhelmingly bourgeois: lawyers, merchants, civil servants, publishers, and gentlemen of science abounded. On the Continent aristocratic leadership became widespread, and the lodges tended to mirror the social stratification endemic throughout the old order. Yet the British roots of Freemasonry could not be totally obscured.


Such an essentially Protestant archetype did not necessarily travel well on the Continent. After masonic meetings were held in the 1730s in the home of the British ambassador in Paris, the police raided his headquarters and insisted that the meetings stop. When Freemasons journeyed to Portugal and Italy they were arrested and even tortured by the Inquisition. It sought to discover their ""secrets,'' which amounted to nothing more than old rituals inherited from the guilds and a rather flexible definition of what constitutes religion. While in time masonic lodges under aristocratic patronage flourished in Catholic Europe, the fraternity as a whole was condemned by the pope in 1738.50


The papacy, not without cause, spied the makings of a new religion. For dissidents of church and chapel, for opponents of established authority, the masonic lodges offered an alternative society where any heresy might be freely discussed. The leading Amsterdam Freemason of the 1730s and 1740s was, not accidentally, a self-proclaimed pantheist who adored the new science and believed that ""Nature ... places us willy-nilly on this earth, not forever but for a limited time, whose extent and final end are alike hidden from us; this is the universal order to which everyone, but especially men of reason, do well to submit themselves.''51


This extraordinary faith in the order and reasonableness of nature, as proclaimed and mediated by science, might also make radicals out of those who took it too seriously. Eighteenthcentury society and government, especially on the Continent, was at best profoundly oligarchical and at worst rigidly hierarchical and totally nonrepresentative of mercantile or industrial interests and values. Inevitably there are links between the synthesis of science and religion that resolved the crisis at the beginning of the eighteenth century and the revolutions coming later, first in the American colonies (1776), then in Amsterdam and Brussels (1787), and finally in Paris (1789). A progressive faith born out of the new science and sustained by its achievements rendered enlightened men potentially impatient, even rebellious, in the face of practices or old elites disinterested in improvement and economic growth based on the freedom to trade, or worship, or experiment. Late in the eighteenth century some such men remolded the masonic lodges into places where their radicalism and impatience could gain expression. The new lodges probably had little resemblance to those founded earlier in the century by Desaguliers. Yet in ideological terms they remind us that the belief in progress promised by the new science might lead to expectations never intended by its original exponents.


The Application of Newtonian ScienceNewtonian science in the hands of the laity was, however, more than ideology. It was also, and increasingly, practice. Prior to the assimilation of the Principia, mechanics certainly existed as a body of science capable of application; but what was lacking was any overriding theory or set of principles, a natural philosophy and set of laws to give it coherence. We can compare a pre-Newtonian textbook of good practical mechanics with what came immediately after it. Such manuals were frequently anti-Aristotelian but could offer no coherent alternative explanation of gravity, although they were perfectly adequate in explaining how levers, wedges, and pulleys could be employed.52 As one historian of science has put it, ""the parallelogram of forces, the law of the lever, the principle of virtual work, the action of contact forces, and the principle of energy had extensive earlier histories,'' but all of these aspects of classical mechanics ""were to be absorbed in or united to the Newtonian stream.''53 From the more general perspective of Western culture, that body of mechanical learning also received an unprecedented public exposition after the publication of the Principia (1687).


In the first Newtonian lectures ever given, Francis Hauksbee explicated ""the general laws of Attraction and Repulsion, common to all matter,'' as proclaimed in the Principia, which thereby ""establish ... the true system of Nature, and explain ... the great motions of the world.'' Then follows a detailed description of Boyle's air pump as a machine ""for giving a swift motion to bodies in vacuo.'' Hauksbee possessed a particular interest in the phenomenon of ""action at a distance,'' of which electricity was the most fascinating and spectacular example. Those attractive electrical forces are defined as essentially an aspect of the overall ""power in nature by which the parts of matter do tend to each other'' in short, another illustration of Newton's principles. Throughout these lectures mechanical devices are used to illustrate the laws of Newtonian science, and the emphasis is on perfecting those devices.


In Hauksbee's lectures no direct industrial application of those machines is made, although tables are given for the specific gravity of stone and coal found commonly in the mines of the Midlands.54 The coal mining of Britain was by 1700 the most advanced in Europe. The output of coal in France at the end of the seventeenth century probably did not amount to more than 75,000 tons a year, which was less than had been mined on a single north country manor prior to the English Revolution.55 On the Continent only Belgian coal production came close to the English figures, and predictably both s'Gravesande and Desaguliers were active in Belgium (then called the Austrian Netherlands) in the 1720s attempting to install steam engines to drain those mines.


The application of the new science could hardly be resisted; indeed it had been encouraged by the scientists of the Royal Society as early as the 1680s (see pp. 92-93). In that period such applications were more desired than possible; but the commitment to render science useful to trade and industry became a part of the ideology of English science from the 1660s, if not earlier. After 1700 ideology came to bear relation to reality, and simultaneously the lecturers of the London coffeehouses moved into the provinces: to the north, Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1711-1712, Derby in 1728, to the midlands, Peterborough and Stamford, in the 1730s. The provincial academies, the schools of the non-Anglican Dissenters, also eagerly took up that science and replicated those lectures in their classrooms. By 1730, not incidentally, there were over 100 steam engines at work in Britain.


As we shall see, those engines cannot be severed from the diffusion of the English Enlightenment, from the science that lay at the heart of that cultural transformation. It could foster industry just as easily as it could instill a rather cerebral piety. It could edify and instruct the genteel; it could also appeal to provincial entrepreneurs more interested in capital profits than cultural sophistication. Such men possessed a sense of what was happening in the world around them and why it was necessary to educate oneself in science. They bought scientific books and attended scientific lectures in increasingly large numbers. The ease with which Newtonian science could now be taught made irrelevant the ideological struggles and metaphysical disputes that had once dominated natural philosophical discourse in seventeenthcentury Europe.


Late in the eighteenth century, at the height of the British Industrial Revolution, mechanical science and the ideology of progress it promoted seemed to the leaders of that economic transformation the answer to all human misery. It would secure their wealth and power eternally while eliminating the excesses of poverty still commonplace to the majority of men and women. Industrialists presumed that ""the application of steam to the various purposes contemplated will not be very difficult,'' that there will be new machines ""with greater the velocity and less the expense.'' They proclaimed their faith (as a leading industrialist put it) in the stupendous effect which the application of mechanical science is on the eve of bursting upon the world when, in the transport of ourselves as well as the enormous masses of other hands i.e., the workers time, distance, and expense shall be almost annihilated. This will be laughed at now, as was Sir Richard Arkwright a half century ago, when he predicted Cotton Yarn and Cloth would be sent from here to the East Indies.56


The new industrialists gloried in mechanical science; they sent their children only to those universities (Edinburgh, for example) and Dissenting academies where they were sure the most up-to-date state of the art would be taught.57 Armed with that science they believed it possible ""to ameliorate the condition of the great mass of the people not in Europe only but in the World the rising generation are soon to form that Mass, some will rule and some will obey, but all will in one way or other have influence in the management of affairs.''58 Armed with a science significantly divorced by the early eighteenth century from the culture of the people and their immediate necessities, the first industrialists (not unlike their modern successors) believed that somehow they could retain a social order that primarily rewarded and enriched themselves while still improving the human condition. The dream goes back to Francis Bacon. Its widespread acceptance among the educated elite began only in the early eighteenth century, and so too did modern scientific culture.




1.For a brilliant discussion of the crisis, see Paul Hazard, The European Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953).


2.For an analysis of the working of that censorship in France, see Joseph Klaits, Printed Propaganda Under Louis XIV: Absolute Monarchy and Public Opinion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976).


3.For another approach to the emergence of probability, see Barbara Shapiro, Probability and Certainty in Seventeenth Century England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983).


4.A good example of the virulence of that campaign can be found in Aubrey Rosenberg, Nicholas Gueudeville and His Work (1652-172?) (The Hague and Boston: Nijhoff, 1982), p. 61; Pierre J. W. van Malssen, Louis XIV d'apres les pamphlets repandus en Hollande (Amsterdam: H. Paris, 1936); Guy Howard Dodge, The Political Theory of the Huguenots of the Dispersion (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947); K. Malettke, Opposition und Konspiration unter Louis XIV (Gottingen: Vandenhoesch und Ruprecht, 1976).


5.See David Cressy, ""Levels of Illiteracy in England, 1530-1730,'' in Harvey L. Graff, ed., Literacy and Social Development in the West: A Reader (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 123-124. On Germany, see Gerald Strauss, Luther's House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), p. 202.


6.Clark Library, Los Angeles, MS J43M3 A859, ""Astrological Experiments Exemplified by Samuel Jeake''; cf. his diary, MS J43M3 D540, 1G94.


7.Pierre Retat, Le Dictionnaire de Bayle et la lutte philosophique au XVIII


e siecle (Paris: Presse de Universite de Lyon, 1971).  


8.C. M. G. Berkevens-Stevelinck, Prosper Marchand et l'histoire du livre (Ph.D. diss., University of Amsterdam, 1978), pp. 2-16.


9.See Margaret C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans (London and Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1981), Chapter 7.


10.Cf. G. Bonno, ""Lettres inedites de Le Clerc a Locke,'' University of California Publications in Modern Philosophy, vol. 52 (1959).


11.On Furly, see William Hull, Benjamin Furly and Quakerism in Rotterdam (Philadelphia: Swarthmore Monographs, 1941); for his library, see Bibliotheca Furliana (Rotterdam, 1714).


12.See British Library, MSS. ADD. 4283, fols. 265-266, and Furly's letters to William Penn at the Pennsylvania Historical Society, Philadelphia.


13.M. C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment, p. 218.


14.Public Record Office, London, MS 30/24/22/6, third earl of Shaftesbury to Jean Le Clerc, March 6, 1706.


15.Balthasar Bekker, De Philosophia Cartesiana admonitis candida et sincera (Vesaliae, 1668), pp. 14-18.


16.Balthasar Bekker, Uitlegginge van den Prophet Daniel (Amsterdam, 1688). The preface is dated May 14, 1688, and is clearly written under the impact of the outfitting of the Dutch fleet for what many assumed would be a war against France. Cf. K. H. D. Haley, ""Sir Johannes Rothe: English Knight and Dutch Fifth Monarchist,'' in Donald Pennington and Keith Thomas, eds., Puritans and Revolutionaries: Essays in Seventeenth-Century History Presented to Christopher Hill (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), pp. 310-332.  


17.Balthasar Bekker, De Betoverde Weereld (1691), preface and p. 656.


18.Balthasar Bekker, Le monde enchante (Amsterdam, 1694), vol. 4, pp. 296, 719. On journalistic propaganda in support of Bekker, see J. J. V. M. de Vet, Pieter Rabus (1660-1702) (Amsterdam: Holland University Press, 1980). Cf. Jacques Revel, ""Forms of Expertise: Intellectuals and "Popular' Culture in France (1650-1800),'' in Steven L. Kaplan, ed., Understanding Popular Culture: Europe from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century (Berlin: Mouton, 1984), pp. 255-273.


19.See L. Marsak, ""The Idea of Reason in Seventeenth Century France: An Essay in Interpretation,'' Journal of World History, vol. 11 (1968), p. 409.


20.Erica Harth, Ideology and Culture in Seventeenth Century France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 290-292, 297, on Denis Vairasse.


21.R. H. Campbell and A. S. Skinner, The Origins and Nature of the Scottish Enlightenment (Edinburgh: Donald, 1982), p. 70, in Christine M. Shepherd in Campbell and Skinner, eds., ""Newtonianism in Scottish Universities in the Seventeenth Century.''


22.John Colerus, The Life of Benedict de Spinosa, Done out of French (London, 1706), pp. 3, 7. To be used with some caution, as Colerus is an essentially hostile source.


23.On the career of pantheism as derived from Spinoza and others, see Paul Verniere, Spinoza et la pensee francaise avant la revolution, 2 vols. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1954).


24.M. C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment, p. 244.


25.See Margaret C. Jacob, ""The Knights of Jubilation: Masonic and Libertine,'' Quaerendo, vol. 14 (1984), pp. 63-75.


26.Aubrey Rosenberg, Tyssot de Patot and His Work, 1655-1738 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1972); and Rosenberg, ""An Unpublished Letter of Tyssot de Patot,'' Vereeniging tot Beoefening van Overijsselsch Regt en geschiedenis, vol. 96 (1981), pp. 71-76. Cf. Alan Gabbey, ""Philosophia Cartesiana Triumphata: Henry More (1646-71),'' in Thomas M. Lennon et al., eds., Problems of Cartesianism (Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1982), p. 246.


27.Koninklijk Huisarchief, The Hague, MS G 16-A29, fol. 14, Allamand to M.M. Rey, 1762.  


28.Agatha Kobuch, ""Aspekte des aufgeklarten burgerlichen Denkens in Kursachsen in der ersten Halfte des 18. Jh. im Lichte der Bucherzensur,'' Jahrbuch fur Geschichte (Berlin, DDR), 1979, pp. 251-294.


29. Anon., War with Priestcraft Or, the Freethinkers' Iliad: A Burlesque Poem (London, 1732), pp. 36-37.


30.Ruth Perry, Women, Letters and the Novel (New York: AMS Press, 1980).


31.For a splendid description of this new culture, see Roy Porter, ""Science, Provincial Culture and Public Opinion in Enlightenment England,'' British Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, vol. 3, no. 1 (1980), pp. 20-46. For a fascinating account of the earliest applications of Newtonian science, see Larry Stewart, ""The Selling of Newton: Science and Technology in Early Eighteenth-Century England,'' Journal of British Studies, vol. 25 (1986), pp. 178-192.


32.See Margaret C. Jacob, ""Freemasonry, Women, and the Paradox of the Enlightenment,'' in Women and the Enlightenment (New York: Institute for Research in History, 1984); cf. Ran Halevi, Les Loges Maconniques dans la France d'ancien regime (Paris: Colin, 1984), a facile but useful study.


33. The Freethinker (London), no. 16 (May 16, 1718), pp. 69-72. Cf. Harry Payne, The Philosophes and the People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).


34. Oeuvres diverses de Pierre Bayle, 3 vols. in 4 (Hildesheim, 1968), vol. 4, pp. 794-795.


35.J. van der Berg, ""Eighteenth century Dutch translations of the works of some British latitudinarian and enlightened theologians,'' Nederlands archief voor kerkgeschiedenis, n. s. vol. 59, no. 2 (1979), pp. 198-206.


36.A. C. de Hoog, ""Some Currents of Thought in Dutch Natural Philosophy'' (Ph.D. diss., Oxford, 1974), pp. 300-301. Jean T. Desaguliers sponsored this edition, and its translator told Toland that it was aimed against him.


37. The Englishman, no. 42 (January 26, 1714), cited in James E. Force, William Whiston: Honest Newtonian (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 162-163n.


38.J. Force, Whiston, pp. 135-136.


39.Judith Colton, ""Kent's Hermitage for Queen Caroline at Richmond,'' Architecture, vol. 2 (1974), pp. 181-191. Occasionally Newtonians could be Jacobites; see Andrew Cunningham, ""Sydenham vs. Newton: The Edinburgh Fever Dispute of the 1690's ...'' Medical History, supplement 11, 1981, pp. 71-79. 


40.Rene Pomeau, La Religion de Voltaire (Paris: Nizet, 1956).


41.Voltaire, Traite de Metaphysique (1734), ed. H. Temple Patterson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1957), pp. 17-19.


42.Voltaire, The Elements of Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy, trans. John Hanna (London, 1738), pp. 182-183.


43.Ibid., p. 236n.


44.For s'Gravesande's statement, see J. N. S. Allamand, ed., Oeuvres philosophiques et mathematiques de M. W. J. s'Gravesande (Amsterdam: Marc Michel Rey, 1774), vol. 2, pp. 316-317. The sphere was seen by an English woman tourist in 1726, Clark Library, MS J86Z, n.f. Wednesday, 16 June. According to one account, this ""fine Copernican sphere with 1500 wheels, made by Tracy an English Man Living at Rotterdam which not only shews the different motions of the heavenly bodies but the year, month, day and how and which cost 30,000 guilders or 3000''; Los Angeles: Clark Library, MS Phillips 9356.


45.W. A. Speck, ""Politicians, Peers and Publication by Subscription, 1700-50,'' in Isabel Rivers, ed., Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth Century England (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982), p. 64.


46.J. R. Clarke, ""The Royal Society and the Early Grand Lodge Freemasonry,'' Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 80 (1967), pp. 110-119.


47.See J. A. van Reijn, ""John Theophilus Desaguliers, 1683-1983,'' Thoth, no. 5 (1983), pp. 165-203.


48. The Constitutions of the Freemasons (London, 1723), p. 50.


49.See M. C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment, Chapter 4.


50.For Freemasonry in Catholic Europe, see Jose A. Ferrer Benimelli, Masoneria, Iglesia e Ilustracion (Madrid, 1976), vol. 2, p. 202 ff.


51.Quoted in M. C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment, pp. 243-244. The quotation is by Rousset de Missy.


52.V. Mandey, Mechanick Powers; or the Majesty of Nature and Art Unvail'd (London, 1702).


53.E. Truesdell, ""Reactions of Late Baroque Mechanics to Success, Conjecture, Error, and Failure in Newton's Principia,'' in Robert Palter, ed., The ""Annus Mirabelis'' of Sir Isaac Newton, 1666-1966 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1970), p. 209.


54.Francis Hauksbee, Physico-Mechanical Experiments in Various Subjects ... (London, 1719).


55.J. U. Nef, The Rise of the British Coal Industry, 2 vols. (London, 1966; Cass reprint of 1932 edition), vol. 2, p. 126-128.


56.Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, MS 37-1947, William Strutt to Maria Edgworth, 1823. Similar sentiments are to be found in the Strutt MSS, Derby Local Library, Derbyshire.


57.MS 48-1947, manuscript by Joseph Strutt, ""On the relative advantages and disadvantages of the English and Scottish Universities,'' 1808.




Cultural Origins of the Industrial Revolution




I scarcely know without a good deal of recollection whether I am a Landed Gentleman, an Engineer or a Potter, for indeed I am all three and many others characters by turns.Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, 1765


Many of my experiments turn out to my wishes, and convince me more and more, of the extensive capability of our Manufacture for further improvement. It is at present (comparatively) in a rude, uncultivated state, and may easily be polished, and brought to much greater perfection. Such a revolution, I believe, is at hand, and you must assist in, and profit by it.Josiah Wedgwood to Thomas Bentley, 1766With the assistance of the natural philosophers and their science, English entrepreneurs such as Josiah Wedgwood and the Strutts thought their way to industrialization. That intellectual history has largely gone unwritten because economic and social history, and modernization studies, have dominated the study of the first Industrial Revolution.


Certain assumptions about early industrialization have been commonplace in the recent literature: The mechanistic economic concepts of ""take-off,'' which once begun becomes irreversible; the ""state of business expectations'' (i.e., the necessity to achieve profit); the growth of population; access to raw materials and exploitable labor; and not least, a specific ""specialization'' in financial and commercial operations all have been assumed as prerequisites to the industrial process.1 Although none of these factors can be discounted, none of them explain the obvious. The presence of raw materials, foreign markets, cheap labor, and surplus capital will not in themselves make an industrial revolution. The entrepreneur, the historical actor, remains critical to the process as does a mentalite favoring ""modernization'' the historian of the eighteenth century would prefer the term ""improvement''; and without these actors the industrialization of the means of production and the transformation in living patterns of both entrepreneur and worker simply will not occur. The recent history of the various attempts to impose industrialization and modernization on third world countries reveals with stark clarity that technology, capital, and imported expertise will not produce the intertwining of political, social, and intellectual factors that in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe permitted industrialization to occur, first in England and then gradually in much of the western and northern areas of the Continent.


The failure of modernization in various contemporary societies must of necessity affect the academic disciplines most directly concerned with explaining economic development historically or with understanding the social relations of science and technology. The time has come therefore to take another look at the first Industrial Revolution, more precisely at the role of science in that process. A careful reading of the sources left by British eighteenth-century natural philosophers and their followers reveals, almost at first glance, that one assumption which used to be fairly common must now be discarded: that ""pure'' science had nothing to do with industrialization.2 In the eighteenth century and this may be the key to the ""curious'' nature of scientific inquiry in that period the distinction between ""pure'' and ""applied'' science simply did not exist for the natural philosophers themselves. Eighteenth-century scientists, whether as electrical experimenters, mathematicians, or mechanists, moved with ease between theory and application. They did so because they existed within a particular social and political milieu that favored, indeed encouraged, the articulation of scientific knowledge in the service of the literate elite, both landed and commercial.


The political stability so beneficial to that elite rested on certain ideological assumptions derived from seventeenth-century political theory and from the experience of the revolutions of 1640 and 1688-1689. Out of the first of the great modern revolutions developed a political system that displayed certain distinctive characteristics: strong centralized government bound by a constitutional settlement that favored parliamentary rule and ministerial or ""court'' power over the interests of the church or the people (the franchise being limited to approximately one-fifth of the male population); religious toleration for all Protestants; and not least, a political culture based on publicly held elections and debates and, even more important, on the relatively free circulation of the printed word. From the founding of the Royal Society in 1662 until well into the 1690s, as we have seen in Chapter 3, the new science articulated by Boyle and Sprat and the Newtonians became tied, both in its conceptual assumptions and in its social goals, to the maintenance of strong central, but not absolutist, government and to the articulation of a liberal, but nonetheless Anglican, hegemony. These links between the ideology of the new science as it developed in the Restoration and beyond and the political order as it emerged after 1689 permit us to describe the natural philosophy inherent in Newton's science as the metaphysical foundations of the Whig constitution.


Given these social foundations, the science found most commonly in eighteenth-century England possessed certain characteristics unique to that culture, although this science was always capable of exportation to and modification on the Continent. In the previous chapter we have explored some of the reasons why the new science achieved such widespread assimilation throughout European culture during the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Now we must seek to recapture the dominant, but by no means the only, uses to which Newtonian science was put in its country of origin, in the first country anywhere in the world to experience industrialization.



Having described England in that manner we run the risk of looking far too early in the century for science specifically linked to industrial needs and aspirations. That sort of hindsight may be avoided by approaching eighteenth-century England in the first instance from the perspective of the general historian, and asking of it the questions most perplexing in current historical discussion. Having ushered in, as it were, identifiably modern forms of political organization, religious toleration, and relative intellectual freedom, did England experience the cultural movement that it inspired, and can we speak of a specifically English, as opposed to French or German or Scottish, Enlightenment? And finally, having captured the intellectual leadership of the Scientific Revolution in the second half of the seventeenth century, what happened to English science in the period after Newton?3 Did it in fact decline as some historians have contended? 


The answer to these questions lies in an examination of eighteenth-century English scientific culture. There we find a different kind of enlightenment from the alienated, the philosophically and even politically radical, version thrown up by the various ancien regimes on the Continent. The English ""philosophe,'' whether as Fellow of the Royal Society, scientific experimenter, lecturer, or engineer, managed to flourish in the Whig and Erastian political order that dominated eighteenth-century England. Although it did produce its share of alienated Tory


See glossary of terms, under Whigs. wits, that order fostered a unique intellectual movement centered on the new science, on its cultivation and promotion. In the hands of these scientific philosophes the mechanical philosophy was grafted onto the interests of its audience in a way that helped to lay the foundations of an industrial mentality. This fusion rested on a vision of the profits and improvements made possible by science. Its ultimate success was also contingent on an intelligentsia sufficiently content, at least in the early decades of the century, with the larger political and ecclesiastical order that they were able to concentrate their energies not on attacking the foundations of established authority but rather on rendering scientific learning into mechanisms fit for gentlemen and entrepreneurs.


If the character of eighteenth-century English science is examined closely we find that it was neither moribund nor impractical, although it may not have been as theoretically innovative as some historians would like it to have been. Yet once perceived as dynamic and progressive in relation to the material order, the science of the English philosophes appears not only as a unique version of Enlightenment but also as the historical link between the Scientific Revolution in its final, English phase and the cultural origins of the Industrial Revolution.


Unlike their Continental counterparts, the philosophes of the English Enlightenment generally did not have to do battle against powerful and entrenched elites frequently hostile to innovation or to education conducted outside clerical supervision. The English promoters of the new science could concentrate their energies on promoting a version of scientific learning tied to industrial application that their audiences eagerly embraced. Yet this does not mean that these promoters of improvement could not at moments experience an alienation from the existing order comparable to that experienced by Continental philosophes. Late in the century and only within select circles, the English promoters of scientific improvement turned their zeal against the established social and political order. The radicalism of those circles rivals in intensity that found on the Continent during the revolutions of the late 1780s and 1790s. It also harks back to the zeal for reform through the application of science witnessed during the 1640s (see pp. 76-78).


Those circles of radical scientists, generally found in northern England during the later decades of the eighteenth century, participated in a cultural milieu characterized by scientific societies, popular lectures, and books of applied science intended for self-instruction. That culture had first emerged in the early 1700s in London and the southern counties. There we find literate gentlemen, some aristocrats, and Newtonian explicators congregated in coffeehouses or private clubs, where they took up science as part of a larger project of self-improvement and education. Occasionally, some of these gentlemen and their scientific friends joined together in projects to promote the application of mechanical devices to industry, in particular steam engines for mine draining, water pumping for commercial exploitation, or the drying of various substances from hops to gunpowder through the application of steam heat.4 In effect their understanding of the usefulness of science should be seen as essentially industrial, and it preceded the first Industrial Revolution by well over forty years. Very little came of those projects. Capital was scarce, the engines were faulty, stockholding companies were outlawed after a spectacular collapse in 1720, raw materials were too expensive. The point is that new historical research has shown that the link between Newtonian science and its industrial application was not casual or contingent on purely material conditions for its articulation. The applications had been promoted by Newton's earliest followers long before all the pieces in the material base of industrialization were clearly in place.



What this evidence does is expose as ahistorical the assumption that the ""pure science'' of Boyle and Newton had nothing to do with the Industrial Revolution.5 That assumption, of course, anachronistically presumes the existence in the eighteenth century of what can only be described as our own conception of ""pure science.'' As we now know, for many eighteenth-century scientists science was, perhaps above all else, useful science. This was true early in the century, while by the 1790s the linkage between scientific knowledge and industrial application had become commonplace. Indeed by that time the scientific knowledge of applied mechanics may have proved determining when decisions involving the introduction of new machinery, at considerable capital risk, had to be taken promptly and confidently (see Chapter 7).6 By the 1790s we can find merchants who were able to correct the complex drawing plans of hired engineers. They were able to do so because two or more generations of scientific educators had plied their trade from the London coffeehouses to the valleys of Derbyshire.


The early eighteenth-century Newtonians rendered their science comprehensible to an audience that could be either genteel and educated or commercial and practical. Whatever their social standing or occupation, or lack of the need for one, members of that audience were invariably nonmathematical. In the period from 1691 (the date of the first Boyle lectures) until late in Queen Anne's reign (d. 1714), the effort to reach this audience largely took the form of pulpit lectures, of which the great Boyle lectures given in London churches by liberal Anglican clergy such as Bentley, Clarke, Whiston, and Derham are justly the most famous.7 By 1710, however, scientific promoters had also found entirely secular milieus for their lectures, which quickly turned into structured courses now offered in coffeehouses, taverns, and publishers' shops. Some of the earliest of those given by William Whiston and Benjamin Worster illustrated the Newtonian universe by recourse to mechanical devices, through demonstrations using weights, pulleys, and levers.8


In this genre of early scientific lectures two characteristics are immediately evident and remain present throughout much of the century. First, natural philosophical language, such as we find in the Boyle lectures of Richard Bentley (1692) and Samuel Clarke (1704), continued to be used in the opening lectures of any course, with definitions of matter, motion, space, and time freely tendered, complete with their implications for society and religion. Just as in the Boyle lectures, matter theory to us that most abstruse of subjects was routinely explicated. The audience, long steeped in the language of the sermon and prayer book, was made to understand that it is a violation of orthodox Newtonian theory to assert, as would the materialist, that motion is inherent in matter, and thereby to sever the universe from divine control and deny the providential harmony of the existing social order. The consumers of the new science, who might pay anything from one to three pounds for a six-week course that met two or three times a week, were repeatedly told that what they were learning sanctioned the existing social and constitutional order. Second, the earliest lecturers, and all their successors, used mechanical devices of increasing complexity, especially air and water pumps, levers, pulleys, and pendulums, to illustrate the Newtonian laws of motion and hence simultaneously their applicability to business, trade, and industry. It was pointless to give mathematical explications to lay audiences; that must have been obvious from the beginning. The interests of men who wished to weigh and move goods, to improve water transportation, to drain fens or remove the damp from mines dictated the format of the earliest lectures. To that extent the practical interests and mathematical limitations of the audience for science profoundly shaped its articulation; at the same time the experimental rigor of the Newtonian achievement disciplined and excited the minds of its receivers. Through these scientific lectures nature was rendered knowable; its laws could be mastered and, just as important, applied.


Surviving outlines and course descriptions, as well as published textbooks from early to late in the eighteenth century, make this mechanical and applied approach to Newtonian science absolutely clear. Among the most important and early proponents of this method of scientific education was the official experimenter of the Royal Society of London, French Huguenot refugee and Freemason Jean T. Desaguliers. In December 1713 he offered a course of twenty-one lectures on Newtonian science for two guineas wherein he endeavored ""to make myself understood to such as are altogether unskilled in Mathematics.''9 In his lectures Desaguliers began quite theoretically for example, with ""an experiment to show what Cartesius meant by his three elements'' and with the basic definitions of Newtonian natural philosophical principles: ""Matter is what has extension and resistance which are properties of all bodies ... gravity is an universal principle in Matter ... the Law of that Gravity, or general attraction ... decreases as you recede from the center of the attracting body, just as the square of the distances increases.''10 He explicated the Newtonian concept of the vacuum and offered experimental proof for its existence. Yet in the same lecture he moved to the principles behind mechanical engines: ""The whole effect of mechanical engines, to sustain great weights with a small power, is produced by diminishing the velocity of the weight to be raised, and increasing that of the power in a reciprocal proportion, of the two weights, and their velocities''11 In another lecture he proceeded ""to show the effect of mechanical engines in general.''12 But the course only began there. General mechanical principles were applied to the operations of levers, weights, pulleys, and the use of wedges. The laws of motion were applied routinely to cannons and bullets Desaguliers' interest in mechanizing and rationalizing war was lifelong13 as well as to the motions of the planets. Specific attention was given to using mechanical principles in order to augment human strength,14 and to applying mechanical principles to water flow and control. Savery's steam engine figured in these early lectures, and later so did Thomas Newcomen's improvements on it.


Although Desaguliers began his lectures in the coffeehouses of London, he quickly took to the provinces lecturing, for example, to the gentlemen of the first provincial scientific and literary society, the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, in the small market town of Spalding, Lincolnshire. There he illustrated Newton's three laws of motion, ""exploded'' Descartes's theory of the vortices, gave a demonstration of ""a model of the engine for raising water by fire'' one probably based on Newcomen's steam engine, in which Desaguliers had a great interest and explained in the section on levers and pulleys how ""men or horses of unequal strength may be made to carry, or draw a burden, in proportion to their Strength.''15 Similar lectures were given at the Spalding society by John Booth, who charged twenty persons only half a guinea each to hear about ""the universal properties of matter'' and ""concerning motion in general.'' The same topics were discussed by William Griffis, another itinerant lecturer who was all over the Midlands in this early period.16


Desaguliers also published the extremely influential A Course of Experimental Philosophy (London, 1734-1744; translations in Dutch and French), which proclaimed the goal ""to make art and nature subservient to the necessities of life'' and which used ""machines ... to explain and prove experimentally what ... Newton has demonstrated mathematically.'' Once again these printed lectures, complete with illustrative engravings, explicated the law of universal gravitation, the use of scales, levers, pulleys, the bucket engine for raising water, indeed engines of every kind to lessen the need for human labor in short, every conceivable mechanical device capable of application to industry. 


The economic vision of the text is surprisingly consonant with the basic principles around which the Industrial Revolution later occurred. Desaguliers states it very simply in his discussion of the application to coal mining of Savery's steam engine: human labor is expensive, horse power is cheaper but still ""a very expensive way''; what is needed is ""a philosopher to come, and find a means to bring down the end of the beam of the water pump without men or horses'' (A Course of Experimental Philosophy, vol. 2, p. 468). By the mid-eighteenth century there were many such practical ""philosophers'' who could understand the principles first explicated by Desaguliers and his associates.



In the 1720s Benjamin Worster's London lectures were tailored ""for qualifying young gentlemen for business,'' and he attacked those clergy who still opposed the new science as men ""whose chief Merit and Trade it is to lye for God.''17 In the 1730s Isaac Thompson, a lecturer of Quaker background, gave a course in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on the mechanical philosophy specifically intended for ""those in the coal trade.'' He repeated it a few years later because of the large number of coal owners of the river Tyne who had subscribed.18 Both John Horsley (1685-1732) and Benjamin Martin (1704-1782), itinerant lecturers in the early and middle decades of the century, illustrated the Newtonian universe by constant reference to mechanics, going from ""the method of computing the force of all sorts of engines'' to the application of Newtonian physics to clocks and guns. Martin was so zealous in his desire to convert Newtonian science into universal practice that he lectured publicly to mass audiences. He also came to despise the genteel exclusivity of the Royal Society at least that was his attitude after he was denied admittance.19 By the 1760s itinerant scientific lecturing was everywhere in fashion and Martin, although able to make a living at it, had dozens of competitors.


Among the earliest secular occasions where science revealed its mysteries was in the new speculative masonic lodges comprised largely of tradesmen but also frequented by gentlemen and aristocrats. Adulation of Newtonian science was an official part of masonic belief, as revealed in the 1723 Constitutions published by the Grand Lodge of London (see pp. 126-127) a document in which Desaguliers had a considerable hand and masonic rhetoric reflected quite early in the century a new enlightened definition of the gentleman.20 In one of the most important changes wrought by the Enlightenment in England, he was now defined as a man of science. Many institutions and trends not least the provincial scientific societies, to which we shall shortly turn wrought this transformation, but we can find evidence of it quite easily and early in masonic literature. Lecturing to his brothers in York a masonic orator of 1726 gloried in the world of ordinary mortals: ""Human society, Gentlemen, is one of the greatest blessings of life ... for 'tis to it we owe all Arts and Sciences whatsoever.'' He condemned the ""learned pedant'' as an ""unsociable animal ... who has shut himself up all his Life with Plato and Aristotle.'' The tradesmen present in the lodge were exhorted by the orator to be faithful to their callings; but from gentlemen more was expected: ""The education of most of you has been noble, if an academical one may be call'd so; and I doubt not but your improvements in literature are equal to it.'' Freemasonry asks, however, not only that gentlemen ""by signs, words, and tokens ... be put upon a level with the meanest brother,'' but also that they ""exceed them, as far as a superior genius and education will conduct you. I am credibly inform'd the orator continued that in most lodges in London, and several other parts of this kingdom, a lecture on some point of geometry or architecture is given at every meeting.''21 There is good reason to believe that lodges in London practised what the York orator preached. At the Old King's Arms Lodge in the 1730s an itinerant lecturer, avid Freemason, and progressive schoolmaster named Martin Clare lectured ""on the history of automata ... on the circulation of the blood ... and on magnetism.''22 Other evidence suggests that Clare also gave his complex lectures on hydrostatics first to his masonic brethren. In those lectures on the motion of fluids he drew attention to the steam engine but issued a caution that would determine its selected use until well into the nineteenth century: ""in point of profit'' the engine may not answer the expectation of those who use it ""where Fewel is not very cheap.''23


Where we find the association of science with Freemasonry, or with societies whose ambience resembled the relaxed socializing of the lodge, as did the Derby Philosophical Society of the 1780s and 1790s, then we see most clearly the democratizing tendencies within eighteenth-century scientific culture. The Freemasons sought (though only in their private gatherings) ""to meet upon the level,'' and in that spirit Martin Clare attempted to bring science to the lower middle class. His educational exercise book for young apprentices, which was an eighteenthcentury bestseller and went through ten editions, made passing reference to the value of experimental and natural philosophy as early as its first edition (1720); by its fifth edition (1740) it actually gave the three Newtonian laws of motion and exercises to illustrate them.24


Although we do not as yet associate the masonic lodges of eighteenth-century England with the spread of scientific learning, the historiography of the period takes for granted the important role of the Protestant Dissenters and their academies in the enterprise of scientific education. The evidence is quite convincing for this truism, and it is a necessary and useful one provided it does not obscure the larger, more widespread dissemination of science in Anglican or purely secular settings. Certainly the inventor of the steam engine, Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729),25 was a devout Baptist, while Philip Doddridge, the Presbyterian minister of Northampton, was a leader in that city's philosophical society. One of the few extant diaries from the early part of the century that records the conscience and learning of the scientifically minded layman reveals the great emphasis placed in the Dissenting tradition on constant attendance at both religious sermons and scientific lectures. The habit and discipline of the first led, it would seem, to the cultivation of the second. As this diary reveals, the providentialism preached at both suited the temperament of the striver and seeker after improvement and salvation:


This Day in the Morning I attended on Domestick Affairs, went in the Afternoon to Manchester heard a Lecture concerning Attraction and Repulsion of Matter by Mr Rotheram D.D. Caleb Rotheram, D.D. (1694-1752), minister at Market Place Chapel, Kendal we subscrib'd our Guineas a piece each. Lord, May this and all other labor and expense for my improvement and advantage turn to a very good Account.26


This listener at Rotheram's lectures was a young Lancashire doctor, Richard Kay (1716-1751), whose piety as recorded in his diary came to embrace scientific instruction as a singular means by which ""may I daily grow in Wisdom and Knowledge both in Temporals and Spirituals.''27 His almost daily entries attest to the abundance of lectures already available in the shire by the late 1730s and to the theoretical as well as practical nature of these subscription courses in mechanics, optics, hydrostatics, geography, electricity, and pneumatics.


Fortunately a manuscript copy of one set of lectures transcribed by a listener, and almost certainly heard by Kay at the Angel Inn in Manchester, has been preserved. These ""Observations and Memorandums of the Philosophical Experiments in a Course of Lectures; begun August 15, 1743 ... by Mr John Rotheram, Jr of Kendall'' are notes taken from memory by someone present at lectures given by Caleb Rotheram's son, John, and they are extremely useful for illustrating both what was actually said, as opposed to what was printed, and better still, what could be absorbed by the careful listener. Physics, theology, and Newtonian science were effortlessly combined with mechanical devices and experiments to illustrate a wide range of natural phenomena. At every turn it was emphasized ""how the all Wise Ruler and Governour of the World has given particular rules and laws to all bodys of every sort and kind whatsoever,''28 and the lecturer also made frequent reference to Newton's published works, to ideas or experiments given by the Royal Society, and to Newtonian explications by Desaguliers and Whiston. The person recording these lectures is doing so from memory (fol. 45 v), and whenever possible he (or just conceivably she) eschews mathematical illustrations ""as mathematical experiments are strange to me.''29 The lecture on motion or gravity quickly moves to a discussion of weight and velocity, explaining that the ""very principle and foundation stone on which depends all the Laws of Mechanicks'' is the relationship between weight and velocity: ""Where a weight of 6 pounds is to be balanced by another of 3 it will require twice the velocity as twice three is six to bring it to an equilibrio.'' The rest of the lecture concerns beams and the brachia of a pendulum; the audience is even treated to an explanation of how goldsmiths and shopkeepers might fiddle their scales to deceive their customers. Pullies and inclined planes are also examined, with the admonition that ""compound machines are the same in effect as the simple machines with this difference only, that simple machines are only smaller in their powers and in their weights than the compound machines and therefore less force is required.'' The measuring of the force of projectiles for ""bombarding and cannonading'' is explained, with the method currently in use among military engineers criticized as ""not mathematically true.'' A pyrometer for measuring the heat needed to expand metals is demonstrated, and an entire lecture is devoted to ""how fluids gravitate upon one another, and from other experiments to show probable causes for the arising of some phenomena such as the ebbing and flowing wells ... in Yorkshire and ... in Derbyshire.''30 A generation later engineers in Derbyshire were to attempt to harness water power to windmills and to install steam engines where cheap coal was available. Where else would they and the entrepreneurs who paid them have learned of the technical risks involved in these mechanical operations except by virtue of the scientific knowledge first transmitted in lectures such as these?


By the second half of the eighteenth century, however, this new scientific culture had permeated so deeply into the lives of the nominally Anglican and genteel elite that it would be quite mistaken to associate it primarily and exclusively with the Dissenters and their academies. In the early part of the century the Dissenters were inordinately active, in relation to their actual numbers, in the enterprise of disseminating science to the commercial and the industrious. Richard Kay's knowledge of the new science was undoubtedly superior to that of a contemporary Cambridge or Oxford graduate, institutions from which Kay was excluded because of his religion. Yet even in the traditional universities some evidence can be found from early in the century of scientific lecturing intended for industrial application. In 1716 Thomas Whiteside, the keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, gave a course of lectures described as excellent by contemporaries in Oxford, and the existence of a copy of these lectures in Cambridge implies that they may have been given there as well. ""A Course of Philosophical Lectures'' deals almost entirely with mechanics, specifically with the assertion that:


There is a universal law to which all the forces of mechanical powers may be reduc'd (viz) the power and ye Burden are reciprocally proportional to ye velocities. This is evident in all kinds of levers. Now this Law is applicable to all ye other mechanical powers since they are reducable to the lever. The whole effect then of mechanical engines consists in diminishing the velocity of the weight to be raised, so that its momentum be no more than the momentum of the power that raises it.Whiteside concentrated on levers, pulleys, inclined planes, pendulums, and screws. But it should be added that his lectures, at least in Oxford, required a subscription of one and a half guineas and may have been intended for a wider audience than simply undergraduates.31 Other scientific lectures given at Cambridge on Newtonian science appear to have been more overtly theoretical but no less clear or polished.32 Yet at mid-century Oxford offered little hospitality to Dr. Nathan Alcock (1707-1779) who had gone to Leiden to learn his Newtonian mechanics from s'Gravesande. Returning to Oxford, where in his opinion ""little or nothing'' was done for the scientific education of the students, he managed to secure a lecturing position ""against all opposition.''33 But the deficiencies of the universities could be compensated for by attendance at public lectures, membership in the Royal Society or one of the provincial philosophical societies, or simply by reading one of the many new scientific books then pouring from the presses.34


By the last quarter of the century a new ideal of the English gentleman had been proposed and ratified by polite society, and foreign writers grasped it as a standard to which their audience, envious of English prosperity, should now aspire. As the Dutch became increasingly alarmed by the evidence of their own economic decline, they looked obsessively to the English, searching for what it was they were doing ""right,'' in much the same way the English had done a century earlier when they pondered the prosperity of their Dutch rivals. The epistolary novel of the Dutch writer Marie Gertruide de Cambon-van Werken created for her readers both in Dutch and in popular English translations of the 1790s the fictional ideal of the contemporary English gentleman, one Sir Charles Grandison (a name undoubtedly borrowed from Richardson's novel), whose favorite toy as a child was a microscope, with which he studied the insects that crawled about his feet. His tutor, Dr. Bartlett, the veritable English Pangloss, wished to make him wise, ""to shew kindness to the insects ... to let my love mount up from them to the beings, who while they enjoy the blessings of heaven, can recognize the hand which bestows them.''35 Grandison combines science with sentiment and benevolence; he is a true aristocrat of his age, one worthy of emulation for his sense of order, industry, and fair play.


As the popular English translation of this novel proclaimed, Grandison's lessons from Dr. Bartlett rendered him socially tolerant: ""I recollected I have often seen labouring men very compassionate. God takes care of the meanest insect.''36 Despite the element here of fictional caricature, not to mention priggishness, it is altogether possible that a real-life Sir Charles would have been eagerly welcomed as a Fellow of the Royal Society or as a member of one of the provincial philosophical societies that appeared as early as 1712 and grew to abundance by the 1750s.



The itinerant lecturers were the purveyors of scientific culture, but they neither initiated it nor sustained it. For a continuous history of the diffusion of scientific enterprise and learning to the genteel and the mercantile, we must look to the philosophical and literary societies of the period, from the Royal Society of London to the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, the Northamptonshire Philosophical Society, and later in the century, to the Lunar Society and the Derby Philosophical Society, among others.37 To date we have not adequately emphasized the role of these eighteenth-century private societies in fostering a new enlightened culture. Like its Continental counterpart, the English Enlightenment flourished in the milieu created by secular fraternizing for the purpose of personal improvement and social intercourse. This culture was public and secular, in that it was neither family oriented nor in attendance at the feet of pulpit preachers. Yet it was private in that its elite membership was restricted by income and dues, education and occupation; and the meetings were always held behind closed doors although not necessarily in secret, with the exception of the Freemasons.


As European historians who have attempted to explain the significance of the eighteenth-century philosophical societies for the French Enlightenment have noted, the philosophical society on the Continent prefigured there a new political order, originally English, and one based on parliamentary and constitutional systems that require constant communication within the political nation.38 Predictably the literary and philosophical societies in England were to some extent an outgrowth of the political and social order produced by the revolutions of the seventeenth century. The first English philosophical society in the provinces began among a group of gentlemen in Spalding who gathered each week to read the Whig journal, the Tatler, as it arrived off the London coach. A similar society was started in Edinburgh, also late in Anne's reign, as the outgrowth of a group formed to read a similar journal, the Spectator.


39 The free circulation of the printed word was an essential precondition of the new scientific culture. The ferment of party politics within a parliamentary context gave unprecedented circulation and relative freedom to the press. Quite incidentally, that freedom encouraged all sorts of private and public gatherings where ideas and books were discussed. These groups met the social needs of new men who defined themselves as individuals, divorced, at least psychologically, from the old corporate structures of extended kinship, medieval guild, or religious confraternity. For such men, in a minority in any European society of the eighteenth century, the philosophical society composed of individuals dedicated to self-improvement provided identity and conviviality, just as the political club provided an outlet for self-interest and conviction.


We should also bear in mind the importance of surplus wealth, a relatively new phenomenon among the middling classes in western Europe, in permitting these societies to flourish.40 That element may be determining when we try to understand why certain cities or towns, and not others, might sustain such gatherings. In England among those who possessed excess wealth or, just as important, those who aspired to it, the perception that science would contribute to their aspirations was arrived at quite early in the eighteenth century. As the century wore on, the proportion of time in those societies devoted to science increased, at the expense of history or literature; utility intended for profit became increasingly paramount.


As the most prestigious English philosophical society, the Royal Society of London offered extremely prosperous gentlemen not unlike Sir Charles an intimacy with science unrivaled by any other eighteenth-century forum. All the early provincial philosophical societies recognized that fact and sought copies of its minutes, even before publication, so as to be abreast of the latest scientific advances. But despite the enthusiasm of contemporaries, the Royal Society's dalliance with ""amateurs,'' its insistence on science as useful science, and its gentlemanly membership have cost it dearly with historians of eighteenth-century ""pure science.'' They have simply refused to write its history, lamented its decline, and hinted at its corruption.41 Although it is not possible here to write that history, some passing reference must be made to the sources out of which it could be constructed.


Throughout most of the century candidates for membership in the Royal Society had to be proposed well in advance by three or more members, who wrote and publicly displayed at meetings ""certificates'' stating the reasons why a man should be voted in by the Fellows, each of whom possessed one vote. After 1730 the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Fellows present at a meeting, rather than a vote in the society's Council, was required for admittance. It seems reasonable when reading those extant manuscript certificates from the 1730s to the 1760s,42 for example, to suppose that they were intended to impress the membership, to reflect the society's best conception of itself and its science in such a way as to court a Fellow's affirmative vote for a candidate. Negative votes were occasionally given, however, and it is also worth speculating why some men and not others were admitted.


The society's rhetorical formulations about itself in the vast majority of cases emphasized the ideal of electing ""a gentleman well skill'd in all parts of the mathematicks, natural and experimental philosophy, and most branches of curious and useful learning.'' But one category was no more important than another. A gentleman from the Navy Office could be skilled in mathematics and have written a treatise on gunnery. Alternatively one could either possess useful learning or simply be ""useful'' for example, by defending or explicating one of Newton's works, especially for a foreign audience, or by ""being a great promoter of Natural Philosophy,'' or by supplying the society with foreign contacts as in the case of Mynheer Hop, the Dutch ambassador. It was sufficient for a squire to be ""well-versed in natural knowledge'' or to be a ""great lover of natural knowledge'' without possessing any particularly noteworthy scientific achievement.43


Philosophical lecturing on the circuit was never held against a man, as Benjamin Martin's rejection might have implied. Martin Clare, who was recommended by his masonic brothers Desaguliers and Ephraim Chambers, was described, obviously with approval, as ""a good mathematician well skilled both in natural and experimental philosophy, and a great promoter of the same.''44 Being a mechanic as well as a merchant was also no shame. Jonathan Fawconer, a lapidary in London, was described as having ""a knowledge of precious stones while being well-versed in most branches of mathematicks, and more particularly in mechanicks, having invented an engine of great service to him in his profession.'' In 1735 the Society honored a man with election who presented before it ""curious experiments relating to the damp of coal mines''; another was admitted because as a sea captain he had made many geographical and navigational inquiries on the Society's behalf. His admittance stands in contrast to the rejection of a doctor of physics and a surgeon, the latter being recommended by Martin Folkes, Hans Sloane, and Jean Desaguliers.45


Generally speaking men with such prominent fellows as their sponsors did not suffer rejection, and it is as yet difficult to determine why certain men were turned away when their reputation, occupation, and sponsorship were apparently acceptable. The rejection of the French philosophe Diderot in 1752 should not, however, be surprising. His reputation as a philosophical radical and a materialist would have doomed him. What is fascinating, however, is to see one of the highest turnouts of Fellows for any meeting in the century where a membership vote was to be taken; Diderot was rejected by 50 votes to 18.46 Obviously there were other criteria for membership beyond those stated in the certificates, and these would eventually lead to dissension within the society.


In the 1780s a rift opened publicly between the president of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, and Fellows who felt that Banks was using his personal influence excessively, ""making himself the sole master of the admissions, in other words, the Monarch of the Society.'' Banks was not trying to restrict membership to the ""pure scientists''; he would not have understood the nature of the Society or science in those terms. Rather he was trying to keep out the less socially prominent and those of republican leanings, some of whom were friends of the radical reformer Dr. Priestley, himself a Fellow. Neither were his opponents trying to admit the ""pure scientists''; they too would not have accepted the distinction. Instead they argued that ""for whatever we ought to be (which is another question), we are not an Academy of Sciences, i.e., a receptacle for the Great in Science, but a society of Gentlemen, of all ranks and professions, all opinions, and, we must add, all kinds of learning (or no-learning) paying 52s. a year for the encouragement of literature.''47 The reformers present what the certificates for admission confirm to have been the Royal Society's conception of itself and the variety of its membership.


The Royal Society's conception of good science tells us much about that British cultural ideal on the eve of industrialization. The propensity to link science with application, with trade and industry, was part of the ideology that created the Royal Society in 1662. It harks back directly to Samuel Hartlib (see pp. 74-76) and the Puritan vision, and hence to Francis Bacon. In the late seventeenth century that industrial impulse led to the attempt by Fellows to compile massive histories of all the known trades, from artillery to masonry, coal mining, and iron foundry. In the early eighteenth century the Society gave its annual Copley awards for successful industrial application: in 1738 to a watchmaker ""for his useful engine contrived for the driving of piles of a new bridge''; in 1739 to Stephen Hales ""for discovery of dissolvents of the stone, and preservation of flesh in long sea voyages.''48 The pattern of those awards for the rest of the century does not deviate significantly from that criterion of usefulness broadly conceived. In 1759 when the president of the Royal Society, Lord Macclesfield (1697-1764), awarded the Copley Medal to the famous civil engineer John Smeaton, to whom we shall return, he noted that while the medal should be for papers presented to the society ""yet much honor'' belonged to Smeaton for his extraordinary achievement in constructing the Eddystone lighthouse. Macclesfield in turn praised Smeaton for his papers submitted to the Philosophical Transactions on water wheels and windmill sails, for displaying in them ""so clear and scientific method'' to produce ""a chain of close reasoning, that depends upon many computations and numeral proportions arising from the results of a considerable number of very accurate experiments.''49 In short, Macclesfield and the committee that awarded the Copley Medal thought that Smeaton was a very fine scientist. As we shall see from his private letters, Smeaton also thought this of himself, and so did his friends. The definition of science employed by the Royal Society, although laying greater emphasis on the mathematical and experimental than was common in the other philosophical societies of the period, was held in admiration by the gentlemanly members of those societies and never seen as demanding an enterprise that was either intimidating or foreign to their aspirations.


But organizing natural philosophical learning into provincial societies, given London's preponderance and the difficulties in transportation and communication, was seen as a delicate business. The success rate for the early part of the century was not high. Yet given the notable preponderance of those societies in British, as opposed to Dutch or French, cultural life, we should examine that unique phenomenon in some detail. Indeed one of the most extraordinary examples can be found in the Spalding Gentlemen's Society.50 From 1712 to 1755, 374 men joined this society located in a town of some 500 families, although only about 20 or so members in every decade formed its core. Its organizer and guiding light, Maurice Johnson, belonged to the top stratum of genteel society, was a Justice of the Peace in the shire, an active Fellow in the Royal Society, and a devotee of London club and pub life. He sought to export that easy socializing to the county, to the gentlemen of quality but also to clergymen, who were to form nearly a fourth of the society's membership, and to doctors, lawyers, surveyors, and even tradesmen, the last of whom made up 3 per cent of the society's total.51 The Spalding Gentlemen's Society's manuscript minutes show a remarkable interest in Newtonian science as explicated by s'Gravesande and Desaguliers provided the explanations were not too mathematical and in natural artifacts and natural history in general as well as in antiquities.52 At the inner circle of the society's leadership was a ubiquitous medical man, later turned clergyman and antiquarian with an interest in Freemasonry and the mystical, one Dr. William Stukeley (1687-1765). By his side was John Grundy (1696-1748), one of the most important engineers in the period between Newcomen and Smeaton.53 Both incidentally were Freemasons; indeed Grundy was master of the lodge at Spalding, one dedicated to the improvement of each brother ""through natural philosophy'' among other disciplines, and Johnson may also have been a lodge brother.54


The Spalding society is important not simply because its very existence demonstrates the early and widespread interest in the new science among the genteel, the educated, and the mercantile of the provinces, but also because its understanding of science, as documented in its archives and extant library catalogues, was mechanical and experimental as well as ""useful.'' In this society the itinerant lecturers made their mark on men interested in the draining of the local fens; in the improvement of agricultural techniques; in surveying for enclosure and canal building; in using pumps, pulleys, levers, and the new steam engines, wherever practical; and in finding labor-saving devices of a mechanical sort. At least one scientific educator of the period, John Rowning, author of A Compendious System of Natural Philosophy (1738), regularly attended the society's meetings.


But did this science of the early lecturers, to be found in Spalding as well as in London, ever actually inspire technological innovation of the kind essential to the early stages of industrialization? The records of the Spalding society prove that it did. The water engineer John Grundy, for instance, has always been described as self-taught, and his important innovations as a surveyor of the fens and instigator of various successful canal routes through Lincoln, Chester, and Lancaster have never been connected in the historical literature with his interest in natural philosophical learning. He is known to have taught mathematics in the 1730s and may even have been an itinerant lecturer early in his career; and perhaps most important, he educated his son of the same name (b. 1719) to such a degree of excellence that he became an important engineer of the next generation. But the manuscript minutes of the Spalding society reveal Grundy's interest in the industrial and agricultural application of the new science:


Mr. Grundy communicated his proposals for draining lands that lie near the sea, showing the necessity of mathematical and philosophical knowledge thereto required approved by J. T. Desaguliers, D.D., F.R.S.55


Desaguliers we know had actively campaigned for the industrial application of science in England and the Low Countries.56 But Grundy had gained more from him than simply an interest in machines; he had learned the principles of Newtonian science as an experimental and mechanical system. When Grundy's machines pumped efficiently, they did so in part because their inventor obtained through the Spalding society a theoretical and correct understanding of the natural order that enabled him to channel nature into the service of human productivity.


Other philosophical societies from this early period also sprang up in Stamford, Northampton, Peterborough (1730), and Edinburgh. But the Peterborough society, started by a clergyman from the Spalding society, Timothy Neve, refused to admit tradesmen, ""which makes some who set themselves up for gentlemen the more desirous of becoming members, as piqueing themselves upon their quality or profession.''57 Although modeled on Spalding, the Peterborough society barely survived ten years. The one at Stamford (not far from either Spalding or Peterborough) did not do much better despite the occasional appearance of an original Newtonian, William Whiston, at its meetings.58 It would seem that these other societies lacked dynamic leadership. This was the critical factor, since both Northampton and Spalding succeeded for a time and both possessed nationally connected organizers of stature: Johnson in the case of Spalding; and Thomas Yeoman, the engineer, and Philip Doddridge, the Dissenting minister, in the case of Northampton. Yeoman was an itinerant lecturer and manager of a cotton mill in Northampton who turned his skill to surveying for turnpikes and enclosures as well as to water engineering. Indeed in 1743 he erected the machinery in the world's first water-powered cotton mill.59 In these and other projects he had the encouragement of Doddridge, who extracted from the Newtonian legacy both its mechanical and ethical applications.60


More than enthusiasm for Newtonian science was required to create and sustain these societies. All evidence suggests that their membership was drawn entirely from the ranks of voting freeholders those newly empowered political individuals. Where we can find ideological affiliations for the leadership of these societies, whether in London or Northampton, it was court and Whig in its identification with the ruling oligarchy. The Northampton society, for example, was filled with supporters of the Whig parliamentary candidate whose 1748 election was one of the most hotly contested of the period. The Whig leadership of the Royal Society in this period is, of course, well known. The societies eschewed politics, yet they were dependent on political life for the social network that sustained them. Other social factors, however, were equally important in giving dynamism to these gatherings. As the quick demise of the Peterborough society would suggest, exclusivity if carried too far brought with it boredom. Those societies that permitted the mixing of the genteel and educated with the mercantile and prosperous seem to have kept both their attendance and their intellectual content reasonably high.


What, however, was a man, and certainly a woman, to do if he or she did not have access to, or could not afford to be admitted to, one of these societies? For both there were, of course, the traveling lecturers, who specifically appealed to ladies to attend their courses, occasionally even offering a special course solely for them. Some lecturers preferred daylight for their demonstrations and therefore needed leisured customers to pay the fees as well as to attend these afternoon sessions. After all, a course in science at two guineas would be no more than a gentleman would pay for his children to attend lessons with a dancing master. Aside from these public lectures a woman could also read about science, and by mid-century the finest scientific journal for a lay audience was the Ladies' Diary. It set complex mathematical puzzles for its female readership, but copies of solutions offered by members of the Spalding society turn up in its archives.61



One such lone reader and student of the new science, who became a close friend and admirer of the younger John Grundy, was the Yorkshire engineer John Smeaton, F.R.S. (1724-1792). With him we move from the general cultural background, the intellectual origins of the Industrial Revolution, into the very center of that economic and social upheaval. Recognizing as we do now that water power was more important in the first decades of industrialization than steam, Smeaton must be seen as singularly important for his perfecting of the atmospheric engine indeed, as the most important industrial engineer in the years between Newcomen and Watt.62 Like the older Grundy, he has been described in the literature about early industrial technology not only as ""self-taught'' but also as being without ""any system of conceptual or theoretical knowledge.''63 The evidence proves otherwise.


Like so many other minor, or major, philosophes, Smeaton's earliest intellectual interests began with religion, as his unpublished letters to Benjamin Wilson testify. Wilson, who was an early electrical experimenter and theorist, acted for a time as Smeaton's mentor in matters religious and scientific. Both, it would seem, sought a rational Christianity; and in the context of either eighteenth-century Anglicanism or Dissent that meant discarding the doctrine of the Trinity. Smeaton believed that ""this is doing service to religion ... Jesus Christ is the greatest of all created beings and mediator between God and man ... I think it is observable there is no direct mention of a Trinity ... in the Scripture.''64 Throughout his life Smeaton paid little attention to formal religiosity, maintained his belief in divine providence, and regarded the Catholicism he witnessed on the Continent as ""calculated for striking the minds of the vulgar.''65 Indeed other people's prejudices and superstitions fascinated him, while he and his engineer friends prided themselves on their willingness to follow wherever the new science led, even in the dangerous business of allowing their children to be inoculated against smallpox.66 As a young man Smeaton sought to become a ""philosopher,'' to use his word, and he cultivated a sophisticated understanding of Newtonian science. In his letters he offered Wilson both theoretical and experimental criticism for his ideas on electricity, but he also believed that learning must serve society:


If I were so far to abstract myself from the world as to consider myself without either friends or enemies or any person to take any measure of notice of me ... I should quickly lay aside toyling and noyling in ye sciences, and industry of all kinds any farther than so much food as to provide me from starving.67


Smeaton, like so many enlightened men, believed that the love of society was implanted in every man and that knowledge must serve human needs and bear reference ""to the opinion of our fellow creatures.'' Yet amid this idealism reality dawned harshly on this would-be philosopher. His parents objected successfully to his betrothal to an impecunious lady, and around the same time Smeaton realized that even a coveted membership in the Royal Society cost a great deal of money. Its admittance fee of 23 pounds led Smeaton to complain bitterly, ""I think only rich philosophers can afford to pay: so that I suppose ye popish proverb will fit them "no penny no pater noster.''' Although ""we ought all of us to be philosophers,'' this young scientist who wanted to become a professor of physics became instead an engineer. His earliest efforts at building mechanical devices for example, an air pump with which to create a better vacuum had been prompted by their usefulness in electrical experimentation. Smeaton was, however, ""as poor as a churchmouse,''67 and he was forced to abandon the purely theoretical and experimental. He was to struggle for many years to build canals, bridges, and machines for industrial application. Throughout his mature years he sought to attain solvency and respectability, as would any rising professional in a world obviously dominated by the well-born and the genteel. ""My profession is as perfectly personal as that of a Physician or counciller at Law,'' he declared to a local schoolmaster seeking to place a pupil with him, while to a customer Smeaton tersely explained, ""The construction of Mills, as to their Power, is not with me a Matter of Opinion it is a Matter of Calculation.''68


Throughout his life Smeaton's friends frequently addressed him as ""my great philosopher''; but how did he perceive himself? Not only did Smeaton invent the profession of the civil engineer indeed he and the younger Grundy corresponded with one another as early as 1764 as members ""of a profession''69 he also possessed a finely honed definition of his place in the scientific world, one with overtones of the supposed split between technicians and ""pure scientists.'' But in his own mind, Smeaton is the theorist, the ""pure'' scientist. In a long letter to a friend prompted by the failure of the London projectors to compensate promptly and adequately the architects and surveyors who designed Blackfriar's Bridge, Smeaton wrote of such designers as ""artists'' who must operate in an economic climate fraught with dangers. Smeaton accepted the laws of the marketplace ""profit ... is the basis of trade and commerce'' but he objected to the unfair practices of the profiteers who failed to compensate engineers for their time and labor.


The point here is that Smeaton, like Wedgwood, the Strutts, and countless other entrepreneurs of the early Industrial Revolution, believed that the application of scientific knowledge within the free market should be unencumbered and justly rewarded. Indeed in his private letters Smeaton could take up the language used by contemporary political radicals who sought to rally the middling classes against the oligarchy. He speaks of ""liberties and properties'' as being the ""time and skill of any artist employed in design.'' Such artists by their ""superior ingenuity'' furnish ""employment for thousands'' and as such deserve the protection of the government. British entrepreneurs were prepared to turn against that government only when they saw their dreams of social and economic improvement based on science and industry actually endangered.70


Smeaton, the scientist, who had also to be an entrepreneur if he was to survive, could identify if only momentarily with radical reformers when the dignity of his profession was maligned and his right to profit thwarted by his far richer employers. Generally, however, Smeaton directed his entrepreneurial energies into the discovery of labor-saving mechanical devices that could replace human labor. He, even more than his scientific predecessors such as Desaguliers, perceived that replacing human power with mechanical power increased profits. As long as he could keep his dignity, exercise his talents, and profit, Smeaton never railed publicly or even privately against the existing order. He was too busy being one of the most successful entrepreneurs and scientists of his generation.


RADICAL TENDENCIES WITHIN INDUSTRIAL CULTUREThe Whig and Erastian order that enabled such men as Smeaton, Grundy, Desaguliers, and their associates to pursue science for its profitable application to industry rendered them at most times politically complacent. In general the historian searches their meeting books or private letters in vain for a hint of political disaffection from the ruling oligarchy, for an attack on ""corruption'' or the evils of placemen or paper credit.71 These are supporters of the oligarcy by default. When alienation does appear within the mainstream of the organized scientific community, it comes from men of merit rather than birth, who, like Smeaton, think that their skill and talent have not been sufficiently appreciated and rewarded. But what if this scientific culture of the philosophical societies and engineers, with its extraordinary sense of the profit and improvement to be achieved through study and experimentation, were to turn its energies in a socially reforming direction? What if the pursuit of profit through mechanical ingenuity were put in the service of opposition to existing authority for the purpose of republican, even democratic, reform? Such opposition among scientific reformers can be found on the Continent in the 1780s (see pp. 195-198); it was rare in eighteenth-century Britain, but it did occur. The dynamism produced by the vision of improvement that the new science inspired could threaten those elements within elite culture who failed to embrace it. Yet the alternative vision of the reformers, so wedded as it was to capital and industry, also possessed distinct limitations.


No general portrait of English scientific culture in the eighteenth century would be complete without discussing the vision and limitations of its radical underside. Public education through lectures, books, and philosophical societies intended to make the genteel practical and the meritorious genteel with all the optimism that those activities imply could and did have leveling tendencies, even if most of their earliest propagators selfconsciously sought to reinforce the existing social hierarchy. The English republic of letters could also be republican even, or perhaps more especially, when it was busy being entrepreneurial and industrial.




Of the many philosophical societies that sprang up in the later decades of the century, the one at Derby in the northern county of Derbyshire deserves our special attention for what it can tell us about the potentiality and perimeters of enlightened scientific culture. In that society, established in 1784 by Erasmus Darwin (the grandfather of Charles) and intended for the pursuit of ""gentlemanlike facts,'' we find the same useful and mechanical science practised in Spalding, London, or Birmingham, as well as the same desire for industrial application. Now, however, there are industrialists present in goodly numbers. Suddenly the whole burden of scientific culture has also been shifted in a politically and socially radical direction by the addition of two ideological ingredients: philosophical materialism and republicanism. Since the late seventeenth century both could be grafted quite easily onto the new science (see pp. 117-120) however hard the Newtonians had worked to prevent the hybrid and now in the Derwent Valley, at the very center of the Industrial Revolution, we find pioneering industrialists like William Strutt (d. 1830), Erasmus Darwin's closest friend and founder member of their philosophical society, distributing copies of the American revolutionary Thomas Paine's Rights of Man to his factory workers. Indeed Derby's radical corresponding society of 179172 was a direct outgrowth of its philosophical society, and revolutionary ardor, first of the American and then of the French variety, ran through Darwin's society; among some of its members it even survived the disillusionment brought on by the Reign of Terror.73


In the Derby Philosophical Society many strands found in the older scientific culture of the mid-seventeenth century are once again present, only now rewoven into an entirely different tapestry. As might be predicted, the philosophical society has become a testing ground for democratic ideas, and even a center for the expression of revolutionary ideals. There still remains the omnipresent emphasis on mechanisms and utility. It is revealed in the extant catalogue of the society's carefully chosen scientific library. This improving science has also been channeled into creating mechanisms for domestic comfort and home improvement, as well as into town planning and the construction of more efficient factories. Dissenters and Unitarians are also present in exceptionally large numbers, although the irreligious, such as Darwin, seem particularly comfortable among the inner coterie of the society's members. They are devoted to books and print culture in general, collecting as many of the proceedings of scientific societies from anywhere in the world that they can lay their hands on.74 And finally there are the medical men, as well as the engineers and industrialists, some of whom, like Strutt, are so idealistic and confident about the future being prepared by science and industry that they are ready to promote republican ideas among their workers.


Erasmus Darwin, more a philosopher than an organizer, nevertheless deserves to be seen as the guiding force in Derby's philosophical society. He was a full-blown pantheist and materialist devoted to drawing from the new scientific culture of his age all of its infinite possibilities. And therein lies the root of his political radicalism. His passion for scientific learning, born out of his conviction that ""Nature is All,'' gave him an optimism about human nature and the future that demanded the transformation of existing social and political institutions. His faith in material progress wedded to an egalitarian ideal, although undoubtedly born of a more radically materialist metaphysics, is remarkably similar to that of his near contemporary Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, however, would act out his ideals in the more congenial political context found in the revolutionary American colonies.75 Indeed Darwin was on close personal terms with Dr. William Small (b. 1734), who had taught natural philosophy and mathematics to Jefferson at the College of William and Mary in colonial Virginia before returning to Birmingham in 1765, where he, Matthew Boulton the industrialist, James Watt of steam engine fame, and Darwin formed their own collegium.




In his opening address to the Derby Philosophical Society, Darwin waxed eloquent about the material and intellectual benefits promised and already delivered by science, which the printed word has ""scattered among the great mass of mankind the happy contagion of science and of truth.''77 In a letter to a friend he compared the new society to Freemasonry, as simply another form of congenial fraternizing; but Darwin does not appear to have been drawn to that particular form of secretive philosophical socializing. Nor were other members of the Derby society only one, a Dr. Pigott, was active in the local lodge.78 But Darwin and his society were well acquainted with other aspects of the radical tradition; they were republicans of a kind. Among them we find no ambivalence, however, toward capitalism. While that ambivalence toward commerce was undoubtedly present in the writings of many early eighteenth-century English republicans, it is absent from the thought, and most especially from the actions, of Darwin and his friends. Science could work profound transformations within the radical tradition. Inspired by a powerful faith born of science, and reinforced by the wonders of industrial productivity, these Derbyshire republicans put their trust in capital harnessed to machinery, indeed in mechanisms of every sort.


But faith was not enough to save institutions, whether traditional or radical, from experiencing a difficult time in the period of industrialization after 1790. Not only did the masonic lodges in Derby decline, so too did the Anglican churches in the shire.79 The new population drawn to the district in search of factory work had little use for either institution. They also seem to have had little faith in Strutt his books or his projects; and his schemes for enclosing the town green, enacted through a parliamentary bill of 1792, were violently attacked by ordinary folk as another form of enclosure.80 In that decade the philosophical society also came in for severe criticism; the Anglican clergy attacked it and the Dissenters for their support of the French Revolution, for their supposed Jacobinism. All the reforming and philosophical societies, in particular the corresponding societies, were attacked as followers of the republicans of the 1650s, James Harrington and Milton, as well as of Algernon Sydney and Locke.81


In the face of severe local opposition to their politics, the members of the Derby society simply turned their attention away from political reform and busied themselves in improving their town, its factories, its canals, even its homes. In the 1790s these Derby republicans concentrated their reforming instincts on canal building, on the protection of their industrial secrets from foreign spying and economic competition from Irish manufacturers, on public works such as town lighting and domestic improvements such as central heating and the indoor toilet.82 They talked of projects to build the ideal factory, with a central observation point from which all workshops and workers could be overseen. No amount of popular or clerical opposition could deter Strutt and his philosophical allies from the pursuit of material progress and profit based on science. In the end that revolution took precedence over all others. Although personal letters, particularly from the female members of the Strutt and Darwin families, bear witness to the survival of republicanism, utopianism, and irreligion within the family,83 these receded increasingly into the realm of the private and the domestic.


The pursuit of scientific learning and its industrial application also continued uninterrupted at the meetings of the Derby Philosophical Society. Nothing could shake its faith in the improvements made possible by science, even if these now had to be confined entirely to the material order. By 1820 the mechanisms championed by the society and its members had indeed conspired with capital and cheap surplus labor to transform Derbyshire in ways that the mechanists of earlier generations could never have imagined. What had begun in the London coffee-houses and taverns during the early 1700s, and then been spread by itinerant lecturers and philosophical societies, had finally produced a new kind of entrepreneurial and philosophical gentleman. This industrialist championed a particular type of science, which had to be applied mechanically in order to be understood and which as a result had within its power the capacity to transform both nature and society.


The radicalism of this new industrial culture, where it occurred, centered on the destruction of those landed interests that inhibited its progress. These early industrialists, among them Josiah Wedgwood, came to see the old landed elite as largely hostile to their industrial projects.84 They extolled the power of the new science, using a metaphor drawn from electrical experiments, as capable of blasting ""the oppressors of the poor and needy,'' of executing ""some public piece of justice in the most tremendous and conspicuous manner, that shall make the great ones of the earth tremble.''85 When they were not busy building their industries, they worked for the election of radical Whigs to Parliament and read the work of the French philosophes, not least the democratic writings of Rousseau.86 The reforming vision of such industrialists presumed constant material improvement intended for the general good. It also presumed that industry and capital would remain in the hands of their rightful owners. As Wedgwood put it, the workmen are ""our inferiors''; yet, he conceded, they are made of the same stuff as ourselves and ""are capable of feeling pain, or pleasure, nearly in the same manner as their Masters.''87 Part of that presumed superiority derived from the power conferred on the literate elite by scientific education. By the end of the century it was simply assumed that the mechanization of manufacturing, and hence of labor, required a working knowledge of applied Newtonian science that is, ""the laws of mechanics as a science,'' ""the laws of hydraulics and hydrostatics,'' ""the doctrine of heat and cold.'' With those, manufacturers could mechanize their factories through the application of steam power.88


The scientific education of the workers, or ""mechanics'' as they were called, could be countenanced and encouraged by these masters as a way of inculcating wonder at the rewards promised by orderly diligence and the rational application of mechanical principles. As a result, in the early nineteenth century scientific knowledge finally escaped the small elite within which it had matured. Scientific education gradually became a part of general schooling for boys and girls as well as for adult workers who could attend the ""mechanics institutes'' that sprang up all over Britain.


Among the first working-class radical intellectuals of the early nineteenth century, useful science, not surprisingly, was to be valued. Once wrested from the pious injunction to obey the master as nature obeys the creator, that science offered a weapon by which the secrets of the machine might be mastered and its benefits channeled to the profit of all mankind, not simply to that of ""the Masters.''89 These early worker-intellectuals rightly discerned that the Baconian vision had indeed brought unimagined benefits to those who mastered the methods and application of science. They understood that those who control science and scientific education shall always be its beneficiaries.




1.The most concise statement of these mechanistic concepts can be found in Carlo Cipolla, ed., The Emergence of Industrial Societies, The Fontana Economic History of Europe (Hassocks, Sussex: Harvester Press, 1976), in particular Phyllis Deane, ""The Industrial Revolution in Great Britain.'' But for evidence of new doubts, see D. C. Coleman, ""Proto-Industrialization: A Concept Too Many,'' Economic History Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (1983), pp. 444-445: ""And the mere existence of so-called proto-industrialization in such regions was no guarantee whatever of the appearance of entrepreneurial skills or of the capital necessary to induce changes in production techniques.'' For a particularly mechanistic version of development theory that in order to sustain its case must dismiss the scientific culture described in this chapter, see Ester Boserup, Population and Technology (Oxford: Blackwell's, 1981), p. 4. The opening quotations are from Letters of Josiah Wedgwood, 1762-1772 (London, 1903), pp. 24, 165.


2.For a succinct statement of the thesis, see A. Rupert Hall, ""Engineering and the Scientific Revolution,'' Technology and Culture, vol. 2, no. 4 (1961), p. 334: ""The great discoveries of mathematical physicists were not merely over the heads of practical engineers and craftsmen; they were useless to them.''


3.Both questions are posed most succinctly and provocatively in J. G. A. Pocock, ""Post-Puritan England and the Problem of the Enlightenment,'' in Perez Zagorin, ed., Culture and Politics: From Puritanism to the Enlightenment (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), especially pp. 106-108; and Margaret 'Espinasse, ""The Decline and Fall of Restoration Science,'' in Charles Webster, ed., The Intellectual Revolution of the Seventeenth Century (London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974), pp. 347-368 (reprinted from Past and Present, no. 14 1958). For an interesting perspective on decline, citing the absence of experimental physics at the Royal Society, see J. L. Heilbron, Physics at the Royal Society During Newton's Presidency (Los Angeles: Clark Library, 1983).


4.I have benefited from the groundbreaking research of Larry Stewart; see his ""The Selling of Newton: Science and Technology in Early Eighteenth Century England,'' Journal of British Studies, vol. 25 (1986), pp. 178-192.


5.Others have exposed the weaknesses in the ""pure science'' argument; A. E. Musson and Eric Robinson, Science and Technology in the Industrial Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1969); A. E. Musson, ed., Science, Technology and Economic Growth in the Eighteenth Century (London: Methuen, 1972), in particular p. 14, citing Simon Kuznets, Secular Movements on Production and Prices (Boston, 1930), for a theoretical background to this approach; Neil MacKendrick, ""The Role of Science in the Industrial Revolution: A Study of Josiah Wedgwood as a Scientist and Industrial Chemist,'' in M. Teich and R. Young, eds., Changing Perspectives in the History of Science (London: Heinemann, 1973), pp. 274-319, in particular pp. 274-279, for an excellent introduction to the historiographical problems; and in the same vein, D. S. L. Cardwell, ""Science, Technology and Industry,'' in G. S. Rousseau and Roy Porter, eds., The Ferment of Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), pp. 449-483, with good intuition on Smeaton, p. 470; and finally Peter Mathias, ""Who Unbound Prometheus? Science and Technical Change, 1600-1800,'' in Peter Mathias, ed., Science and Society 1600-1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 54-80, where I think the problems posed do not bear up against the archival evidence presented by Musson, Robinson, and others. For a recent example of rearguard action from a new version of the ""pure science'' perspective, see Michael Fores, ""Francis Bacon and the Myth of Industrial Science,'' History of Technology, vol. 7, pp. 57-75.


6.Comparative studies of differing rates of industrialization fail almost entirely to speak about the mentality of the elites being compared. Yet there is growing discomfort with this failure and the way in which it has impoverished the entire question of why industrialization might occur in one area of Europe and not another; see Joel Mokyr, ""Industrialization in Two Languages,'' Economic History Review, 2nd ser., vol. 34 (1981), pp. 143-149.


7.See Margaret C. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1770 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1976); Larry Stewart, ""The Structure of Scientific Orthodoxy: Newtonianism and the Social Support for Science, 1704-1728'' (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1978).


8.Benjamin Worster, A Compendious and Methodical Account of the Principles of Natural Philosophy: as they are explain'd and illustrated in the Course of Experiments: Perform'd at the Academy in Little Tower Street (London, 1722); and Francis Hauksbee, A Course of Mechanical, Optical, Hydrostatical, and Pneumatical Experiments: To be Perform'd by Francis Hauksbee; and the Explanatory Lectures Read by William Whiston (London, n.d. but probably 1714). The first lecture is on Newton's laws of motion; the second on ""the ballance and stillyard ... All the various Kinds of Levers ... Pulleys''; the third on the wheel, the wedge, the screw, and ""a compound engine.'' On Whiston, see James E. Force, William Whiston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).


9.J. T. Desaguliers, Physico-Mechanical Lectures. Or, an Account of what is Explained and Demonstrated in the Course of Mechanical and Experimental Philosophy (London, 1717), preface. See also Larry Stewart, ""Public Lectures and Private Patronage in Newtonian England,'' Isis, vol. 77 (1986), pp. 47-58.


10.See British Library, C. 112, fol. 9, A Collection of Medical Advertisements, no. 181 (a single-sheet printed course outline). I owe this reference to Peter Wallis; see his paper ""Ephemera Issued by the Early Lecturers in Experimental Science,'' available from the author, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.


11.Desaguliers, Physico-Mechanical Lectures, pp. 1-5.


12.British Library, C. 112, fol. 9, A Collection of Medical Advertisements, no. 181.


13.J. Ozanasm, A Treatise of Fortification, trans. and amended by J. T. Desaguliers (Oxford, 1711).


14.Desaguliers, Physico-Mechanical Lectures, p. 22.


15.John Theophilus Desaguliers, A Course of Mechanical and Experimental Philosophy: Whereby anyone, although unskill'd in Mathematical Sciences, May be able to understand all those Phaenomena of Nature ... (London, 1725). Preserved in the archives of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society; my thanks to its curator, Mr. Norman Leveritt. 


16.John Booth, Course of Experimental-Philosophy (n.d.), a flier from the archives of the Spalding society on which are listed the names of members who subscribed; and Will. Griffis, A Short Account of a Course of Mechanical and Experimental Philosophy and Astronomy (n.d.; but August 15, 1748, written in as the date the lecturers were first announced to this society) and to be found in its archives.


17.Worster, The Principles of Natural Philosophy, preface and p. 230.


18.F. J. G. Robinson, ""A Philosophic War: An Episode in Eighteenth-Century Scientific Lecturing in North East England,'' Transactions of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland, vol. 2 (1970), p. 101.


19.See John R. Millburn, Benjamin Martin, Author, Instrument-Maker, and Country Showman (Leiden: Noodhoff, 1976), pp. 40-41, 64. In general, see F. W. Gibbs, ""Itinerant Lecturers in Natural Philosophy,'' Ambix, vol. 6 (1960), pp. 111-117. See also John Horsley, A Short and General Account of the Most Necessary and Fundamental Principles of Natural Philosophy (Glasgow, 1743); and Benjamin Martin, A New and Comprehensive System of Mathematical Institutions Agreeable to the Present State of the Newtonian Mathesis (London, 1764), vol. 2. Dutch translations of Martin's lectures were bound with those of Desaguliers. See B. Martin, Philozofische Onderwijzen; of Algemeene Schets der Hedendaagsche Ondervindelyke Natuurkunde (Amsterdam, 1737). Cf. John Millburn, ""The London Evening Courses of Benjamin Martin and James Ferguson, Eighteenth-Century Lecturers on Experimental Philosophy,'' Annals of Science, vol. 40 (1983), pp. 437-455.


20.For a copy of the Constitutions and a discussion of Desaguliers's role, see Margaret C. Jacob, The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), appendix and pp. 109-113, 122-127.


21.By a junior grand warden. A Speech deliver'd to the Worshipful and Ancient Society of Free and Accepted Masons. At a Grand Lodge, Held at Merchant's Hall, in the City of York, on St. John's Day, December 27, 1726 (York, 1726). See in particular pp. 2, 14-15.


22.W. K. Firminger, ""The Lectures at the Old King's Arms Lodge,'' Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 45 (1935), pp. 255-257.


23.Martin Clare, The Motion of Fluids ... (London, 1735); dedicated to Thomas Thynne, Viscount Weymouth, grandmaster of the Freemasons. According to the Advertisement, these were ""some lectures, privately read to a set of gentlemen,'' with the mechanical drawings done by Isaac Ware, an architect. Desaguliers is thanked profusely. For the steam engine, see pp. 67-70.


24.Martin Clare, Youth's Introduction to Trade and Business, 5th ed. (London, 1740), pp. 97, 109-110.


25.John S. Allen, ""Thomas Newcomen (1663/4-1729) and his Family,'' Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 51 (1979-1980), p. 19.


26.W. Brockland and F. Kenworthy, eds., The Diary of Richard Kay, 1716-51 of Baldingstone, Near Bury: A Lancashire Doctor (Manchester: Chetham Society, 1968), vol. 16, 3rd ser., p. 63, entry for June 22, 1743.


27.Ibid., p. 26, entry for February 24, 1738/9.


28.""Observations and Memorandums,'' fols. 1-2 and 8, Chetham's Library, Manchester. These are sometimes cited as being by John Rotheram, but the writer makes it clear that he is a listener; cf. Musson and Robinson, Science and Technology, 103n.




29.""Observations and Memorandums,'' fols. 20-21. In fol. 24 a mathematical illustration of the moon's effect on the tides was given, but the listener records ""but whether or no my ignorance as to mathematicks may not be the reason that I don't form a just notion of this calculation I'll rather allow than Dispute.'' In fol. 35 we are told that ""I have in this as well as in all the observations I made on Mr. Rotherham's Lectures omitted inserting the mathematical experiments and only deduced such rules from them as were servicable sic to conducting me through the nature of others.''


30.Ibid., fols. 12-14, 57.


31.University Library, Cambridge, MSS ADD. 6301, fol. 6.


32.For notes taken on the lectures of Gervase Holmes (M.A. 1722) at Emmanuel College, see University Library, Cambridge, MSS ADD. 5047.


33.N. Alcock, Some Memoirs of the Life of Dr. Nathan Alcock, lately deceased (London, 1780), pp. 7-9.


34.See the excellent treatment of this literature in G. S. Rousseau, ""Science Books and Their Readers in the Eighteenth Century,'' in Isabel Rivers, ed., Books and Their Readers in Eighteenth-Century England (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982), pp. 197-255. This brings up the whole genre of subscription literature; see Peter Wallis, ""British Philomaths Mid-Eighteenth Century and Earlier,'' Centaurus, vol. 18 (1973), pp. 301-314; and F. J. G. Robinson and P. J. Wallis, ""A preliminary guide to book subscription lists: Part 1 pre-1901,'' History of Education Society Bulletin, no. 9 (1972), pp. 23-54.


35.Madame de Cambon Marie Gertruide de Cambon-van Werken, Young Grandison: A Series of Letters from Young Persons to their Friends, translated from the Dutch, 2 vols. (London, 1790), p. 78.


36.Ibid., p. 32.


37.There is no general study of these societies. See, however, Roy Porter, ""The Enlightenment in England,'' in R. Porter and M. Teich, eds., The Enlightenment in National Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 1-18; R. B. Schofield, The Lunar Society of Birmingham (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1963); Guy Kitteringham, ""Science in Provincial Society: The Case of Liverpool in the Early Nineteenth Century,'' Annals of Science, vol. 39 (1982), pp. 329-334; Roger L. Emerson, ""The Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, 1737-47,'' British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 12 (1979), pp. 154-191; J. H. Thornton, ""The Northampton Philosophical Society, 1743,'' lecture given to the Northamptonshire Natural History Society and available from the author, to whom I am grateful for assistance; and by way of comparison, James Meenan and Desmond Clarke, eds., The Royal Dublin Society, 1731-1981 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1981). Studies that are somewhat related to this topic and should be consulted are F. W. Gibbs, ""Robert Dossie (1717-1777) and the Society of Arts,'' Annals of Science, vol. 7 (1951), pp. 149-172; David D. McElroy, Scotland's Age of Improvement: A Survey of 18th Century Literary Clubs and Societies (Seattle: Washington State University Press, 1969); Kenneth Hudson, Patriotism with Profit: British Agricultural Societies in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (London: Hugh Evelyn, 1972), especially pp. 18-23; R. S. Watson, A History of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1897); and D. G. C. Allan, William Shipley, Founder of the Royal Society of Arts (London: Scolar Press, 1979), especially pp. 30-39.


38.For the introduction to the writings of one such historian, Augustin Cochin, see Francois Furet, Interpreting the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), Chapter 3; of Cochin's various writings, I have found La Revolution et la libre pensee (Paris, 1924) to be the most useful, and some of his ideas are applied here. 


39.McElroy, Scotland's Age of Improvement, pp. 14-15.


40.Peter Borsay, ""The English Urban Renaissance: The Development of Provincial Urban Culture, c. 1680-1760,'' Social History, vol. 5 (May 1977), p. 593.


41.There is no modern account of the eighteenth-century society. See Charles R. Weld, A History of the Royal Society, 2 vols. (London, 1848); T. E. Allibone, The Royal Society and Its Dining Clubs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976); H. Lyons, The Royal Society, 1660-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1944); Charles Lyte, Sir Joseph Banks, Eighteenth Century Explorer, Botanist and Entrepreneur (London: David and Charles, 1980), which is largely useless; and H. Hartley, ed., The Royal Society (London: Royal Society of London, 1960). One approach to the society by a critic can be discovered in G. S. Rousseau, ed., The Letters and Papers of Sir John Hill 1714-1775 (New York: AMS Press, 1982); cf. L. Trengove, ""Chemistry at the Royal Society of London in the 18th Century,'' Annals of Science, vol. 19 (1963), pp. 183-237.


42.Royal Society, Certificates, vol. 1, 1731-1750; vol. 2, 1751-1766 (approximately 1,000 folios).


43.Ibid., vol. 1, fols. 21, 50, 62, 66, 163.


44.Ibid., fol. 85.


45.Ibid., fols. 95, 118, 139, 167. Fol. 248 relates to a Robert James, ""Doctor of Physick,'' who was rejected; in general, surgeons did not fare well in the voting process. In an essay published after this chapter was completed, M. Crosland draws similar conclusions about the criteria for membership: M. Crosland, ""Explicit Qualifications as a Criterion for Membership of the Royal Society,'' Notes and Records of the Royal Society, vol. 37 (1983), pp. 167-187.




46.Royal Society, Certificates, vol. 2, fol. 467.


47.Anon. P. H. Maty et al., An History of the Instances of Exclusion from the Royal Society (London, 1784), pp. 3 and 10. For further evidence of the power wielded by Banks, see a letter dated October 13, 1805, in Bristol Record Office, MS 8030(1-10), on making someone a fellow: ""It is in vain to make the attempt unless Sir Joseph be satisfied.''


48.Royal Society, MS 702; see also K. Ochs, ""The Failed Revolution in Applied Science: The Study of Industry by Members of the Royal Society of London, 1660-88'' (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1981).


49.Royal Society, MS. L<m82;tf,98>AP. 3, fol. 403.


50.This discussion of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society is deeply indebted to Raymond James Evans, ""The Diffusion of Science: The Geographical Transmission of Natural Philosophy in the English Provinces, 1660-1760'' (Ph.D. diss., University Library, Cambridge, D. Phil., #12208, 1982). Cited with the kind permission of the author.


51.Ibid., pp. 172-175.


52.The manuscript minutes are currently housed at the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, 9 Broad Street, Spalding. Maurice Johnson's MSS, Drawer 1, are particularly interesting on the scientific content of the society's meetings and his contacts with Cromwell Mortimer and the Royal Society.


53.On Stukeley, see Stuart Piggott, William Stukeley, an Eighteenth Century Antiquary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950); see also his MS commonplace book at the Spalding society, entry for August 15, 1730, on Daniel's prophecies; and for an unadulterated sampling of his mystical tendencies, see Stukeley MSS, Library of the Grand Lodge, London, MS 1130, ""The Creation,'' fol. 171, on experiments done by Newton ""by cutting the heart of an Eel into three pieces'' (but that is incidential to the text); and his many manuscripts there on Solomon's Temple. On Grundy, see Royal Society, LBC. 25, fol. 138, Grundy to Senex, 1739 (Senex was also a Freemason); and minutes of the Spalding society and the Institution of Civil Engineers; London, John Grundy MSS, ""Surveys, levels, etc.,'' vol. 2, 1740.


54.Evans, ""The Diffusion of Science,'' pp. 288-290; A. R. Hewitt, ""A Lincolnshire Notable and an Old Lodge at Spalding,'' Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, vol. 83 (1970), pp. 96-101.


55.Evans, ""The Diffusion of Science,'' p. 243.


56.G. J. Hollister-Short, ""The Introduction of the Newcomen Engine into Europe,'' Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 48 (1976-1977), pp. 11-22.


57.Evans, ""The Diffusion of Science,'' p. 269.


58.Ibid., p. 278.


59.See Eric Robinson, ""The Profession of Civil Engineer in the Eighteenth Century: A Portrait of Thomas Yeoman, F.R.S. (1704?-1781), Annals of Science, vol. 18, no. 4 (1962), pp. 195-216; A. W. Skempton, ""Early Members of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers,'' Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vols. 44-45, (1971-1973), pp. 23-47. There are some Yeoman letters at the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, in John Smeaton's Letter Book.


60.See Philip Doddridge, A Course of Lectures on the Principal Subjects in Pneumatology, Ethics and Divinity (London, 1763; published posthumously), especially pp. 43-53 for an attack on Toland and materialism drawn straight out of Clarke's Boyle lectures. Cf. Malcolm Deacon, Philip Doddridge of Northampton, 1702-51 (Northampton: Northamptonshire Libraries, 1980).


61.Spalding Gentlemen's Society, a loose flier entitled ""Answer to the Question the Sixth in the Ladies' Diary, for the Year MDCCLI'' from William Burwell, a schoolmaster in Norfolk. Cf. Gerald D. Meyer, The Scientific Lady in England, 1650-1760 (Berkeley: University of California, 1955), English Studies, no. 12.


62.H. W. Dickinson, A Short History of the Steam Engine, with a new introduction by A. E. Musson (London: Cass, 1963), Chapter 4, especially p. 62.


63.Terry S. Reynolds, ""Scientific Influences on Technology: The Case of the Overshot Waterwheel, 1752-54,'' Technology and Culture, vol. 20 (1979), p. 285; cf. A. E. Skempton, ed., John Smeaton, F.R.S. (London: Telford, 1981), where none of the contributors discusses Smeaton's theoretical interests or religious beliefs or political values.


64.British Library, MSS ADD. 30,094, fol. 10, Smeaton to Wilson, July 20, 1745. Cf. Royal Society MSS, Treasurer's Book, 1746-1766, where the sum of 23, is commonplace because of the practice of advancing 21 ""in lieu of giving Bond,'' plus 2 admission fee. See entry for 1753 where Smeaton paid the new admission fee of 5.50 plus 21.


65.John Smeaton, Diary of his Journey to the Low Countries 1755, from the original manuscript in the Library of Trinity House, London (Leamington Spa, U.K.: The Newcomen Society, 1938), p. 14; and on providence, Skempton, Smeaton, p. 22.


66.Smeaton, Diary, pp. 5-6, 40; and see the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, John Smeaton Letter Book, fols. 47, 50, 58.


67.British Library, MSS ADD. 30,094, fol. 46, Smeaton to Wilson, July 23, 1747.


68.Ibid., fols. 42, 46, 69, 74, 112; and see Denis Smith, ""The Professional Correspondence of John Smeaton: An Eighteenth-Century Consulting Engineering Practice,'' Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 46-47 (1973-1976), p. 181.


69.Institution of Civil Engineers, John Smeaton Letter Book, fols. 50, 132; cf. Smith, ""Correspondence of John Smeaton,'' pp. 179-189; and A. W. Skempton, ""Early Members of the Smeatonian Society of Civil Engineers,'' Transactions of the Newcomen Society, vol. 44-45 (1971-1973), pp. 23-47.


70.The Institution of Civil Engineers, John Smeaton Letter Book, fol. 39. The letter is clearly by Smeaton but he signs it ""Agricola''; it is to a Mr. Ledger. See also Skempton, Smeaton, pp. 4, 54, 249; and for Smeaton's own concern for the cost of labor, see Institution of Civil Engineers, Smeaton Letter Book, fol. 32. Cf. Royal Society, L<m82;tf,98>AP VII, no. 11, fols. 4-5, for Smeaton's interest in water and steam engines as replacements for horsepower.


71.Only the Rev. Timothy Neve, founder of the Peterborough society, had little trust in ""the religious capacity of the Court''; but he dined with Walpole at Houghton Hall and liked it. See Spalding Gentlemen's Society, Maurice Johnson MS, Drawer 1, no. 14, letter from the late 1720s.


72.E. Fearn, ""The Derbyshire Reform Societies, 1791-93,'' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 83, (1968), pp. 48-55.




73.See Henry Redhead Yorke, Reason urged against precedent (London, 1793), for a full statement of radical sentiments commonplace in these circles. Yorke eventually grew disillusioned with the Derby corresponding society and moved on to the more radical one at Sheffield. On Darwin, see Brian Easlea, Science and Sexual Oppression (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981), pp. 94-99.


74.See the printed Rules and Catalogue of the Library Belonging to the Derby Philosophical Society (Derby, 1815). Even more interesting is the manuscript list of acquisitions numbered in order of acquisition; and the list of borrowing shows that members also attempted to read, not just buy, the society's books. Derby Borough Library, MS BA 106.


75.Joyce Appleby, ""What Is Still American in the Political Philosophy of Thomas Jefferson,'' William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., vol. 39, no. 2 (1982), pp. 308-309; cf. Appleby, Capitalism and a New Social Order (New York: New York University Press, 1982).


76.Desmond King-Hele, Doctor of Revolution: The Life and Genius of Erasmus Darwin (London: Faber and Faber, 1977), pp. 60-62. Jefferson described Small as having given him ""my first views of the expansion of science and of the system of things in which we are placed.''




Address to the Philosophical Society ... July 18, 1784, by Doctor Darwin, president, found in Rules and Catalogue, pp. ix-xiv.


78.Eric Robinson, ""The Derby Philosophical Society,'' Annals of Science, vol. 9 (1953), p. 360. On Pigott, see James O. Manton, Early Freemasonry in Derbyshire (Manchester: Marsden, 1913), p. 21. See also D. King-Hele, ed., The Letters of Erasmus Darwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 128.




79.M. R. Austin, ""Religion and Society in Derbyshire During the Industrial Revolution,'' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal, vol. 93, (1973), pp. 75-89.




William Strutt Memoir, typescript in Derby Local Library, no. 3542, p. 27.


81.Philo-Filmer, Encomiastic advice to the Acute and Ingenious Personage who parodied the Address from the Derby Societies to the Rt. Hon. Charles James Fox (London, 1793), p. 4; on p. 13: ""At the epithets Leveller, and Republican, they smile.'' This is a satire by someone actually in favor of the societies, probably William Ward. Cf. The Derby Address: At a Meeting of the Society for Political Information held at the Talbot Inn, in Derby, July 16, 1792, ""To the Friends of Free Enquiry, and the General Good.''


82.M. C. Egerton, ""William Strutt and the Application of Convection to the Heating of Buildings,'' Annals of Science, vol. 24 (1968), pp. 73-88. Cf. William Strutt Memoir, pp. 17-20; and Charles Sylvester, The Philosophy of Domestic Economy (Nottingham, 1819), dedicated to Strutt.




William Strutt Memoir, p. 60. The poet Thomas Moore found them ""true Jacobins'' in 1814; see p. 10 for copy of a letter by Elizabeth Evans, Strutt's sister, on Godwin; and a letter of condolence from Elizabeth Darwin to William Strutt in 1804 (p. 47) never mentions God or providence. I wish to thank Margaret Hunt for assistance with this archive and also the excellent staff of the Derby Local Library, Karen Smith and Sylvia Gown.




Letters of Josiah Wedgwood 1762-1772 (London, 1903), pp. 54-55.


85.Ibid., p. 105.




86.Ibid., p. 203.


87.Ibid., p. 217.


88.Eric Robinson and A. E. Musson, James Watt and the Steam Revolution (London: Adams and Dart, 1969), pp. 204-205, which prints a manuscript entitled ""Points necessary to be known by a steam engineer,'' 1796.


89.E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (London: Gollancz, 1963), pp. 738-740; cf. S. Shapin and B. Barnes, ""Science, Nature and Control: Interpreting Mechanics' Institutes,'' Social Studies in Science, vol. 7, pp. 31-74. On radicalism see Isaac Kramnick, ""Eighteenth Century Science and Radical Social Theory: The Case of Joseph Priestley's Scientific Liberalism,'' Journal of British Studies, vol. 25, no. 1 (1986), pp. 1-30. Scientific Education and Industrialization